Posts Tagged ‘Exxon Mobil’
Monday, March 31, 2014 @ 07:03 PM gHale
By Gregory Hale
There are times when mistakes happen time and time again and no one seems to learn from them. That has got to change and Carlos Barrera is trying to help.
“The ultimate goal of an incident investigation is to find the underlying reasons for the occurrence of the event in order to prevent its reoccurrence. These reasons can be divided in two categories: root-causes and causal factors,” said Barrera, managing engineer at Menlo Park, CA-based Exponent during his break out session Monday during the 16th Process Plant Safety Symposium at the AIChE Spring Meeting and 10th Global Congress on Process Safety in New Orleans. “There is an incident and the company forms a team to investigate. It could last a couple of days or it could take a long time. You want to find the root cause.”
Sometimes the investigation ends up being very mechanical and it just seems like people are checking boxes on a form. It should not be that way, Barrera said.
“Lessons learned should not be a slogan everyone learns until the next incident comes up,” he said. “An investigation is a much more complex scenario. If you want to eradicate the problem, you have to find the root cause.”
Incident investigation teams identify root causes, but don’t pay enough attention to the causal factors, leading to the generation of recommendations that sometimes take care of the symptom but don’t cure the disease, he said.
Kelly Keim couldn’t agree more.
The Exxon Mobil research and engineering global technology sponsor for process safety said his company goes to great lengths to truly understand the root cause of the problem.
“We really have to find the cause of the phenomenon,” he said
During his presentation, Keim talked about how they could use data analysis to determine common themes from all process safety events from a company’s global manufacturing operations across 50 sites. The process covers identification of all process safety events, selection criteria for those to undergo greater analysis, identification of opportunities and where additional investigation could add value.
Part of what Exxon does is they characterize the significance of the event by applying API RP 754 performance indicators for the refining and petrochemical industries and they also use their own device called the incident risk analysis tool. They also standardize the investigation methodology. That means they are going to specify what data they are going to collect and then they give each incident an individual identifier. They will then start to dig down and collect as much information as they can that shows the activity, equipment, direct cause, root cause and the management system.
Once they get the information they are able to place it into four categories, near miss, tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3.
A tier 1 incident gets a full investigation and a tier 2 incident will also most likely get a closer look. Tier 3 and a near miss will get an investigation, but not as intense as the top two.
“After collecting the data and information, they create graphs; now is the time for true data analysis,” Keim said.
Through their own analysis and intense investigations, Keim said they were able to cut down on major incidents by about 10 percent.
Monday, November 11, 2013 @ 03:11 PM gHale
Exxon Mobil Corp.’s will pay a $2.6 million fine for not following policies for testing and reporting risks associated with the rupture of its pipeline in Mayflower, AR, federal officials said.
ExxonMobil Pipeline Company’s Pegasus Pipeline leaked March 29, sending 5,000 barrels of crude oil through a suburban neighborhood.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) fined Irving-based Exxon Wednesday for nine violations carrying a civil penalty of $2.6 million.
PHMSA said Exxon had knew the pipeline would be susceptible to seam failure, and it did not conduct proper testing after discovering risks and not reporting them to regulators.
PHMSA also said Exxon failed to follow its own policies and combined pipeline segments for testing purposes, which masked the threat.
The pipeline has remained out of service since the accident.
Exxon faces multiple lawsuits from homeowners, the state of Arkansas and the federal government. The oil giant bought out at least two homes affected by the spill.
Monday, September 16, 2013 @ 11:09 AM gHale
Exxon Mobil Corp. is facing charges of illegally dumping more than 50,000 gallons (189,000 liters) of wastewater at a shale-gas drilling site in Pennsylvania.
Exxon unit XTO Energy Inc. discharged the water from waste tanks at the Marquandt well site in Lycoming County in 2010, according to a statement on the website of Pennsylvania’s attorney general. Investigators found the pollution during an unannounced visit by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
The inspectors discovered a plug removed from a tank, allowing the wastewater to run onto the ground, polluting a nearby stream. Officials ordered XTO to remove 3,000 tons of soil to clean up the area. Wastewater discharged from natural-gas wells can contain chlorides, barium, strontium and aluminum, the attorney general’s statement showed.
“Criminal charges are unwarranted and legally baseless,” the XTO unit said in a statement posted on its website. “There was no intentional, reckless or negligent misconduct by XTO.”
Pennsylvania has become one of the biggest gas-producing states in the past five years as explorers drill the Marcellus shale, a rock formation stretching across the northeast U.S. that holds 24 percent of the nation’s shale gas reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration. Exxon purchased XTO in 2009 for $34.9 billion.
XTO faces five counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law and three counts under the Solid Waste Management Act.
“Charging XTO under these circumstances could discourage good environmental practices,” the company said. “This action tells oil and gas operators that setting up infrastructure to recycle produced water exposes them to the risk of significant legal and financial penalties should a small release occur.”
The company said it “acted quickly” to clean up the spill and there was “no lasting environmental impact,” according to the statement.
XTO said it agreed to pay “reasonable civil penalties” in a July 18, 2013 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice. It also agreed to recycle at least half its drilling wastewater, according to the agreement.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013 @ 10:06 AM gHale
The Justice Department filed a joint lawsuit with Arkansas Thursday against oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp over the pipeline spill in March of thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude oil in a suburban Arkansas neighborhood.
The 95,000 barrels per day Pegasus line remains shut since spilling the oil in Mayflower, AR, where cleanup operations continue. U.S. oil pipelines rarely spill in towns.
The Justice Department said it is seeking civil penalties against Exxon under federal law.
Arkansas is seeking civil penalties for violations of state waste and pollution laws. The state also seeks a judgment on Exxon’s liability for damages related to the spill of about 5,000 barrels that contaminated 22 homes, forcing residents to evacuate.
An Exxon spokesman said the company has yet to review the allegations and had yet to formally receive the complaint.
The spill sparked debate about the wisdom of shipping heavy Canadian crude across the United States, as the State Department considers TransCanada Corp’s application for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would link Alberta’s oil sands to refineries in Texas.
The lawsuit said the Pegasus pipeline was two feet below the ground in the Mayflower neighborhood, about 25 miles from Little Rock, the state capital.
Federal pipeline regulators this month gave Exxon time to conduct a second round of testing on Pegasus after the company said an initial investigation into why the nearly 70-year-old line failed was inconclusive. The pipeline runs from Illinois to Texas.
Exxon installed a new section of the pipeline in April after it removed a 52-foot-long (15.8 meter) damaged section, but it has yet to file a restart plan with federal regulators.
Monday, April 8, 2013 @ 03:04 PM gHale
Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. is now facing a federal corrective action order after one of its pipelines ruptured last week in central Arkansas.
The order from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration comes after Exxon Mobil’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured a week ago Friday in the city of Mayflower, about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock.
The order prevents Exxon Mobil from restarting operations on the failed segment of the pipeline until the agency is happy with repairs and is confident the company met all immediate safety concerns.
Investigators are still working to figure out what caused the pipeline to rupture, but the corrective action order said Exxon Mobil reversed the system flow of the pipeline in 2006.
“A change in direction of flow can affect the hydraulic and stress demands on the pipeline,” the order said.
About 3,500 to 5,000 barrels of crude oil spilled after the pipeline ruptured, according to Exxon Mobil estimates cited in the corrective action order. That oil spewed onto lawns and roadways and almost fouled nearby Lake Conway. No one was hurt, but the spill led authorities to evacuate more than 20 homes.
The pipeline, which runs from Patoka, IL, to the Texas Gulf Coast, was originally built in 1947 and 1948, according to federal pipeline safety officials. It will remain out of service for now. In order for that to change, Exxon Mobil would need written approval from a federal pipeline safety official, according to the corrective action order.
Exxon Mobil also has to submit a restart plan, complete testing and analysis about why the pipeline failed and jump through a number of other hoops under the order.
The order signed by Jeffrey Wiese, associate administrator for pipeline safety, said “continued operation of the Pegasus Pipeline would be hazardous to life, property, and the environment.”
The federal agency’s order comes as Arkansas’ attorney general promised a state investigation into the cause and impact of the spill and other officials say they plan to ask Exxon to move the Pegasus pipeline to protect drinking water.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013 @ 08:04 PM gHale
Exxon Mobil said one of its pipelines leaked “a few thousand” barrels of Canadian heavy crude oil near Mayflower, AR, prompting the evacuation of 22 homes.
The pipeline breach took place late Friday, Exxon said, in the 20-inch diameter, 95,000-barrel-a-day Pegasus pipeline, which originates in Patoka, IL, and carries crude oil to the Texas Gulf Coast, the country’s main refining center. Mayflower is about 25 miles north of Little Rock.
By Sunday afternoon, the company had deployed 15 vacuum trucks and 33 storage tanks to start cleaning up and temporarily store about 12,000 barrels of oil and water they recovered, the company said. Crews were steam-cleaning oil from local properties, Exxon Mobil said, while some fought in rainy weather to keep the oil from reaching nearby Lake Conway through storm drains.
The pipeline, which was built in the 1940s and recently expanded, was carrying low-quality Wabasca Heavy crude oil from Alberta, said Exxon Mobil spokesman Alan T. Jeffers. According to the Crude Monitor Web site, Wabasca Heavy is a blend of oil produced in the Athabasca region, which is where the oil sands are.
An existing Keystone pipeline carries crude oil that comes from the oil sands deposits in Alberta to Patoka through Exxon Mobil’s lines. Jeffers said he did not know if this batch of crude oil came from the Keystone line.
Critics of the Keystone XL pipeline said corrosion risks are greater in pipelines carrying low-quality bitumen-laden crude from the oil sands.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the Arkansas leak was a “major spill,” a label put on any spill of 250 barrels or more. Exxon Mobil said it was preparing for a spill of up to 10,000 barrels, but the estimate would probably be lower than that.
The company and other responders were battling to keep the crude oil, which gushed into yards and ran down residential streets in a Mayflower neighborhood, from leaking into Lake Conway, a popular recreation and game-fishing spot. Cleanup crews deployed 3,600 feet of boom near the lake as a precaution, and as of Sunday afternoon no oil had reached the lake, Jeffers said.
He added that dikes had been built to prevent runoff into the lake, but heavy rains were making that difficult, and runoff from storm drains into the lake was a concern.
Jeffers said the company received phone calls from people in the area at the same time its pipeline monitors in Houston noticed a drop in pressure in the line. The pipeline is buried about two feet deep in the Mayflower area, he said. Exxon Mobil said responders were on the scene within half an hour. Approximately 120 Exxon Mobil workers are responding to the incident in addition to federal, state and local officials and workers.
Exxon Mobil said fumes from the oil spill posed a risk in “high pooling areas,” where oil was on the ground and where crews were working with safety equipment.
The company said the cause of the spill is under investigation.
The Arkansas spill came just four days after the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration proposed fining Exxon Mobil $1.7 million for a July 2011 spill in Montana’s Yellowstone River. In that incident, Exxon Mobil’s 12-inch Silvertip Pipeline spilled 1,509 barrels of crude oil into the Yellowstone River near Laurel, Mont., during flooding.
The agency said Exxon Mobil did not properly address known seasonal flooding risks to the safety of its pipeline, including erosion of riverbeds that could leave pipelines exposed to damage from debris flowing downstream. The agency also said Exxon Mobil did not implement measures that would have mitigated a spill into a waterway.
Exxon Mobil said the unusually large fine — possibly the result of a doubling of civil penalties under the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act of 2011 signed into law last year by Obama — contradicted a report that said the company took “reasonable precautions.” The new ceiling is $2 million. The company said it spent about $100 million cleaning up damage from the spill.
Friday, January 4, 2013 @ 04:01 PM gHale
Exxon Mobil Corp.’s delays responding to a major pipeline break beneath Montana’s Yellowstone River made an oil spill far worse than it otherwise would have been, a new report said.
The July 2011 rupture fouled 70 miles of riverbank along the Yellowstone, killing fish and wildlife and prompting a massive, months-long cleanup.
Exxon could have reduced the damage significantly if pipeline controllers had acted quicker, Department of Transportation (DoT) investigators said.
The report marks the first time federal regulators highlighted specific actions by Exxon as contributing to the severity of the spill.
An Exxon spokeswoman said Wednesday the company was reviewing the findings of the report.
The spill released about 63,000 gallons of crude from Exxon’s 20-year-old Silvertip pipeline into the river near the city of Laurel. There would have been less damage by about two-thirds if controllers in Houston isolated the rupture as soon as problems emerged, investigators said.
Instead, after Exxon personnel partially shut down the line and were weighing their next steps, crude drained from the severed, 12-inch pipeline for another 46 minutes before they finally closed a key control valve.
Exxon spent $135 million on its response to the spill, including cleanup and repair work.
Spokeswoman Rachael Moore said the company will continue to cooperate with Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and “is committed to learning from these events.”
The report chalks up the immediate cause of the spill to floodwaters that damaged the pipeline and left it exposed. Debris washing downriver piled up on the line, increasing pressure until it ruptured.
The “volume would have been much less” and the location of spill “would have been identified far more quickly” if Exxon’s emergency procedures had called for the immediate closure of upstream valves, investigators said.
The report also faulted Exxon for lacking a plan to notify pipeline controllers the river was flooding.
Exxon workers did not incur blame for steps taken in the lead-up to the spill.
Exxon’s field observations and “depth of cover survey took reasonable precautions to address the flooding of the Yellowstone River it the spring and early summer of 2011,” the investigators wrote.
City officials in Laurel had warned Exxon that the riverbank was eroding. The company, however, continued to run crude beneath the Yellowstone after finding that a section of pipeline leading away from the river was still buried more than 6 feet deep.
Monday, October 8, 2012 @ 09:10 AM gHale
Exxon Mobil’s emergency teams battled a fire at its Baytown complex, which includes one of the largest refineries in the world.
The fire broke out Wednesday at 5 p.m. and remained confined to a process unit, said Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Rachael Moore. There were no reports of injuries and the company accounted for all employees, she said.
By 8:30 p.m. firefighters put out the fire, a company statement said. A crew remained on the site late Wednesday to make sure a spot fire didn’t reappear.
According to officials familiar with refinery operations, the fire broke out at the diesel hydrotreating unit, which uses hydrogen to remove sulfur from motor fuel.
A hole in a reactor caused the fire and triggered flaring at the complex, a filing with the U.S. National Response Center (NRC) showed. It did not identify the unit involved.
A hydrotreater is not a main production unit at a refinery. The loss of a diesel hydrotreater could lead to reduced diesel production, but would not impact wide-scale plant operations.
Remaining plant operations did not suffer from the fire, the statement said.
Exxon Mobil’s Baytown complex houses both refining and chemical plants and has a staff of 2,200 employees and 2,100 contractors that keep it running 24 hours a day, according to the company website.
It is capable of refining 573,000 barrels per day of crude oil, making it one of the largest refineries in the world. The refinery processes crude from the Persian Gulf, Africa, South America and Mexico. The Baytown refinery was the nation’s largest refinery by capacity in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
It was not immediately clear what started the fire.
“As a precaution, our Industrial Hygiene staff is doing air quality monitoring around the complex and in the community,” Moore said.
More than 7.2 billion pounds of petrochemical products end up manufactured each year at the complex, according to Exxon Mobil’s website.