by Max Brantley
Bottom line from a quick scan: It confirms an April 2 corrective action order that the entire ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline remain shut down until "certain" corrective actions are taken. A safety hazard would otherwise exist. ExxonMobil had argued that a southern portion of the pipeline, about 200 miles from Corsicana to Nederland, Texas, was constructed later (most of it in 1954 but a shorter section in 1973) of different materials and should be exempt from the order. The Pipeline Office said, however, that other factors were considered in covering the entire line with the order, including the age of the line, the lack of results from a 2013 inspection, the change of direction of the pipeline flow in 2006, the proxmity of the line to heavy populations and environmentally sensitive areas and the uncertainty of the cause of the break. "Integrity concerns" exist about the type of pipe used in both sections of the line, the letter said. The letter expressed concerns, too, about the sufficiency of tests for "seam integrity." Photos of the ruptured pipe in Mayflower (see photo above supplied by the Duncan Law Firm) have suggested to some that a split seam was at the root of the break. The letter said it did not appear so far that the nature of the crude carried in the line caused the break through corrosion. ExxonMobil hadn't asked for an end to the order shutting down the 648-mile stretch north from Corsicana through Arkansas to Illinois while the cause of the break is studied.
The letter notes that the line was operating below maximum pressure when it ruptured and that the company was alerted to the break by a drop in pressure. The letter said it took 16 minutes to shut the line down at valves 18 miles apart after that pressure drop was noticed. The cause of the break remains undetermined so far, the letter notes. It says 3,500 to 5,000 barrels of oil were released.
If earlier reporting on the original Pipeline Safety order holds, ExxonMobil will have to win approval of a restart plan for the entire pipeline before it can again move crude through the line.
UPDATE: I sought a comment from ExxonMobil. This came in:
Per your inquiry below, ExxonMobil Pipeline Company (EMPCo) can confirm that we have received PHMSA’s post-hearing decision on EMPCo’s request for clarification of the Corrective Action Order (CAO) regarding the Pegasus pipeline. EMPCo requested a hearing on the CAO to better understand PHMSA’s restart plan requirements.
Any restart of these lines will comply with the CAO and the operating pressures will not exceed 80% of the actual operating pressures in effect immediately prior to the failure. We will not restart the pipeline until both the relevant government authorities and we are convinced it is safe to do so.
ExxonMobil Pipeline Company
Public and Government Affairs Advisor