PHMSA Final Rule – 2019 Plastic Pipe Changes

PHMSA Final Rule – 2019 Plastic Pipe Changes

Change, while Inevitable, Can Always be Managed

The natural gas industry is regulated by rules and guidelines outlined by the Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Natural gas utility operators and the PHMSA work together to update the rules to make our industry safer for utilities, field staff, consumers, and our communities.

As the industry evolves, it can be a challenge to keep up-to-date with all the changes and the best practices to implement them. This is where GROEBNER comes in. With our more than 40 years of industry experience and connection to major industry associations, we can help you understand the rules as they are updated and to achieve the compliance needed.

One of the most recent changes took effect in January of 2019, relating to the installation and operations of plastic piping systems. Available new technology and new materials make these updates possible and promote a safer industry for everyone. Here are some of the highlights you should know and understand.

PHMSA Pipeline Safety: Plastic Pipe Rule

Piping Materials and Design

There have been many improvements in PE resins and material technology over the last couple of decades and the rules now reflect those developments. New materials have been approved and new safety design factors are being allowed to safely increase pressure in new piping. This will make pipeline capacity even greater than before.

The new materials include PA-11 and PA-12 resins. These resins allow for higher pressures in the piping up to 250 psi. Pilot projects using these materials have been performed and offer an intermediate alternative between high pressure steel piping and traditional lower pressure PE piping. A large benefit of using these materials is a lower labor cost for installation when compared to welding steel pipe. That translates to a reduction in costs to your end users.

The newly allowed safety design factor went from 0.3 to 0.4 for PE used in natural gas systems. This change came about primarily because data gathered from the most recent resins show that HDPE 4710 and MDPE 2708 have performed exceptionally well over the last ten years in all trials. When using the latest PE resins, the ruling now allows for designs of PE systems with pressures up to 125 psi. Again, increasing the potential capacity of the piping ultimately reduces costs to the consumer.

Other piping material changes were made, all related to providing safer systems. Risers at gate stations must be ridged and not support external weight of the regulator station. All mechanical couplings used with PE must now be of Category 1 classification, which means that testing of the coupling design proves that the PE pipe will fail before the mechanical coupling fails. These changes mean updating all installed PE systems, as well as including the designs in new installations, thereby improving long term pipeline system safety.

The high quality network of suppliers that GROEBNER has established and continues to grow will always allow you access to the latest materials, to meet PHMSA requirements.

Tracking and Traceability

Per the new PHMSA rules, utilities are required to map and record the materials used in their systems, as well as the location of all their assets. Industry organizations have worked together to standardize markings on all PE materials to assist in collecting consistent data, in case notifications or issues arise with any materials. This allows the utility to be proactive in identifying issues in early stages, before they can become larger concerns.

All PE materials used in natural gas piping have a standard marking system that identifies specific data. The standard is ASTM-F2897. This standard identifies the manufacturer, item, lot code, and other specific attributes of the parts. All this information is now identified with a 16-digit barcode printed or tagged onto every PE component.

The updated ruling states that all manufacturers of PE materials must incorporate the ASTM-F2897 marking by the end of 2019. All the major manufacturers of PE components have the new markings in place. The utilities are now incorporating this standard data as attributes in their digital mapping systems. The industry is being proactive on future material issues to more quickly identify potential issues and their impact.

GROEBNER works with our select vendor network to ensure you can obtain the latest technological advancements to track and trace every aspect of your system as required.

Common Sense Practices

The new rules that became effective in January 2019 also adopt minimums for construction, joining, and equipment maintenance when working with PE materials. As with the latest in technology, GROEBNER has stayed at the leading edge of the industry to provide you access to solutions for these common sense issues as well.


When PE pipe is installed utilizing a trenchless method, a weak link must be used when pulling in pipe. A weak link is defined as a component in line with the pipe being installed that will yield before excessive tensile forces from the pulling damages the pipe.


To ensure best practices are used when joining PE pipe using heat fusion procedures, the new rule now identifies a new minimum standard procedure to follow – ASTM-F60-2. While most utilities meet or exceed these standard procedures, this change sets the quality base line with a recognized standards agency moving forward.

Equipment Maintenance

Now incorporated in the new rules is the requirement for operators to maintain their equipment used to join plastic pipe in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommended standards. Most equipment needs inspection or calibration on a one or two year basis. The rule formalizes what has been best practice for some time and now requires documentation. GROEBNER’s long-time association with service companies has ensured your ability to follow maintenance and calibration best practices and will continue to meet the new ruling standards.

There Will Always Be Change

Rules and regulations have always been a part of the natural gas industry. The rules are always changing in an effort to promote better work practices, efficient product delivery, and a safer industry as a whole. These latest rule updates focus on PE pipe and materials, but other new rules focused on other areas are around the corner. These new updates will only improve the safety of our industry, and the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas is an important component to our nation’s energy policies and energy independence. And you can rely on GROEBNER to stay informed of upcoming changes so we can offer you the latest information and solutions to meet those changing requirements.