Pipeline breaks - for the archives

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GICC has received the following postings on Pipeline breaks and Alaskan Pipeline problems for the archives.

OHIO - Pipeline Breaks, Increase in Cost of Crude Oil? http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=003MgZ greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC)

[Fair Use: For Educational and Research Purposes Only]

Published Wednesday, June 21, 2000, in the Akron Beacon Journal. Pipeline Breaks, Increase in Cost of Crude Oil Could be Factors

BY JIM MACKINNON and Shana Yates Beacon Journal business writers

Trying to point a finger at whatever is making you pay two bucks and more for a gallon of Midwest gasoline?

You may need your whole hand.

Midwest gasoline prices have skyrocketed to record levels just in time for the heavily traveled Fourth of July holiday. The national average for self-serve unleaded regular gasoline is now between $1.64 and $1.68 a gallon -- about 50 cents a gallon higher than for July 4, 1999, according to two surveys.

Northeast Ohio gas is even more expensive.

The Great Lakes region of the Midwest now has the nation's highest gasoline prices -- $2 and more per gallon, AAA reports.

The reasons are many, say experts inside and outside the petroleum industry. A confluence of events has caused gasoline prices to spike sharply higher, they said.

Drivers caught a couple of bad breaks -- literally -- that shrank supplies as demand rose:

Two pipelines that supply gasoline to the Midwest broke. The 1,400-mile Explorer pipeline, which carries gasoline from refineries in Louisiana and Texas to Hammond, Ill., broke in March; the Wolverine pipeline from Chicago to Detroit ruptured earlier this month, worsening supply problems for Detroit-area drivers. Those breaks caused gasoline reserves to drop. While both pipelines are now operating, they are not yet at full capacity, which limits gasoline supplies.

St. Louis was granted a federal exemption from a requirement that it use less-polluting reformulated gasoline because of the March pipeline break. Conventional gasoline that otherwise would have gone to Ohio and otherMidwest states instead was diverted to that city.

Worldwide crude oil prices have risen above $33 for a barrel of oil.

This is the peak driving season when demand and prices for gasoline are typically at their highest.

Refineries, which take crude oil and turn it into gasoline and related products, haven't been able to keep up with demand. The federal government and industry spokespeople say refineries are running at full capacity.

Refineries have been strained making reformulated gasoline for some markets and conventional gasoline for other areas. Critics and many consumers are accusing the oil industry of price gouging. And the federal governmentannounced yesterday that it is launching a formal investigation.

``There is gouging on the part of the large oil companies,'' insisted Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. He and Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, the top Democrat in the House, met with President Clinton last week about the issue.

Since May, with virtually no excess inventory to draw on, refineries have been running almost at capacity just to meet current demand. That's why any pipeline or refinery mishap could cause prices to spike, some experts say.

``At any other times, these are just blips,'' said Bruce Cavella, an oil market analyst with Standard & Poor's DRI. ``Now they're major happenings affecting prices.''

Tight supplies do generate higher profits. ``Refiners are going to earn historic returns in the second and third quarters,'' said Larry Goldstein, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, an oil-industry center.

But some industry experts say their hands are tied.

``It's really a legitimate supply problem,'' said Scott Berhang, spokesman for Oil Price Information Service in New Jersey. Ohio and other Midwest states get a lot of gasoline from the Texas and Louisiana-based distribution system that had the pipeline breaks, he said.

``You're still being impacted by it,'' he said. ``We think it's going to continue for a while.''

The White House, trying to stem political fallout in Midwest states pivotal in the fall election, said yesterday that the industry argument blaming new environmental rules for soaring gasoline prices ``doesn't stand the test of logic.''

It also was quietly trying to persuade OPEC oil ministers to increase crude oil production when they meet today in Vienna, Austria. It's widely believed some production increases will be approved, but the additional oil may do little to drive down gasoline prices.

White House press secretary Joe Lockhart rejected suggestions that the EPA's requirement for cleaner fuel in areas with severe summer ozone problems is to blame.

The EPA has said the cleaner gasoline should have added 3 to 8 cents to the cost of a gallon of fuel.

Former U.S. Senator Howard Metzembaum, chairman of the ConsumerFederation of America, blamed the high prices on cutbacks by U.S. refiners and by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

``Meanwhile, the oil companies are not hurting but profiting by these shortages,'' he said. The federal government should release 2 million barrels of oil a day for 30 days from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Metzembaumsaid, which would either stabilize prices or bring them down.

Terry Fleming, executive director of the trade group Ohio Petroleum Council, said nobody called for congressional hearings from 1997 to 1999, when gasoline prices were low and tens of thousands of oil industry workers lost their jobs as a result.

``We kept prices low so we could gouge you one summer?'' he said. ``Use common sense.'' Even at today's high prices, Fleming said he has seen no decrease in demand for gasoline. That tends to keep prices high as well, he said.

``I guess that's the sign of a strong economy,'' he said. ``As long as demand stays strong, I don't see a drop in shortfall.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com

Shana Yates can be reached at 330-996-3724.


-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), June 21, 2000

**************************************************************** Alaskan Pipeline experiences mysterious shift http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=003Irq greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC)

Trans-Alaska oil pipeline shift a mysterious event 20-05-00 A section of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline shifted abruptly, shearing anchor bolts and damaging some vertical supports that hold the line above the ground, according to a spokesman for the Alyeska Pipeline Service. He said the company should have some explanation of why a section of pipe about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long shifted between 1-1/4 inch and 10 inches, company spokesman Tim Woolston said. The affected section is on the south slope of Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range and about 170 miles (275 km) south of Prudhoe Bay, the company and regulators said. The shift was strong enough to pull out some of the bolts that anchored the pipeline to some of its vertical supports, Alyeska said. The damage was reported, said the Joint Pipeline Office, the consortium of federal and state agencies that oversees Alyeska's operations. Six anchor bolts were broken and aluminium webbing designed to absorb shocks was crushed. Other portions of the vertical-support system were damaged, although there was no damage to the actual pipeline, said JPO spokeswoman Rhea DoBosh. "The mysterious event was unusual in Alyeska history," she added. "We haven't found anything even remotely close to this." "It is not uncommon for one or even two of the anchor bolts to break but to have six anchors, all in a row, with this amount of support damage is extremely significant." Alyeska is a consortium owned by oil companies with interests on Alaska's North Slope. Major owners are BP Amoco and Exxon. Source: Reuters via Energy24 -- meg davis (meg9999@aol.com), June 09, 2000 Answers [Excerpt] I would be interested to see a record of the pipeline system pressure plotted against the pump drive motor current draw at the first pumping station upstream of the damaged area. Without trying to be too simplistic, this sounds like water hammer on a grand scale! SCADA systems with embedded microprocessor date-related problems (Y2K) have been responsible for some of the "unexplained" problems experienced by the refinery and sewage-treatment industries. The loss of feedback or inaccurate feedback by system sensors could have resulted in a pressure surge.

-- Frank Hill (fhill@absolute-net.com), June 10, 2000.

Article last updated: Wednesday, June 21, 2000 6:52 AM MST Gas pocket blamed for pipeline shift By DOUGLAS FISCHER Staff Writer

The violent compression and collapse of a gas pocket in a low-lying section of pipe jarred the trans-Alaska oil pipeline enough to shift it nearly 21 inches, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. officials said Tuesday.

The shift, which occurred south of Atigun Pass shortly after an April 17 restart, went undetected until crews doing routine reconnaissance on May 15 noticed seven anchor assemblies had tripped.

The Brooks Range pass, at 4,738 feet, is the pipeline's highest point.

Oil gushing down the pipeline after pumping restarted met a wall of vapor resting atop oil that had pooled at the bottom of the pass, near where the pipe emerges from the ground, Alyeska said. The vapor condensed to the point where it couldn't condense anymore, then collapsed, generating a pressure wave strong enough to shear off steel connecting bolts down a mile-long stretch of the pipeline.

"The good thing is we learned a lot from this incident," said Alyeska Senior Vice President Bill Howitt. "The great thing is the support system for the pipeline worked exactly as it was supposed to.

Steps have been taken--including lower, slower surveillance flyovers and the painting of orange alignment stripes on key pipeline anchors-- to ensure future incidents do not go undetected for so long, added Alyeska spokesman Curtis Thomas.

But the head of a local pipeline watchdog group wonders how the problem went undetected for so long. And with production declining on the North Slope, he bets decreased oil moving through the pipeline will make problems like this more common.

"They knew it had to have been an incredible pressure hammer," said Ross Coen, director of the Alaska Forum for Environmental Responsibility. "Suppose it happened and we have oil on the ground? ... Suppose it happened where the pipe is buried?"

While the collapse was quick and violent, the pipeline was never above maximum stress levels, Thomas said. Though sensors never detected the buildup, engineers collecting data on the scene could calculate the bubble's impact, and Alyeska said it fell within the accepted range. The month-long gap in detection, however, is not good, Thomas acknowledged. "That is a problem. And that's a problem we're going to fix."

The company has lowered its minimum flyover height from 300 feet to 200 feet and has instructed pilots to fly slower and further from the center of the pipeline to better see its supports, Thomas said. "That's where the orange stripes will come into play."

Crews from Fairbanks and two nearby pump stations moved the 48-inch pipe back into place, erecting temporary cribbing to support the pipe and reseating anchors and the shoes that sit on those anchors. That work was done May 26.

"Though this looked like a violent act--and it was a violent act--the key to this is that everything performed the way it was supposed to," Thomas added. "The systems we have in place are like shock absorbers, and they did exactly that: They absorbed the shock and the pressure and withstood the impact." puid=1258&spuid=1258&Indx=316001&Article=ON&id=16092188&ro=7

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), June 21, 2000. ******************************************************************

Olympic pipline penalized http://hv.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=003GRw greenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Friday, June 2, 2000, 11:17 a.m. Pacific

Federal regulators seek $3.05 million penalty against Olympic Pipe Line

by Brier Dudley Seattle Times staff reporter

Federal regulators announced this morning that they are seeking a record $3.05 million penalty against Olympic Pipe Line in response to its deadly rupture in Bellingham last June.

"Tragic events like this pipeline failure must never happen again," U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said.

It's the largest penalty in the history of the agency's pipeline safety program.

"In cases like this, where a pipeline operator fails to take appropriate actions to ensure safety, we will penalize the company to the fullest extent possible to ensure full compliance with federal safety rules," said Kelley Coyner, the department administrator in charge of pipeline safety.

Here are the citations against Olympic and proposed fines: Failing to conduct adequate damage prevention efforts, including failing to ensure that a representative was present during third-party excavation near its pipeline: $25,000.

Discovering an unsafe condition during inspections and continuing to operate the pipeline without correcting the problem: $500,000.

Failing to ensure that employees on duty at the time of the pipeline failure were trained according to federal regulations: $500,000.

Olympic's computer operated irregularly, then the company restarted the pipeline without ensuring it could be operated safely: $25,000.

Failing to modify its operations, maintenance and emergency plans when it added a new storage facility near Mount Vernon: $500,000.

Failing to adequately test relief valves at the new terminal: $500,000.

Failing to respond, investigate and correct a series of unintentional valve shutdowns prior to the rupture: $500,000.

Failing to maintain the required daily operating records of discharge at each pump station and of abnormal events: $500,000.

Olympic was notified this morning and had not yet reviewed "the basis" used to levy the fine, manager Carl Gast said in a prepared statement.

"Therefore any further comment would be premature at this point," he said.

"I would like to point out," Gast added, "that during the past several months, Olympic has worked very hard to comply with all of the safety directives issued by the Office of Pipeline Safety, and even now is engaged in a comprehensive internal inspections program of its entire 400-mile network."

Olympic, a subsidiary of some of the world's largest oil companies - Shell, Arco, Texaco and GATX Terminals - has the right to contest each penalty to reduce the amount of the proposed fines.

Last winer Olympic appealed a $120,000 fine issued by the state Department of Ecology for a subsequent spill at its Renton headquarters.

The appeal is still pending.

Sections of the pipeline remain shut down as the investigation into the June 10 explosion continues.

Olympic spilled over 200,000 gallons of gasoline into Whatcom Falls Park, where it was ignited by two 10-year-old boys who died of burns. An 18-year-old fisherman was overcome by fumes and drowned.

Members of Congress working on pipeline issues were pleased but said the fine doesn't lessen the need for stricter pipeline safety laws.

"I think OPS has really taken an important step in a very difficult case and has done the right thing," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington.

U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, said Coyner still needs to order further testing of Olympic.


-- (1@2.3), June 02, 2000



WASHINGTON, DC, June 16, 2000 (ENS) - A new federal report finds that pipeline regulators are not enforcing many pipeline safety rules, and letting violators slip by with a slap on the wrench. The report released Thursday by the investigative branch of Congress warns that inadequate regulation may be contributing to the increasing number of pipeline accidents each year. For full text and graphics visit: http://ens.lycos.com/ens/jun2000/2000L-06-16-07.html

-- GICC Sysop (y2kgicc@yahoo.com), July 18, 2000

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