PG&E has quietly installed two remotely controlled shut-off valves for its natural-gas transmission lines at two stations in San Bruno, utility officials told The San Francisco Examiner.
Company representatives confirmed the valves were installed in late 2010 at two PG&E stations within a mile of where a pipeline exploded in the Crestmoor neighborhood, a disaster that killed eight people, injured dozens of others and destroyed 38 homes. They could not confirm whether the valves are currently operational.
Lawmakers have called for greater use of remote and automatic shut-off valves after it took PG&E workers an hour and 20 minutes to shut off the flow of gas that fueled a towering inferno in San Bruno on Sept. 9. A PG&E executive said last month that the gas flow could have been shut off in about 20 minutes with automatic or remote valves.
The two San Bruno valves, installed at a cost of $750,000 each, are part of PG&E’s pilot program to put in a dozen remote or automatic shut-off valves on the Peninsula by the end of the year, spokeswoman Brittney Chord said.
“We’re really looking to upgrade our infrastructure and enhance the safety of our pipeline operations,” Chord said.
The remote valves were installed at the Healy station on Crestwood Drive between Rollingwood and Fleetwood, and the San Andreas station on Skyline Boulevard just south of San Bruno Avenue, Chord said. The valves are controlled by PG&E’s center in San Francisco, she said.
Two of the major transmission lines that run up the Peninsula — Nos. 132 and 109 — go through both stations, but it’s not clear how the valves are configured.
Both San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson and Assemblyman Jerry Hill said they had not heard PG&E had already installed remotely controlled valves.
“I guess the good question that was answered by this is yes, they can install them if they want to, and they can do it fairly quickly,” Hill said.
PG&E spokesman Joe Molica couldn’t say when or where the 10 other valves would go on the Peninsula.
PG&E usually installs remote shut-off valves instead of automatic ones, Chord said.
“There’s a possibility that false closures can occur with [automatic shut-off valves] when a drop in pressure hasn’t occurred, which could create customer outages and significantly impact service to our customers,” she said.
In any case, San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane said he’s pleased the valves are in.
“I think it should have been probably done a long time ago,” Ruane said. “I think it’s a good thing.”