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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Paul Rawlings: Pipeline regulations and testing

  • Prior to the pipeline rupture at Mayflower Exxon had conducted a number of tests to determine if there were defects in the pipeline which might cause the pipe to rupture.
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  • A 22 foot rupture in the Exxon-Mobile Pegasus pipeline near Mayflower, Arkansas on March 29, 2013 sent an estimated 210,000 gallons of thick Canadian crude oil flowing down the streets of Northwoods Subdivision and into a cove of Lake Conway. The Pegasus pipeline is 850 miles long running from Patoka, Illinois to Corscina, Texas. The pipeline was built in 1947-48 by a long defunct Youngstown, Ohio business.
     
        Hurst Metallurgical Laboratories Inc. was employed to examine the Mayflower ruptured pipe and after completing its testing issued a 250 page report in which it determined “hook cracks” more than 13 inches long in the seam of the pipe caused the pipe to rupture.
     
       Prior to the pipeline rupture at Mayflower Exxon had conducted a number of tests to determine if there were defects in the pipeline which might cause the pipe to rupture.
     
       One test was conducted in 2006 after Exxon shut down the Pegasus pipeline  from 2002-2006 and the Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration required Exxon to test the pipeline for defects.   Exxon used what is called a hydrostatic-pressure check to find defects and The Federal Pipeline Safety Administration released a 160 page report showing that test revealed 12 defects in the pipeline:
     
           Four defects in a 42.75 mile test section under the Oakdale, Illinois station.
           One defect  in a 33.54 mile test section under the Cherokee, Pass, Mo., station.
           One defect in a test section under the Donaphin, Mo., station.
           Two defects in a Glenwood, Arkansas 19.25 mile test section.
           Two defects in a Foreman, Arkansas 34.07 mile test section.
            Two defects occurred at milepost 298.1 and 294.1 in a 15.76 milr test section near Conway, Arkansas
      
          This 2006 test did not indicate any defects in the pipeline in the Mayflower, Arkansas section where the March 29, 2013 rupture occurred.  Exxon said it had repaired the defects revealed in the 2006 test and was allowed to begin using the pipeline in February 2006
     
          In 2010 Exxon ran two inline inspections on the Pegasus pipeline.  One test was to test for metal loss on the entire 850 mile pipeline.  In its 630 page report on this test The Federal Pipeline Safety Administration  said the problem was not confined to one or two pipe segments.  “The seam weld defects and metal loss defects are distributed throughout the pipeline.  Approximately 12% of the total number of spools contain a seam weld defect or a metal loss defect,” the report stated.
    Page 2 of 2 -       The 120 page report covering tests on the 142.68 miles of pipeline from Doniphan, Mo to Conway, Arkansas revealed five seam weld defects and 5,510 metal loss defects. Of the 5,510 defects seven were “axial orientated seam weld metal loss and were classified as metal loss touching or crossing the seam weld”.  The remaining 5,503 were manufacturing and metal loss features in the pipe’s main body.
     
         According to Karen Tyrone, vice-president of Exxon-Mobile Pipeline an in-line  inspection in February 2013, less than two months before the Mayflower pipeline rupture  “didn’t identify the defects in the Mayflower segment but the results were still being studied.”
     
       In preliminary reports and supporting documents of a $4.5 million three year study by Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio and posted on the web site of Pipeline  Safety Administration 1,840 pipeline accidents /incidents occurred between 2002-2010.
    The kind and number are:  Corrosion-- 477, Material/weld—244, Excavation—232, Equipment failure—224,  Natural forces—190, Incorrect operation—106, Other outside forces—104, Pipe seam—75, Other—188.
     
       Republican Congressman Tim Griffin of Little Rock recently told Exxon-Mobile officials, “federal regulations to ensure the integrity of pipelines are not sufficient to detect deficiencies and prevent an oil spill” and Exxon-Mobile should perform additional testing on the 13.5 mile segment which runs through the Lake Maumelle area.
     
       Congressman Griffin for more than a year before the Mayflower pipeline rupture was  advocating construction of the Keystone oil pipeline which would save the Koch brothers $3 billion a year and SPONSORED a bill to force the Obama Administration to approve the Keystone pipeline WITHOUT the environmental review now required by law.
     
      Congressman Griffin has not explained why he supports construction of the Koch brothers Keystone oil pipeline without regulations and why Exxon-Mobile should  conduct MORE testing than regulations require on the Pegasus oil pipeline.  Is it possible the $167,000 campaign contribution Koch brothers made to Congressman Griffin had some effect on his position on oil pipelines?
     
     
    (Paul Rawlings of Heber Springs contributes monthly to the editorial pages of The Sun-Times)

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