Customer Support

Natural Gas Pipeline Safety

Take precautions; excavations can often damage pipelines.

Natural gas pipelines

We own and operate more than 36,000 miles of pipeline to deliver natural gas to customers, providing safe and reliable gas service. A key to achieving that is keeping you informed about the pipeline system and how to stay safe around it.     

Gas pipeline markers

Some natural gas pipelines are part of our transmission system. They carry gas at higher volumes and pressures than the distribution system, which ultimately delivers natural gas to your homes and businesses. Though the transmission network is smaller at 2,264 miles (the distribution system has more than 34,000 miles of pipe), it is still quite extensive and can be found near places where people gather, such as parks, sports complexes, schools, homes and offices.

Underground transmission pipelines are indicated by special markers. Though markers are rarely placed directly above buried pipe, they do show the general route of the pipeline.  The markers tell what the pipeline contains, the name of the pipeline operator and its 24-hour emergency number and the area’s one-call (Call Before You Dig) center number.

 

Examples of natural gas transmission pipeline markers

Every other year we send a brochure with important pipeline and safety information to organizations, companies and people who live, own property or do business adjacent to our natural gas transmission pipelines. Be sure to read the brochure when you receive it.        

Removing Brush, Trees from Around Natural Gas Pipelines

As part of our commitment to providing safe, reliable natural gas in Colorado, we have implemented a new vegetation management program that allows us to access our natural gas transmission facilities, most of which are buried underground. Regularly removing trees and brush along our approximately 2,400-mile natural gas transmission rights of way (the area around the pipeline) allows us the critical access we need to perform regular pipeline patrols, assessments and/or equipment mitigation. It also makes us compliant with Department of Transportation regulations that require us to regularly monitor these areas to ensure they are free of vegetation, construction activity and other factors that would affect the safe operation of the natural gas pipelines.

Our work will occur on properties that have been identified as having incompatible vegetation around a pipeline. Such vegetation includes trees, large shrubs and woody-stemmed plants that can interfere with the safe operation and maintenance of our pipelines. Their roots also can damage the underground pipe.

Work will occur on all properties that have been identified as having incompatible vegetation above a pipeline. This includes residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural properties, as well as franchise, city-owned and public areas. Property owners will be notified in advance with a door hanger of when and what type of work will be taking place.

Learn More

Call us first if you think your sewer or septic line is clogged

If you suspect a sewer or septic line blockage in your home or business, be sure to call us (if you’re an Xcel Energy customer in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota or Wisconsin) on our 24-hour Gas Emergency/Dispatch number at 1-800-895-2999 before anyone attempts to clear it.

While most problems are caused by tree roots or line breaks, there’s a slight possibility that a natural gas pipe could have inadvertently been installed through your sewer or septic line. Mechanical equipment used to unclog the lines can penetrate the pipe and lead to a dangerous release of natural gas.

When you call, we will examine our records to determine if any potential conflicts exist between our natural gas pipe and your sewer or septic lines and whether an in-line camera inspection is needed. We provide this service at no cost to our customers.

Please remember, Call Before You Clear – Know What’s Inside

Xcel Energy 24-hour Gas Emergency/Dispatch number at 1-800-895-2999

Send us an e-mail.

Natural Gas Safety Overview

Prevent potentially dangerous natural gas conditions by calling before you dig to avoid digging into or nicking a buried gas line. It also is a wise and effective safety measure to maintain gas appliances properly and hire a qualified contractor to routinely inspect them to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Learn to recognize a natural gas leak

It is important for you to know how to recognize potentially dangerous natural gas leaks, so use your senses:

  1. Smell: Because natural gas has no odor in its natural state, we add a harmless odorant called mercaptan to it to help you detect a leak. Many people describe the odor of mercaptan similar to rotten eggs or sulfur, but it may smell differently to you. It may also be a strong smell from an unknown source. 
  2. Hear: Depending on its size and pressure, a natural gas leak may produce a noise that ranges from next to nothing to a slight hissing or blowing sound to a loud roar.
  3. See: A leak also may cause dust, dirt or debris to fly, or create blowing or continuous bubbling movement in water. It also can cause a spot of dead or discolored vegetation in an otherwise green area.

How to respond to a natural gas leak

If you suspect a gas leak, immediately get everyone out of your home or building, move a safe distance away and then call for help. Because an electric spark can ignite an explosion, remember to follow these tips:

  • Do not turn on or turn off electrical switches.
  • Avoid using electric appliances such as garage door openers or telephones of any type.
  • Do not start up or shut down motor vehicles or any other electrical equipment.
  • Do not strike a match.
  • Avoid open flames or other ignition sources.
  • Move to a location a safe distance away from your home or building when the odor is outdoors.
  • Call Xcel Energy at 1-800-895-2999 or 911 in an emergency.
  • Stay away until Xcel Energy or the emergency responders have told you it is safe to return.

Does your home have corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST)?

Across the nation for more than a decade during building construction, contractors have installed corrugated stainless steel tubing. It is a flexible, stainless steel pipe used to carry natural gas (or propane) and is often routed below, through and alongside joists in basements or in other areas of homes, businesses or industrial buildings.  It delivers natural gas inside the building to appliances.

At a minimum, please visit CSST Safety to learn more.  We also encourage you to hire a licensed electrician to ensure that your CSST system is properly bonded and grounded.  Doing both will better protect your safety by reducing a person’s risk to electric shock and damage to the tubing (pipe) if lightening or other electrical surges occur.  A damaged pipe can result in leaking gas, a fire or explosion.

Additional Resources

CSST Safety (external)
Natural Gas MSDS (PDF)
Carbon monoxide poisoning

Energy Saving Tip

Turn off your lights when you leave the room—even if you'll only be gone for a moment. Contemporary light bulbs require very little energy to turn "on."

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Break Ground, Not the Law

Always call 811 before digging in your yard to avoid hitting buried gas or electric lines. Not only is it the safe thing to do, but it's the law.

Xcel Energy MaritzCX

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