OH Pipeline Reviewed after Blast

Monday, November 21, 2011 @ 03:11 PM gHale

The company whose pipeline was the source of a massive explosion in Morgan County, OH, Wednesday is one of the most frequently pursued for compliance by a federal regulator.

Out of 294 companies named in enforcement cases since the beginning of 2007, Tennessee Gas was 15th on the list with nine separate cases, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) website. Over the past five years, Tennessee Gas accumulated $103,000 in fines.

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Ohio partners with the federal government in monitoring interstate pipelines. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) audited this particular line in February.

During a 10-day audit, a PUCO inspector spot-checked portions and components of the 36-inch carbon steel pipe from roughly Carrolton to Jackson, according to the audit report.

The inspector noted five items in need of correction, but none apparently major enough to warrant an “unsatisfactory” rating on any portion of the audit.

PUCO spokesman Matt Butler said Wednesday the commission doesn’t have the manpower or resources to check every inch of pipeline in the state. They do spot-checks and review company records and procedures, he said.

Meanwhile, after conducting 23 field inspections of Tennessee Gas pipelines in 2006, the PHMSA has done zero so far in 2011 on the 11,700 miles of pipe under federal watch, according to its website.

PHMSA documented 13 incidents this year on pipelines operated by Tennessee Gas and fined the company $25,000. Two of those took place under Ohio soil and caused a combined $3.3 million in property damage.

Last Wednesday, a pipeline exploded that shot flames hundreds of feet in the air and damaged surrounding property, but nobody was hurt in the fire.

The pipe, originally built in 1963, had has not received a hydrostatic strength test since 1971. Tennessee Gas gave an in-line inspection to the pipeline in June and last did an aerial inspection on Nov. 11.

A similar scene to last week unfolded near Hanoverton in Columbiana County in February. However, that explosion occurred at night, with one witness saying the glow was visible for 40 miles.

The company reported an equipment failure in Guernsey County in March. No injuries or fatalities occurred in either incident.

In 2007, the parent company of Tennessee Gas, El Paso Corp., agreed to a $15.5 million fine as part of a settlement with the government involving an explosion in 2000 near Carlsbad, N.M., that killed 12 people camping near a 50-year-old pipeline.

The settlement included a commitment from El Paso to spend $86 million to modify its 10,000-mile pipeline system.

A Cincinnati Enquirer review of federal data from earlier this year shows there have been 41 “significant” incidents along gas or hazardous liquid transmission pipelines in Ohio from 2001 through July. In that span, two people died, there was $26.2 million in property damage and about 4,200 barrels of hazardous liquid left unrecovered after spills.

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