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Keeping the Gas Mains System In Good Order

Gas mains systems are a key infrastructure in the UK, serving the population, both domestic and commercial. Gas mains and services can pose safety risks to UK residents.  Health and Safety Executive (HSE) protects citizens by monitoring how well gas line operators follow regulations.  HSE representatives are available to answer questions related to gas mains and services, and the agency supplies publications about established codes and standards.

Typical issues around the mains network are to do with the required depth of the pipes.  The Pipelines Safety Regulations 1996 (PSR) defines the required design and installation procedures for gas pipes, but does not give pipe depth requirements.  The HSE publication, A Guide to the Pipelines Safety Regulations 1996, and the HSC (Health and Safety Commission) publication, Approved Code of Practice and Guidance Design, Construction and

Installation of Gas Service Pipes, give specific information about minimum pipe depth.  HSE monitors gas pipe installation in the UK to make certain gas main pipes are a minimum of 750mm below the ground and service pipes are buried at least 375mm on private land and at least 450mm in areas with footpaths and highways.

Homeowners working in their yard and construction workers can inadvertently damage a gas main or service.  Regulation 15 in PSR prohibits anyone from damaging a gas pipeline.  HSE provides publication HSG47, Avoiding Danger from Underground Services, and information sheet, Avoiding Damage to Buried Services, as guidelines for those planning to work in areas containing gas mains or services.

Regulation 13 of PSR defines required conditions of gas pipelines, and HSE monitors compliance with this regulation.  Older iron gas pipelines close to inhabited properties are currently being replaced with pipes made of other substances, such as polyethylene.  All iron pipes in the massive gas pipe network must be decommissioned and replaced by March 2032.  HSE is carefully tracking these activities and is requiring pipeline operators to replace pipes known to be a possible hazard first.

HSE is monitoring the highly publicized Milford Haven Pipeline, which is owned by National Grid Gas.  National Grid Gas must follow all established regulations for pipe design, system construction, and operation.  The pipeline operators must comply with the health and safety laws of gas mains and services.  HSE will inspect the construction and operation of the project to verify that all regulations are met.  The agency will also determine land planning zones for areas affected by the pipeline construction.  HSE regulation will continue after the completion of the pipeline.

National Grid Gas is receiving direction from HSE for the pipe installation.  Land used for the construction of the pipeline must be zoned for pipeline installation, and HSE determines this through calculations using characteristics of the pipe, such as the diameter and wall thickness.  HSE uses a quantified risk assessment (QRA) of thermal radiation to make advisements regarding pipeline placement.

This page has been written with contributions from experienced plumbers from Merseyside and qualified plumbers from Wood-Green. Several of the company's plumbing and heating engineers from Berkshire have worked on similar issues as well as some of our plumbers from Clapham and our Greenwich Gas Safe engineers.

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