Exxon Pipeline Spill Costs Triple

Tuesday, November 8, 2011 @ 12:11 PM gHale


For those thinking safety and security are cost centers take a look at the $135 million Exxon Mobil Corp. is paying for the pipeline break which resulted in an oil spill in Montana’s Yellowstone River.

The cost figure is more than tripled an earlier estimate. It includes for the first time the expense of replacing the section of broken pipeline with a new one buried deeper beneath the river.

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The company’s 20-year-old Silvertip crude oil pipeline broke July 1 during severe flooding. In the 56 minutes it took Exxon Mobil to seal off the 12-inch line, an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil, or 42,000 gallons, poured into the river near Laurel. That fouled dozens of miles of riverbank, numerous islands and swaths of low-lying cropland with crude.

More than 1,000 workers helped in the cleanup effort at its peak. Work to remove the damaged pipeline began Monday and should take several weeks.

“This estimate includes costs for overall emergency response and cleanup efforts including personnel, equipment, landowner claims and projects associated with the restart of the pipeline such as the horizontal directional drill,” said Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Claire Hassett.

“Horizontal directional drill” refers to the process the company used to bore a new route for the pipeline dozens of feet beneath the riverbed. Federal pipeline regulators mandated that move.

The original pipeline was only a few feet beneath the river. State and federal officials theorize summer flooding scoured the riverbed and left the pipe exposed to damaging debris and the force of the rushing river.

State officials said they hope to learn more when the first pieces of the damaged section of pipeline come out of the river, possibly this weekend. Those pieces will ship over to an independent laboratory for analysis, according to state and federal officials and the company.

An inspector from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will be on site throughout the removal process. The agency wants to make sure all evidence ends up preserved as part of the accident investigation, spokesman Damon Hill said.

Several property owners along the river have sued Exxon Mobil in federal court, accusing the company of damaging their land and conducting a “haphazard, sloppy” cleanup.



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