Chevron Fixes Software After Pipeline Leak

Friday, July 23, 2010 @ 04:07 PM gHale

Chevron Corp. will now use better software to detect problems from an oil pipeline that leaked into a Salt Lake City creek.
Chevron said constantly changing pressures in the pipeline made such spills difficult to detect, which raised questions about how long the leak actually went unnoticed. Officials found the leak last month.
In addition to new software, the company is making other control-room changes to better detect leaks like the half-inch hole that spilled an estimated 33,000 gallons of crude oil into the city’s waterways.
Chevron’s latest assessment came in a written response to a series of questions posed by U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah. Matheson said he’s waiting for federal regulators to make their own determination about the pipeline’s problems.
Chevron said detecting the leak was ”challenging” because pressures inside the 182-mile pipeline are constantly changing.
Chevron’s control-room operators didn’t know about the leak until Salt Lake firefighters reported crude oil was gushing down Red Butte Creek.
The company has made no determination about how long the leak went undetected, Chevron spokesman Mickey Driver said Friday.
”We are doing our own study to determine what happened,” he said.
Salt Lake City’s Fire Department notified Chevron of the leak at about 6 a.m. June 12, but Mayor Ralph Becker has said residents noticed the odor of oil the previous night. The pipeline, which delivers crude oil from Rangley, Colo., to Chevron’s Salt Lake City refinery, was leaking residual amounts of oil until the morning of June 13.
Chevron said the difficulties of monitoring the pipeline for leaks include radical changes in terrain. The pipeline climbs as high as 10,000 feet in elevation along the route, then drops several thousand feet into the Salt Lake basin.
Those elevation changes, combined with crude oils that differ in density and temperature, keep pressures in a constant state of flux and can mask a minor leak.

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