"With proper inspection and maintenance, these catastrophic events can be prevented," said Mohammad Najafi, a pipeline construction expert and engineering professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. "As pipelines exceed their design lives, they need more maintenance and a proper asset management strategy to prevent or minimize these ruptures."
That leaves the public and regulators with two critical questions: Did Exxon manage and test its broken Pegasus pipeline according to established guidelines? And, if it did, is the Arkansas accident a warning that other pipelines might be at risk?
If so, the repercussions would be nationwide, since many of the nation's liquid fuel and natural gas pipelines are of similar vintage and were built using the same inferior construction techniques. The gas line that ruptured in San Bruno, Calif. in September 2010, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes, included segments made with the same process as the Pegasus pipe. Investigators foundthat the pipeline's owner, Pacific Gas & Electric, had neglected to properly inspect and repair the line and that regulators issued testing exemptions and placed "blind trust" in the company's assurances.
Recent maintenance and testing records for the Pegasus, as well as the metal analysis report that blamed the accident primarily on a 65-year-old manufacturing defect, would offer important insight into why the pipeline failed. Those documents, however, are being withheld from the public...