Exxon Needs a Pipeline Safety Plan

Thursday, July 7, 2011 @ 01:07 PM gHale

Exxon Mobil needs to fix its Montana oil pipeline, submit a restart plan, re-bury the pipeline and conduct a risk study before oil can flow again.

“The safety of our nation’s pipelines is a priority and the investigation into this incident is ongoing,” U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood said, noting those responsible will be held accountable.

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Exxon Mobil does not have a definite repair plan yet for the busted Montana crude oil pipeline it shut over the weekend, and company and government officials are still trying to determine the cause of the spill, a top executive said.

Oil deposits have traveled as far as 240 miles downstream, the government said in its order.

The company and state and federal investigators are “working in parallel, looking at both the investigation, trying to determine what happened, as well as possible repair plans,” said Gary Pruessing, president of Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co.

“We do not yet have a definitive plan on when we will be able to restart the line,” he said.

Exxon estimated up to 1,000 barrels (42,000 gallons) of oil spilled into the Yellowstone River when its Silvertip crude oil pipeline ruptured last Friday. Exxon said it shut the 40,000 bpd pipeline early Saturday within seven minutes of discovering a pressure loss that indicated a rupture. Officials are questioning the actual amount of time it really took Exxon to seal off the pipeline.

High, rushing water in the river was hampering the probe, but Pruessing said the company hadn’t confirmed any soiled areas beyond 25 miles downriver.

“River levels continue to be very high, the river is very strong, that does become something we need to consider in trying to get at the actual site where the incident occurred,” Pruessing said.

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