A pipeline operated by Exxon-owned Denbury carrying highly-pressurized carbon dioxide (CO2) experienced a “leak” that caused a release that prompted a shelter-in-place order near the town of Sulphur, Louisiana.

The cause of the April 3 leak may be the result of an O ring failure on the launcher pig trap door, officials said. They also added one week later an investigation is continuing into the incident.

An initial report on the incident from the National Response Center (NRC) said the incident started at 6:18 p.m. when 2,548 barrels or 107,016 gallons (6.34 MMFCS in gas quantity) of CO2 released over the course of the next two hours, until workers closed final valve at 8:22 p.m.

CO2 gas spread widely enough into the surrounding area that the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury issued a shelter-in-place order from 6:30 p.m. until 9:16 p.m. for a quarter-mile radius in the neighborhood where the leak took place at Exxon/Denbury Resources’ Lake Charles Pumping Station near Sulphur, LA.

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Calcasieu emergency preparedness officials said emergency workers blocked off the Denbury pipeline at 8:25 p.m. and the shelter-in-place order lifted shortly after. The order ended up issued because wind was keeping the released gas close to the ground.

The shelter-in-place order was for the area within a quarter-mile radius from the 300 block of Bankens Road, where there is a Denbury pump station for the pipeline surrounded by homes.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said the leak took place at Exxon/Denbury’s Lake Charles Pumping Station for Denbury’s 24-inch Green Pipeline.

The incident ended up reported to the NRC as possibly being with the pump station’s “smart pig launcher site.”

A cloud of CO2 wafts at ground level after a Denbury pipeline leak near Sulphur, Louisiana.
Source: Calcasieu Parish Police Jury

NRC reports a possible “O-ring” or seal failure, as potential incident causation. A smart pig (Pipeline Inspection Gauge) is a tool used to examine a pipeline’s integrity by placing it in the interior and running sensors and cameras along the pipe’s length.

At this stage in its investigation, PHMSA said the smart pig launcher site stands isolated and there is no ongoing threat, according to the Pipeline Safety Trust. PHMSA’s investigation is ongoing, and to this point there no one estimated volume of CO2 released.


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