A new Southwest Gas report, requested by a state utility regulator, is providing new information about where Driscopipe 8000, a problematic type of natural gas pipe, exists in Arizona and how much has been removed or replaced.
Driscopipe 8000 is the same kind of pipe that leaked, leading to an explosion last August at a Chandler strip mall. Four men were injured.
Since then, ABC15 investigator Melissa Blasius has been digging for answers about Driscopipe 8000, including how our Arizona heat can make it deteriorate faster than expected and where else it has leaked.
Last month, Arizona Corporation Commissioner Anna Tovar wrote to Southwest Gas asking for quarterly reports to be posted online that would include more details about where pipes exist and where they are being replaced.
This came after ABC15 learned Southwest Gas in recent years had replaced entire neighborhoods of Driscopipe 8000 — both active and inactive services and mains — in several places where they had been clusters of past leaks.
“It's good that Southwest Gas is now going out and removing these and replacing them,” said Tom Ryan, the attorney for two of the Chandler victims. He added Southwest Gas officials “need to let the citizens know, ‘Hey, Bullhead City, you got a problem. Yuma, you've got a problem. East Valley, you have a problem,’ so that people can at least have a fighting chance.”
Southwest Gas’ first quarterly report, covering the first three months of 2022, was filed June 15. It showed premature degradation has caused nearly 150 past Driscopipe 8000 leaks in Arizona.
It also listed the total mileage of Driscopipe 8000 lines located in 65 Arizona cities and counties.
“I would like to know, is it on my street? Is it in my alley? Is it under my kids’ school? Is it at the grocery store I shop at?” said Stacey Champion, a Southwest Gas Customer and utility industry watchdog. “It's everywhere, and I think people have a right to know that information.”
Southwest Gas knew for more than a decade before the Chandler explosion that it had miles of Driscopipe 8000 that could prematurely degrade in the hot desert climates, leak, and cause explosions.
In 2015, after a different East Valley gas explosion, the company started a targeted Driscopipe 8000 program to remove or abandon inactive services and stubs, which it considers the highest risk pipes for leaks.
During the first quarter of 2022, the company stopped gas from flowing to 2,257 inactive services and stubs. In the same time period, the report indicated gas workers had not done any projects where they replaced both active gas service lines and mains near prior leak locations.
Southwest Gas eliminated about 11 miles of Driscopipe 8000 in the first reporting period, but that is a small fraction of the more than 10,000 miles of this type of pipe in the state. The company said the vast majority of the system is performing as expected and has not shown any signs of degradation.
Southwest Gas previously provided some information about Driscopipe 8000 leaks and their distribution integrity management program to pipeline safety officials at the Arizona Corporation Commission.
The company did not list the exact locations of past leaks in the new report, but ABC15 obtained many of the past leak addresses through public records requests. See if a past leak occurred near your home or business using the map below.
Ryan said with summer temperatures getting hotter here, Southwest Gas needs to implement longer term plans to replace all Driscopipe 8000 before it blisters, cracks and leaks.
“They certainly should prioritize those neighborhoods in areas where they they've known that they've had a high number of leaks, and they have to remove everything and replace it. It's not going to be fun, and it's not going to be cheap.”
Southwest Gas officials have said they’ve seen some external degradation, but no leaks on active services and mains.