AR Pipeline Leak Brings in Feds

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.

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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.

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