Exxon Fined for AR Pipeline Leak

Monday, October 5, 2015 @ 04:10 PM gHale

ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. is facing a $2.6 million civil penalty for the 2013 oil spill in Arkansas, federal officials said.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) released its final report on the Pegasus pipeline leak that spilled roughly 3,190 barrels of oil near Mayflower and Lake Conway about 20 miles north of Little Rock in March 2013.

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The agency, which falls under the U.S. Department of Transportation, said the company violated regulations involving the line’s integrity, operation and maintenance.

“Time intensified defects of originally manufactured pipe” led to the rupture in the pipeline in 2013, said Department of Transportation agency’s spokeswoman Artealia Gilliard. She said an investigation of the leak found the violations.

The northern portion of the pipeline, which runs through Mayflower, remains closed. The agency granted a request to return the southern segment of the line to partial service with reduced pressure in July 2014.

The report examines nine violations and outlines the responsibility the company had for those items. It said the company had switched to assessing larger portions of the pipeline instead of smaller segments, which delayed the results of the integrity assessments and took longer than the agency allows.

In addition to the $2,630,400 penalty, the order also requires the company to update the methods it uses to assess the pipeline to better identify those lines more susceptible to seam failures. A 22-foot seam in the Pegasus pipeline ruptured to cause the 2013 spill.

“ExxonMobil Pipeline Company has received and is evaluating its options with respect to PHMSA’s final order for the 2013 Mayflower incident,” said ExxonMobil spokesman Christian Flathman.

In August, a federal judge approved a $5 million settlement agreement among the pipeline operator, the state of Arkansas and the federal government. ExxonMobil agreed to pay $3.19 million to the federal government and nearly $1.9 million in fines, fees and other payments to Arkansas.

The order Thursday says the company must also work out procedures to better train those involved in risk assessments of pipelines to err on more conservative estimates. The company must also maintain the required schedule of inspections, use qualified personnel to conduct the assessments and identify methods to make sure identified threats do not end up discounted.