The Natural Gas Regulator You Never See Can Be Corroding!
Many schools don't know it, but natural gas pressure regulators - commonly sealed under-foot - often need replacement. The problem is complex: there is no code specifying, precisely, where regulators have to be housed. They can go along the gas line, entering the building, or be buried in 'vaults', which architects for schools typically prefer, for aesthetic reasons.
The result is that debris, moisture, actual pools of water, dirt and even squirrel nests, fill the 'vault' over a number of years.
So, basically, in many California schools - their natural gas pressure regulator is corroding, but not visible. Unless you call a company like MBS Engineering to perform a gas leak survey, natural gas can leak into the enclosed area.
What Is A Gas Pressure Regulator, Anyway?
It's worth noting that leaks in small, enclosed, places (like a 'vault') can fill the space with gas, creating a serious hazard for the safety of those in the area: faculty, staff, and even students.
The corrosion we typically find includes damage to unions/fittings, stuck shut-off valves, piping that is corroding from the inside-out, or outside-in, and the actual regulators themselves. While regulators in open air do tend to weather/age better, that's not a total solution in itself: the truth is many times hard piping was used, when the school was built, and PVC is considered a better material, today.
So, MBS replaces hard piping with PVC, and often moves the regulator location to right along the side of a school.
MBS has performed regulator removal/replacement, reinstalls and re-piping for a number of schools in California in the last month. Some of what we found would astonish you.
More information on Gas Pressure Regulators.
MBS Engineering is performing work at BART Hayward Maintenance located on 150 Sandoval Way in Hayward, CA. This BART facility helps to clean, maintain and service the trains that transport Bay Area citizens day in and day out. MBS, after performing a leak detection survey of the property, discovered that the gas infrastructure at the maintenance facility was past due for an upgrade, and in rough shape. After installing a temporary, above ground bypass to temporarily supply gas to the facility, MBS received the contract to make a permanent long term gas line installation.
Using a combination of gas line slitting, open trench and some mechanical piping over rooftops, MBS was able to complete this project in a timely manner, ensuring that all piping was installed to the highest standards and procedures. The total pipe installed tallied up to 2700 LF, as well as installing new gas regulators and manual shut-off valves at each of the 6 buildings as well as a new seismic shut-off valve at the main meter. MBS accommodated BART’s strict schedule and even worked nights and weekends to complete the job.
California is overdue for a large-scale earthquake. Did you know that a major cause of fires and damage during an earthquake are attributed to broken natural gas lines?
Who’s going to turn off the gas in the event of a large earthquake?
Are your Manual Shut-off Valves working properly should you need to turn off the gas?
Do you have Automatic Seismic Shut-off Valves in place?
Installing Seismic Shut-off Vales can answer these questions for you. They are essential to protecting schools and facilities from gas fires in the event of an earthquake.
If you haven't installed Seismic Shut-off Valves at your school yet don't wait any longer.
The shaking of an earthquake can leave behind a lot of damage including shattered glass and the destruction of buildings. However, the most dangerous consequence of earthquakes is the risk of a natural gas leak because they are notorious for starting deadly fires and explosions. Seismic Valves Shut Off Valves (SSOVs) are essential to preventing gas fires for those who live in earthquake-prone regions.
Why Do I Need A Seismic Shut-Off Valve?
In high-risk earthquake zones like California, seismic shut-off valves are not a luxury, they are a necessity. Most of the damage that comes from earthquakes are from secondary sources such as fires caused by a gas leak. These gas line explosions are so prevalent that natural gas contributes to one of every four fires after an earthquake. Seismic valves will stop gas ﬂow when an earthquake of significant magnitude occurs and decrease the chances of a ﬁre or explosion. Installing seismic valves will greatly reduce the risk of an explosion if a gas line is broken or damaged after a major seismic event.
Who Can Install Seismic Valves?
Contractors must have a C36-Plumbing license to install these valves.
MBS Engineering has installed over 100,000 seismic gas valves in countless facilities throughout Northern and Southern California. Seismic Gas Shut-Off Valves are usually installed on the exterior of your facility. Our experts ensure the proper size and fit so your facility remains as safe as possible from gas leaks in the event of an earthquake. Every Californian knows that earthquakes are possible and have maintenance plans in place in the event an earthquake, yet many business owners don’t account for how sudden earthquakes occur. In many cases, manual shut-off valves often can’t be reached in time by your staff. Even small earthquakes nearly undetectable by us can result in a natural gas leak—which can create problems for your facility.
How Do you Maintain SSOV’S?
Having your natural gas lines inspected bi-annually by the engineers at MBS plus having seismic valves in place can help protect your facility against the danger of deadly gas leaks caused by earthquakes both small and large.
Unattended gas leaks can not only compromise your facility’s safety but also put employees and customers at risk. Whenever there’s a leak, there’s a danger of fire (or even explosion) from the tiniest of ignition sources, including sparks from static electricity that you may not notice. Preventing damage to your expensive equipment as well as minimizing downtime after earthquakes will greatly reduce the financial loss from earthquakes.
It hits you: the rotten egg smell of natural gas. Is it really that big of a deal? And if it is, what exactly are you supposed to do about it? Whether the smell is somewhere in or around your home or you notice it in your office, it’s important to remain calm, get out of the immediate area, and report the smell to your local utilities operators.
Many people panic at the words, “gas leak.” While a gas leak can be a serious problem, it’s important to keep a cool head as you go about reporting it. The best thing to do for yourself is to vacate the area where you suspect a leak. Don’t worry about finding your gas shut offs or switching off any electricity. Instead, gather anyone nearby and walk a safe distance from where you suspect the leak to be. Walk rather than drive as starting your car could be dangerous if gas is leaking near your car. Any accidental sparks, including static electricity, could lead to a fire or an explosion.
Once you are a safe distance from the area where you suspect a leak, it’s time to call the professionals. Connect with the experts at MBS and report the leak if you reside in California. You can also call your utilities provider. Usually, they have a special line dedicated to gas leaks but if not, an operator will connect you to the right department. Utility companies take gas leaks very seriously. Help will arrive quickly and they will give you further direction on how to act in the event there is a serious problem. You might also consider calling 911 to come help vacate the area in the event of an unexpected issue.
Once MBS or your local utilities provider has checked for gas leaks with sophisticated gas leak technology, you’ll be faced with one of two scenarios. Either you’ll be told that the area is safe or you’ll be asked to vacate until the area has been made safe. You should never re-enter an area that has not been cleared of a gas leak as this can be very dangerous.
At MBS, we have helped hospitals, schools, commercial clients, and even California utilities with gas leak detection and prevention. Remember: preventing a disaster is far easier than reacting to it. We have extensive experience and state of the art equipment to help determine and manage gas leaks including services like:
Contact MBS To Get Help With Your Leak!
MBS Engineers focus on natural gas, only.
We're not plumbers. We're not leak inspectors. We use state-of-the-art detection tools and are able to fix what we find.
MBS Engineering was contacted a local high school district in Marin County, and found out they were experiencing issues with their natural gas fed pool heater boilers. The district has pools at a number of their schools.
The pools are heated to keep a constant temperature of 80° Fahrenheit to ensure people could swim all year round. They were experiencing alarms due to low gas pressure at their larger boilers which heat the pool water. MBS was tasked to find out why this was happening and engineer a design to rectify the problem. After a site visit, MBS engineers realized the gas regulator, which is a safety device that controls the amount of gas pressure from a higher pressure down to a lower pressure, was installed in the wrong location and the entire gas system was designed improperly.
MBS engineers knew from experience that because these boilers require such a high demand of natural gas on a consistent basis, the single gas regulator in place could not keep up and supply the pressure needed for proper operation. If the issue were not caught, it could have led to damage to the expensive boilers as well as a revolving problem with alarms and time spent servicing the boilers.
MBS’s solution involved installing individual gas regulators at each boiler, to provide better control. This way each boiler operates independently. MBS performed the work in one day in order to avoid downtime for the pool and the regular users of the pool. They have not experienced issues since.
MBS is now evaluating pool heater boilers at each of their other campuses and seeing the same design error and is proposing a similar solution to the problem.
There was also the issue of a manual shut-off valve being installed high in the air, towards the ceiling as pictured. This creates a situation that if the gas needed to be turned off in an emergency, a technician would have to spend time finding a ladder, setting up the ladder, climbing up to the shut-off valve and turning it off. In a gas emergency, this is precious time wasted and could result in a catastrophe. MBS was able to install new shut-off valves to a level that is easily accessed at each appliance.
Cathodic Protection (CP) is one of the most effective ways to prevent corrosion of natural gas pipes. Metals, especially galvanized steel, corrode in the presence of oxygen, water, and other impurities such as sulfur. This protective measure is used in many applications including pipelines and ships.
Equipment operating in harsh environments benefit the most from cathodic protection. The two most common applications of CP are for buried pipeline systems and vessels as well as offshore platforms where minerals like sulfur and salt will corrode metal.
How Cathodic Protection Works
There are two methods of cathodic protection: Galvanic and Impressed Current. The process entails protecting a metal surface (such as a pipe) using another metal that is more reactive. This “sacrificial” metal undergoes oxidation rather than the operating equipment. Galvanized metals (steel) corrode when oxidation occurs due to harsh environmental factors like salt and sulfur.
Impressed Current Cathodic Protection (ICCP) is a more economical method of CP for situations when underground pipelines are long or offshore equipment is very large. ICCP simply supplies the metal with electrons from an external source, making it resist corrosion.
What to keep in mind
The effectiveness of CP depends on the comprehensiveness of the installation. Seek an experience specialty contractor. Inadequate designs may not maximize the amount of current reaching the protected component. CP designs should consider the environmental conditions and monitor stray currents that may interfere with the system. These interfering currents could be due to the environment or neighboring components.
Although cathodic protection is an effective way to protect your steel pipes from corrosion, you can’t simply set it and forget it; the CP equipment must be monitored and maintained in order to be effective and reliable. MBS Engineering offers tailored maintenance programs designed specifically for your facility’s needs, no matter how complex your project.
What is a gas pressure regulator? These devices are commonly found in homes and commercial properties. We use regulators routinely to maintain our daily lives. For instance, in your home, you may be familiar with pressure regulators on your gas barbecue grill to regulate propane, inside your home to aid in heating your furnace and regulate natural gases. When driving your car, there’s a regulator to maintain your fuel. Pressure regulators are also widely used in medical and dental equipment to regulate oxygen and anesthesia gases.
There are a lot of uses for pressure regulators, and in each example it provides the same function. Pressure regulators reduce a supply of pressure to a lower outlet pressure and work to maintain this outlet pressure despite fluctuations in the inlet pressure. The reduction of the inlet pressure to a lower outlet pressure is the key characteristic of pressure regulators.
As it pertains to natural gas, a pressure regulator is a valve that automatically cuts off the flow of gas when it reaches a certain pressure. The prime function of the regulator is to put exactly as much gas into the piping system as the load device takes out to prevent damage to the equipment and tools. Without these devices, pressure could become too great for the equipment to operate properly and the pipes could rupture.
Regulators must conversely match the flow of gas through the regulator to the demand for gas placed upon the system, in conjunction with maintaining the system pressure, keeping it within acceptable amounts.
There are three main elements to a pressure regulator system:
For additional resources and information on pressure regulators and natural gas, contact the professionals of MBS Engineering. MBS Engineering has the experience, knowledge and skills to become your go-to company for all natural gas-related needs, including gas leak detection, service and repairs, seismic gas shutoff valve installations, microturbine energy solutions and more. If you have questions about your natural gas systems, contact MBS today.
When it comes to using natural gas, most businesses simply use it—without thinking about it. Often it isn’t until there’s a problem that your company will call someone like MBS for help. But from no hot water to the unmistakable smell of a gas leak, many problems with natural gas can be prevented. How? Through proper bi-annual inspections of your gas pipelines.
About Gas Pipelines
Gas pipelines are a valuable resource in California. And not too long ago, natural gas pipelines were still being made of galvanized steel. But while that wasn’t a problem at the times, pipelines made of galvanized steel aren’t built to last. They’re sensitive to the elements and prone to rust and leaking. Only able to last about twenty five to thirty years, these pipes need to be replaced by more modern piping technology.
Extending The Life of Your Pipelines
Do you have more modern natural gas pipelines? Even they need to be inspected for safety bi-annually. That’s because through the use of regular inspections and service, your business will not only save money on repairs and maintenance. The life of your equipment could be extended while your energy bills will fall lower. By engaging MBS Engineering to provide regular inspections and evaluations of plant and equipment, you can save money on repairs because your equipment will be properly monitored and preventative maintenance will be conducted before expensive problems arise.
Our aim is to enable our client’s mechanical systems to operate reliably at all times. And MBS offers tailored maintenance programs that are designed specifically for each client. We are a specialty contractor who can safely tackle the most complex problems and provide effective solutions. Ready to schedule your bi-annual inspection? Contact the experts at MBS now.