Pacific Gas and Electric Co. provided an update on its local pipeline safety work Tuesday, saying it performed tests on some 89 miles of natural gas lines across Kern County this year and replaced about 3 1/2 miles of piping in the Bakersfield and Tehachapi areas.
The testing involved either hydrostatic testing -- a method of checking a pipe's strength through the use of high water pressure -- or "pigging," which involves dropping a device into a gas line to inspect it from the inside.
PG&E said this year's hydrostatic work totaled six segments comprising nine miles of line in Kern County, down from 25 miles in 2011.
As far as "pigging," two 40-mile segments leading north from the Arvin area were tested in April. Last year, PG&E did "pigging" on Line 142 South, tackling a nine-mile segment from White Lane and Wible Road to Brundage Lane.
The 2012 pipe replacement projects, one in Bear Valley Springs and one in the Bakersfield area, came to 3.5 miles, up from just one mile of pipeline replacement last year in Kern County.
The morning update, delivered to news reporters in front of a regularly scheduled, mile-long pipeline replacement job on eastbound White Lane, came as the San Francisco-based utility wraps up gas line repair and testing for the year. It usually concludes this kind of work in the early fall because of high demand for gas during cold temperatures; it typically resumes such projects in late winter or early spring.
Pipeline safety has been a sensitive issue at PG&E since a San Bruno gas line operated by the company ruptured on Sept. 9, 2010, killing eight people and injured another 60.
Following the accident, PG&E released a Pipeline Safety Enhancement Plan, which laid out a "road map" for avoiding such tragedies, company spokeswoman Katie Harlan Allen said Tuesday.
"After San Bruno, we really had a lot of work to do to modernize our gas system," she said.
Both pipeline replacement projects done in Kern this year were separate from the 2011 safety plan.
Early this year, crews in Bear Valley Springs switched out 2.62 miles of pipe that had been installed in 1991. A PG&E representative said it had to be replaced because population growth in the area called for a different kind of pipe to meet safety guidelines.
The White Lane project, begun in early July and expected to be finished this month, replaced pipe laid in 1969. It was a scheduled upgrade unrelated to safety concerns, a PG&E representative said.
Systemwide, PG&E hopes to replace 180 miles of pipeline by 2014. Allen said she did not know how much of that total is in Kern County.
PG&E asked that any customers with concerns about the safety and reliability of its natural gas system go online at pge.com/gas, or call its gas helpline: 888-743-7431.