Posts Tagged ‘Exxon Mobil’
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.
Thursday, July 12, 2012 @ 05:07 PM gHale
French oil major Total will carry out exploration works at a deepwater gas field off Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast, near a site in Romanian waters where they just made a gas discovery, officials said today.
Total won the tender to carry out exploration for five years at Khan Asparuh field over British-based Melrose Resources. The French group plans to work with Austria’s OMV and Spain’s Repsol.
The Balkan country, almost fully dependent on Russian natural gas supplies, is seeking ways to diversify its gas routes and sources to cuts costs and boost its energy security.
“This means a real diversification … It will help us decrease gas prices and will help us during negotiations for the purchase of gas (with Russia’s Gazprom),” Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said.
U.S. operator Exxon Mobil, which had already announced a huge gas find at an offshore Black Sea well in Romanian waters together with OMV, had filed an initial offer, but later withdrew from the tender.
Bulgaria’s Economy and Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev said gas production could start within three to four years, provided the exploration activities point to substantial gas reserves.
The 15,000sq km Khan Asparuh block is only 15km from OMV’s Neptun block, which the Austrian company has said could produce up to 84 billion cubic meters of gas.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 @ 03:04 PM gHale
Everyone agrees there needs to be a plan to speed up the response to oil spills along Montana’s upper Yellowstone River, after a major spill last year left local officials scrambling to deal with an ill-defined threat.
That is why Exxon Mobil Corp. is working with government agencies to provide enough training and resources to take action on major pipeline, refinery or railway spills within 24 hours, or before outside help can arrive.
Exxon would pay to plan and possibly equip the stepped-up response under a settlement with the state over pollution violations from its July pipeline break near Laurel, MT.
The effort is in the early stages and the company has not yet submitted a formal proposal. The state needs to approve the plan for the work to count toward Exxon’s remaining $1.3 million obligation under the settlement reached after last year’s spill.
The company’s 12-inch Silvertip pipeline broke beneath the Yellowstone one weekend last July, releasing an estimated 63,000 gallons of oil. Officials recovered less than 1 percent of the oil that spilled during a cleanup that cost an estimated $135 million after pipeline repairs factored in.
Officials fear some oil leftover from Silvertip could re-emerge during high waters this spring. Samples of possible oil sheen found on the river this week near Laurel are now in the lab undergoing testing. Results are due later this month from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
DEQ scientist Laura Alvey said Exxon will be responsible for cleaning up any more oil discovered from last year’s spill.
The company is monitoring about 45 sites along the river where they left oil in place because officials determined removal would be more damaging, Alvey said.
The plan for future spills would cover seven counties in south-central and southeast Montana — Yellowstone, Carbon, Stillwater, Sweetgrass, Park, Gallatin and Big Horn. Most of the region’s oil and gas facilities, including three refineries, are in two counties — Yellowstone and Carbon counties.
Steve Merritt with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the hope is to have any needed training done and equipment in place by the end of the year to handle a significant spill.
Yellowstone County’s director of disaster and emergency services, Duane Winslow, said in the future, rural volunteer firefighters could undergo training in spill response “so it’s not just Exxon’s 25-person strike force or whatever they had that Saturday morning.”
Exxon eventually brought in hundreds of cleanup contractors but that took time because many came from the Gulf Coast, where spills are more frequent.
An Exxon spokesperson said it was premature to comment since it has not submitted its proposal. But an Exxon emergency response advisor, John Dunn, said this week the company wants to make the effort “as productive as possible.”
The spill marred about 70 miles of riverbank and damaged scores of farms, residences and other riverfront properties. No major drinking water sources were contaminated.
Because the river was flooding at dangerous levels during the spill, Merritt said there was little that local emergency responders could have done to stop the oil from moving downstream even with a better response plan in place.
But he said better communications among government agencies and the company could have made downstream residents and communities more prepared.
Monday, January 23, 2012 @ 04:01 PM gHale
Exxon Mobil Corp. will pay more than $2 million in penalties and cleanup costs to Montana for a pipeline rupture in July that spilled an estimated 1,500 barrels of oil into the Yellowstone River, according to a proposed legal settlement.
Under the negotiated agreement between Exxon and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the Texas-based oil company would pay a fine of $1.6 million, the largest penalty ever levied in Montana for violations of its water quality regulations.
Exxon also would reimburse Montana $760,000 for state cleanup expenses and cover any future costs should the state incur them, according to the deal.
Exxon’s Silvertip pipeline burst July 1 at a crossing beneath the flood-swollen Yellowstone River near Billings, MT, about 150 miles downstream from Yellowstone National Park.
The company originally put the size of the spill at 1,000 barrels of crude but has since revised the volume of oil released into the river at 1,500 barrels, Montana environmental officials said.
The deal represents only part of Exxon’s liability stemming from the pipeline rupture, Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director Richard Opper said.
Exxon in November estimated its overall response to the spill, including cleanup, would cost $135 million and said it reached compensation agreements with more than 95 percent of riverside property owners affected by the accident.
In addition, Exxon must still settle with the state for any damages assessed by the Montana attorney general under the state’s natural resource laws, Opper said.
The cause of the accident, which occurred amid historically high water levels on the pristine river, remains under investigation by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Exxon said it regretted the incident and took full responsibility for the cleanup.
Thursday, November 17, 2011 @ 04:11 PM gHale
Oil and other hazardous liquid pipelines at seven major river crossings and hundreds of smaller crossings in Montana and northern Wyoming have problems that could put the lines at increased risk of failure, federal safety regulators said.
Problems found at the major river crossings need fixing by spring or the companies that own them will face enforcement actions, said Chris Hoidal with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
That includes pipelines crossing the Missouri, Musselshell, Gallatin, Tongue and other rivers. Three companies own the pipelines: Exxon Mobil, CHS and ConocoPhillips.
Some repairs already are under way, according to company representatives.
Many of the pipelines came online 30 years ago in shallow trenches just a few feet beneath riverbottoms. Erosion caused in part by record flooding has since exposed the lines or left them buried under minimal cover. The consequences of a line failing camet to light with Exxon Mobil pipeline break in July that spilled 1,000 barrels of crude into the Yellowstone River, fouling dozens of miles of riverbank.
“They’ve got to do something. If they can’t fix them, then they will have to shut them down,” said Hoidal, who oversees pipeline safety in 12 Western states for the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
He characterized the problems at the major crossings as putting them at a significant risk of failure. Information on the smaller crossings still is under analysis, and Hoidal said repairs to those would be scheduled on a case-by-case basis.
Hoidal said he has instructed his inspectors to take a similar look at pipelines elsewhere in the West. But the most detailed information collected since the Yellowstone spill was for Montana and portions of northern Wyoming within the Missouri River basin.
More than 170,000 miles of pipelines carrying oil, refined petroleum and other hazardous liquids crisscross the United States, crossing some 35,000 streams, rivers and other water bodies, according to the Department of Transportation.
That includes 2,800 miles of pipelines in Montana, said industry consultant Bruce Beighle with Integrity Solutions in Clinton.
About half of that mileage includes lines operated by ConocoPhillips. Other companies with significant hazardous liquid pipeline mileage in Montana include CHS, Kinder Morgan, Marathon, True, Plains and Exxon Mobil.
Work already wrapped up on an eighth major river crossing with problems, ConocoPhillips’ Glacier pipeline along Belt Creek in central Montana. Two other ConocoPhillips pipelines not counted among the major crossings also have been repaired, said company spokeswoman Romelia Hinojosa.
Other upgrades are planned in the next several months. That includes $15 million in additional work along Exxon Mobil’s Silvertip line, according to information obtained from Hoidal’s agency.
A 1,700-foot section of Silvertip ended up buried approximately 70 feet beneath the Yellowstone in September. Sections crossing Rock Creek and the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone should undergo replacement by late January.
“The incentive for us is these spills cost a lot of money,” said Dave Galt, executive director of the Montana Petroleum Association. “All of these are being addressed and the companies take that responsibility. We don’t want releases into the water.”
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.
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.