According to Patch Media on May 4th:
Helicopter crews for Pacific Gas and Electric Company soar over Northern California nearly every day, looking for digging crews along portions of the agency’s 6,750 miles of natural gas transmission pipelines.
It’s a proactive approach to try to prevent gas ruptures by construction crews who might not have called 811 to get pipelines marked before digging, PG&E spokesman Nick Stimmel said Monday.
PG&E had 1,900 reports of third-party dig-ins last year, Stimmel said. Such dig-ins could lead to disastrous situations like the evacuation of a neighborhood or a massive explosion.
Most of the dig-ins happen on PG&E’s smaller distribution lines that run nearly everywhere. But the biggest pipelines have the biggest risk, so two helicopter crews are tasked with regular patrols of the transmission pipelines looking for potentially dangerous situations.
With warmer weather approaching, PG&E is expecting to see increased digging activity as summer construction projects get rolling and is trying to get the word out about the dangers of digging near natural gas pipelines, Stimmel said.
Brad Gutnik, 26, of Frontline Energy Services, has contracted with PG&E for two years to work on the aerial patrols. Gutnik said on a daily patrol, he might see about a dozen crews digging near natural gas pipelines, and in a particularly dense urban area like San Francisco, he might see more than 20.