Category Archives: Oil

Indian oil pipelines under tight surveillance

INDIA: Oil companies in Kochi have upped their surveillance to monitor the pipelines which pass underground through the city carrying highly inflammable oil products.

Apart from deploying foot patrol teams, the companies have roped in the support of local residents who live near the pipe lines to strengthen the monitoring activities.

“Certain pipe lines are of 12 km long. We don’t reveal the actual route map as it is a matter of national security. Though there are no specific threats to the oil pipelines, we have spruced up surveillance considering the changing security scenario,” said official sources in Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).

The sources said that the patrolling teams walk all along the route on shift basis to check for any suspected activities. “We have implemented a system in which the security personnel of the oil companies frequently interact with the residents living adjacent to the pipelines. We will also train them to report suspected activities or incidents which they notice in the area,” the sources said.

The companies have also implemented state-of-the-art systems to monitor the pipe lines from a control room in the refineries. “We have cathodic protection systems and other devices to check the safety of the pipe lines. Any variation in the pressure will be immediately known at the control room,” the sources added.

Kochi City Police Commissioner M R Ajith Kumar said that though the oil companies have their own mechanism to monitor the pipelines, the city police also conduct routine surveillance on its own. “We also undertake round the clock monitoring of the areas through which the pipe lines pass,” the Commissioner said.

SOURCE: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-09-17/kochi/30168731_1_pipelines-oil-companies-surveillance

Report warned over upgrade of ‘rusty’ pipeline

The fatalities and injuries resulting from fires at Mukuru Sinai slums caused by petroleum spillage continue to raise hard questions on decisions made by the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC).

In 2005, the management of KPC decided to expand the capacity of the Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline, ostensibly to meet growing demand for fuel products in Nairobi and further inland to western Kenya.

The firm went ahead to commit Sh7.8 billion (Approx. $82 million USD) in a project, that involved installing four new pump stations at various points on the path of the pipeline to increase pumping capacity.

The decision generated debate when it emerged that the management knew upgrading the pipeline was a waste of money because the facility had long been condemned as old and beyond its lifespan.

Responding to the Sinai incident on Monday, KPC Managing Director Selest Kilinda said the regrettable incident was caused by spillage of petroleum products on KPC’s by-pass line between Nairobi and Mombasa known as Line 1 and the Nairobi-Eldoret line called Line 4.

Last week in its Financial Journal, The Standard disclosed how the aging pipeline continues to pose danger to people living along its path besides contributing to the inefficiencies that still characterize transportation of petroleum products.

It said by the time the management was reaching a decision to undertake the upgrade, it was sitting on an internally commissioned — and paid for — report that showed the Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline was a disaster-in-waiting.

This is because the pipeline is old, had several internal and external corrosion as well as many defects and dents, and was generally in a pathetic state.

While the report by Pil Ltd prescribed short-term remedies for the pipeline, it was clear in its conclusion that the long-term solution was to build a new pipeline altogether instead of an upgrade.

The report disclosed that barely three years after the much publicized expansion, and a few months after the country was hit by the worst fuel crisis in years, the reality was emerging that the Government could have wasted taxpayers money in a project that was already condemned in as far as international standards are concerned. It quoted Energy PS, Patrick Nyoike as admitting that the pipeline is “very old” and in need of replacement.

“The Mombasa Nairobi pipeline is very old and is past its 25 years lifespan. We need a new pipeline latest by 2014,” he said, adding that despite the expansion the facility cannot meet the rising demand in Kenya and the region.

According to international standards, oil pipelines have a lifespan of between 25 to 30 years. By the time the plan to expand the pipeline was conceived sometime in 2006, the Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline was 28 years old

Thus, petroleum industry experts aver, the pipeline had exhausted its lifespan and the Government with the advice of KPC management back then made a major judgmental error in opting to expand its capacity instead of building a new pipeline altogether.

Dented pipeline

“Deciding to expand the pipeline was an irrational decision because the management knew the pipeline had served its purpose. KPC had even commissioned an assessment study of the pipeline but which it ignored in deciding to upgrade the line,” a petroleum industry expert told The Financial Journal.

The study dubbed “fitness-for-purpose assessment” undertaken by Pil, way back in 1999 returned the verdict akin to the fact that the pipeline was a disaster in waiting because the facility had over the years developed massive internal and external corrosion.

The pipeline also contained several dents and loss on the metals that were particularly acute on the first 100km from Mombasa.

According to the study, there were over four million features characteristic of internal corrosion, about 20,000 features characteristic of external corrosion, 293 features characteristic of manufacturing defects (both internal and external), 107 dents, 40 ferrous metal objects and 251 welded shell repairs.

“Spending close to Sh10 billion on just four pumps did not make economic sense at all, considering the Government is now saying it needs Sh27 billion to construct a new pipeline,” said the expert.

In late July, KPC lost Sh28 million from spilled fuel after a road construction grader destroyed the pipeline in Mariakani. A total of 300,000 litres of super petrol was spilled.

However, the report observed it appeared the Government is waking up to the reality that the Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline is a relic and should be replaced.

According to Nyoike, the Government plans to construct a new parallel pipeline from Mombasa to Nairobi at a cost of Sh27 billion to enhance supply efficiency and meet increasing demand.

The new pipeline covering a distance of 453 km would be 14 inches in diameter and should be completed by 2014.

SOURCE: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000042801&cid=4

 

Pipeline Spills Put Safeguards Under Scrutiny

This summer, an Exxon Mobil pipeline carrying oil across Montana burst suddenly, soiling the swollen Yellowstone River with an estimated 42,000 gallons of crude just weeks after a company inspection and federal review had found nothing seriously wrong.

Crews in July picked up booms to contain oil in the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Mich.

And in the Midwest, a 35-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Mich., once teeming with swimmers and boaters, remains closed nearly 14 months after an Enbridge Energy pipeline hemorrhaged 843,000 gallons of oil that will cost more than $500 million to clean up.

While investigators have yet to determine the cause of either accident, the spills have drawn attention to oversight of the 167,000-mile system of hazardous liquid pipelines crisscrossing the nation.

The little-known federal agency charged with monitoring the system and enforcing safety measures — the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration — is chronically short of inspectors and lacks the resources needed to hire more, leaving too much of the regulatory control in the hands of pipeline operators themselves, according to federal reports, an examination of agency data and interviews with safety experts.

They portray an agency that rarely levies fines and is not active enough in policing the aging labyrinth of pipelines, which has suffered thousands of significant hazardous liquid spills over the past two decades.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who oversees the pipeline agency, acknowledges weaknesses in the program and is asking Congress to pass legislation that would increase penalties for negligent operators and authorize the hiring of additional inspectors. That may be a tough sell in a Congress averse to new spending and stricter regulation.

“We need to know with great certainty that inspections and replacements have been done in a timely way that will prevent these kinds of spills from happening,” he said.

Federal records show that although the pipeline industry reported 25 percent fewer significant incidents from 2001 through 2010 than in the prior decade, the amount of hazardous liquids being spilled, though down, remains substantial. There are still more than 100 significant spills each year — a trend that dates back more than 20 years. And the percentage of dangerous liquids recovered by pipeline operators after a spill has dropped considerably in recent years.

The industry, however, believes the current system works and points with pride to what it considers a record of improvement.

“Data shows that releases from pipelines have declined over the last decade as the result of stringent regulation and the industry’s continued commitment to safety,” wrote Peter Lidiak, pipeline director for the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, in an e-mailed response.

Throwing more resources and money at the problem may not be the answer for the tiny agency, because there remain deeper concerns about how it works, especially its reluctance to mandate safety improvements or to level meaningful fines for wrongdoing.

Such concerns come at a critical time for the agency. The State Department last month gave a provisional green light to a controversial 1,661-mile pipeline from Canada to Texas, called Keystone XL, that will carry a trickier form of crude — and fall under the agency’s purview. And a just-released National Transportation Safety Board report on a natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that last year cost eight people their lives, characterized the agency’s regulatory practices as lax and inadequate. In the report, the safety board urged the Transportation Department to go back and audit many of the pipeline agency’s safety and enforcement policies.

An analysis of federal reports and safety documents by The New York Times suggests that while the agency performs better than it did 10 years ago, it still struggles to safeguard a transport network laced with risks.

For example, the agency requires companies to focus their inspections on only the 44 percent of the nation’s land-based liquid pipelines that could affect high consequence areas — those near population centers or considered environmentally delicate — which leaves thousands of miles of lines loosely regulated and operating essentially on the honor system. Meanwhile, budget limits and attrition have left the agency with 118 inspectors — 17 shy of what federal law authorizes.

Pipeline operators, critics argue, have too much autonomy over their lines, and too much wiggle room when it comes to carrying out important safeguards, like whether to install costly but crucial automated shut-off valves.

“The system as it presently exists, I don’t think it really protects the public,” said Representative Corrine Brown of Florida, the ranking Democrat on the House transportation subcommittee on railroads, pipelines and hazardous materials. “Self-reporting doesn’t work. We need additional rules and regulations to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing to protect communities.”

She and other lawmakers want Congress and the Obama administration to bolster rules, hire more inspectors and reinvest in the pipeline infrastructure, much of which was laid from the 1950s to the 1970s.
New Project, New Risks

The Keystone XL project is different from most other pipelines in that it will carry a gritty mixture that includes bitumen, a crude drawn from Canadian oil sands that environmentalists argue is more corrosive and difficult to clean when spilled. In its report, the State Department cited 57 special conditions designed to keep the Keystone pipeline safe and wrote that it would have little environmental impact if operated according to regulations.

The National Wildlife Federation and other environmental groups assailed that conclusion, saying the State Department had not sufficiently accounted for the impacts of a major spill. More than 1,200 people were arrested during two weeks of protests against Keystone XL outside the White House this summer.

Richard Kuprewicz, a former pipeline engineer for the oil company Arco who serves on an advisory committee to the pipeline agency, said the current regulatory system was not fully prepared to monitor a project like Keystone XL, given the number of leaks the agency already contends with.

“We’re seeing too many ruptures,” Mr. Kuprewicz said. “The numbers are too high.”

Since 1990, more than 5,600 incidents were reported involving land-based hazardous liquid pipelines, releasing a total of more than 110 million gallons of mostly crude and petroleum products, according to analysis of federal data. The pipeline safety agency considered more than half — at least 100 spills each year — to be “significant,” meaning they caused a fire, serious injury or fatality or released at least 2,100 gallons, among other factors.

Pipeline operators reported recovering less than half of all hazardous liquids spilled over the last two decades, according to federal records. And the ratio is not improving: after recovering more than 60 percent of liquids spilled in 2005 and 2006, operators recovered less than a third between 2007 and 2010.

Nearly half of all incidents since 2002 arose from malfunctioning equipment, construction flaws and other technical problems with pipelines. Corrosion, which the agency considers to be different from equipment failure, is the second leading cause, and to blame nearly one-quarter of the time.

In written testimony to Congress after the Yellowstone spill, Cynthia L. Quarterman, the pipeline agency’s top official, emphasized oversight upgrades like increased money for state safety agencies and more extensive training for agency employees. She also noted a decline in significant incidents.

Yet a recent report by the Congressional Research Service, while acknowledging progress, also outlined problems, noting that “recent pipeline incidents suggest there continues to be room for improvement.”

The report said the pipeline agency was hampered by a chronic inspector shortage. Fifteen states are certified to perform their own liquid pipeline inspections, but budget problems within state agencies are also a matter of “great concern,” it said.

The National Transportation Safety Board report on San Bruno said the pipeline agency’s monitoring of state oversight programs and its own enforcement program had been “weak.”

And when something goes wrong, very little happens in the way of penalties, The Times found. For every five significant incidents reported at a hazardous liquid pipeline between 2002 and 2010, the agency issued one fine. (The article continues…)

Read More & SOURCE: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/10/business/energy-environment/agency-struggles-to-safeguard-pipeline-system.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&adxnnlx=1315832412-RHYGj9x6NYkG9hdY/N9NnQ

Montana spill pipeline may have carried oil sands crude

An Exxon Mobil pipeline that ruptured, leaking oil into Yellowstone River, may have sometimes carried a heavier and more toxic form of crude than initially thought, federal regulators said on Thursday.

The U.S. Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokeswoman Patricia Klinger said her office had learned that the pipeline may have been used to carry heavier crude.

“I just found out that apparently, and the regional folks just found out, there is an interconnect on the pipeline that possibly does carry some oil out of Canada,” she said in response to a question about tar sands crude in the pipeline.

That a pipeline thought to transport only “sweet,” low sulfur crude could have carried so-called tar sands crude from Canada raised concerns by health and environmental officials, even as Exxon officials said the heavier oil was not flowing through the Silvertip pipeline when it broke on July 1.

“The actual crude in the line at the point of the incident was a blend of crudes from Wyoming,” Exxon spokesman George Pietrogallo told Reuters in an email on Thursday.

Exxon was responding to a question about whether tar sands crude had ever flowed in the pipeline. Almost all the oil produced in Canada’s Alberta fields is from tar sands.

The chemistry of tar sands oil, derived from tar sands or bitumen and sweet crude is significantly different, said Ronald Kendall, head of the environmental toxicology department at Texas Tech University.

“Tar sands oil is in itself heavier oil and it contains more compounds that are toxic and may contain heavy metals like lead,” Kendall said.

In a July 6 email to Reuters, Exxon spokesman Kevin Allexon said the crude carried by the pipeline “does not originate from Alberta” but from fields on the Montana-Wyoming border. On Thursday, Exxon revised that.

“The pipeline carries a variety of different production fields in the U.S. and Canada,” Pietrogallo said in the email.

‘HELL NO’

Tar sands crude may cause more wear and tear on pipes because of its chemical makeup, including corrosive and abrasive agents, said Tom Finch, the pipeline administration’s technical services director for the western regional office.

Federal inspectors were trying to determine if transport of tar sands crude could have triggered internal corrosion that may have played a role in the rupture, he said.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer faulted Exxon for failing to tell the state exactly what kinds of crude ran in the pipeline or spell out what hazardous chemicals were in the mix now contaminating riverside properties.

“Since they dumped that oil into the river that the state owns and manages, since they have spread oil in a film across 150 separate properties, since the film is over fishing access sites and state parks, we thought it would be appropriate to know what it is,” Schweitzer said.

Richard Opper, head of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said he was surprised to learn the pipeline buried in the streambed of the Yellowstone may sometimes have moved tar sands crude from Canada.

“If the question is, did we know it was carrying tar sands oil? Hell, no,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “If companies are changing the kinds of materials in pipelines to mixes that make them more likely they will leak or rupture, that raises huge concerns.”

Exxon has apologized for the spill, which it estimates at 42,000 gallons, and pledged to restore a river prized for its near pristine waters, scenic beauty and abundance of wildlife.

EPA officials are analyzing the chemical fingerprint of the oil which, depending on its source, could contain anything from benzene, a known carcinogen, to hexane, a toxin that can damage the human nervous system.

Preliminary testing by the EPA has shown no detectable levels of some hazardous compounds harmful to humans. But at least five residents were treated in hospital emergency rooms for symptoms like dizziness, nausea and respiratory distress, according to state environmental officials.

Environmentalists said on Thursday that questions about the grades of crude in the Silvertip should prompt a call by regulators for new pipeline standards and guidelines.

“The industry likes to say, ‘oil is oil’; it’s pithy but untrue,” said Anthony Swift, energy analyst for the National Resources Defense Council. “Some grades of tar sands oil are fundamentally more corrosive and dangerous.”

SOURCE: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/15/us-oil-spill-montana-idUSTRE76E0OJ20110715

Montana governor reviewing oil, gas pipeline safety

Earlier this week Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer  said authorities will review safety of all oil and gas pipelines that cross waterways in the state and close those that did not meet standards.

“We’ll make the decision over the next couple of days whether to shut off some pipelines,” Schweitzer told Reuters in a telephone interview. “The last thing I want is for another pipeline to break.”

Schweitzer said he made the move after a spill early Saturday from an Exxon Mobil pipeline released into the rain-swollen Yellowstone River near Billings up to 1,000 barrels of oil, or 42,000 gallons.

Schweitzer said the pipeline inspections — the second round he has called for in as many months — will assess the risk of ruptures and leaks in 88 sections of pipeline that cross rivers and streams in the state.

The review will gauge factors including the pipelines’ age, thickness and corrosion, and the condition and operation of all shut-off valves.

Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) said on Monday that the spill appeared to be concentrated within a 15-mile stretch of the river between Billings and the nearby town of Laurel, although Tim Thennis, Montana Disaster and Emergency Services duty officer, said he had received reports of oil near the community of Hysham, about 75 miles downstream from Billings.

Gary Pruessing, the president of the company’s pipeline unit, said Exxon still did not know the cause of the leak that spilled oil into the river and added that it may change the way it conducts pipeline safety reviews.

“This will give us additional information to think about when we consider doing risk assessments on any line that has a river crossing anywhere in the country,” Pruessing said during a news conference in Laurel, Montana.

By Monday afternoon, Exxon had received 71 calls from nearby residents asking questions or reporting damage from the spill.

PREVIOUS SAFETY CONCERNS

The spill came just weeks after the company shut down the pipeline in May after the city of Laurel had safety concerns due to the rising levels of the river from rain and runoff.

“At the time we shut down the line … and went down and did a further risk assessment to make sure the site, based on technical knowledge we had, was something we’d feel comfortable to run,” Pruessing said. “We restarted the line feeling like we had a safe operation.”

The U.S. pipeline safety regulator weighed in on the spill on Monday, saying it had warned the company about problems with the pipeline and had begun its own investigation.

“Inspectors are on site and have initiated an investigation into the cause of failure,” said a spokeswoman with the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

After inspecting the pipeline in July 2009, PHMSA issued a warning letter to Exxon a year later about oil leaking from some of the valves on the pipeline.

The agency said the valves did not have a means for clearly indicating whether they were open or closed. “There was fresh crude oil on the soil immediately adjacent to the valves,” PHMSA said in its warning letter.

It also faulted Exxon for not following up in a timely manner on atmospheric corrosion issues that were identified during three years of corrosion surveys on the pipeline.

HEALTH, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT EYED

As Exxon fielded a team of 200 workers to mop up oil using absorbent booms and pads, the first reports on Monday came in of a resident downstream on the Yellowstone River sickened by the spill.

Mike Scott, co-owner of a goat ranch inundated by the rupture, said his wife, Alexis Bonogofsky, was briefly hospitalized Monday after suffering from what doctors diagnosed as acute hydrocarbon exposure, a condition linked to exposure to petroleum chemicals.

“She started getting shortness of breath, dizziness; we took her to the hospital and they took an X-ray,” said Scott, who also works for the Sierra Club, an environmental group.

Medical staff declined to discuss the diagnosis, citing patient confidentiality.

The Yellowstone River, the longest undammed river in the United States, is renowned for its trout fishing and bird life.

A team of six experts from International Bird Rescue began arriving in Montana on Sunday to work with state and federal wildlife agencies to coordinate the rescue and rehabilitation of birds tarred by the spill.

“There is definitely concern, there is a wonderful riparian habitat there,” said Amy Cilimburg of the Montana Audubon Society.

Regulators Concerned About Canadian Oil Corroding U.S. Pipelines

U.S. regulators express concern that diluted bitumen from Canadian oil sands may be corrosive to pipelines and risk should be assessed.

The United States is benefiting greatly from the Canadian oil sands, providing abundant fuel from a friendly neighbor to the north, thus reducing dependence on foreign oil from nations with a less-friendly attitude toward the U.S.  One would assume that U.S. regulators would be happy to get their oil from Canada, but not so fast.  Apparently U.S. lawmakers are expressing concern that the diluted bitumen derived from Canadian oil sands may be corroding U.S. oil pipelines.

U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman, the leading Democrat on the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, is worried that regulatory oversight isn’t keeping up with an increasing amount of diluted bitumen being transported via U.S. pipelines. “I’m concerned that the industry is changing, but the safety regulations are not keeping up with the changes,” he said at an Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing. “That could be a recipe for disaster down the road.”

Anthony Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council said at the hearing, “It is in the public’s best interest for our pipeline safety for regulators to evaluate the risks that high volumes of heavy, corrosive and abrasive crudes, such as diluted bitumen, will have on the U.S. pipeline.”

A number of pipeline accidents in the U.S. Midwest have some questioning whether diluted bitumen may be to blame. TransCanada’s existing Keystone pipeline leaked 10 barrels of oil, due to a faulty fitting at a Kansas pump station last month. That accident followed a 500-barrel spill at a pump station in North Dakota in early May.

The committee last month passed a bill requiring the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to study the impact of diluted bitumen on U.S. pipelines.

Even Republicans think the issue should be investigated. “I think it is something we need to look into,” said Republican Representative Joe Barton.

However, President of the Association of Oil Pipelines Andrew Black disputes any claims that diluted bitumen is contributing to pipeline corrosion, saying, “Diluted bitumen has been moved through pipelines for many years.”

At any rate, what harm could come from assessing the risks?  If there’s no problem, then we continue to take advantage of Canadian oil.  If there is a corrosion problem, we invest in pipeline infrastructure to reduce corrosion.  It would be nonsensical to risk losing the pipelines, which cost billions to construct, simply because we didn’t take action early on.

SOURCE: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Regulators-Concerned-About-Canadian-Oil-Corroding-U.S.-Pipelines.html

TransCanada reopens Keystone oil pipeline

There were no concerns about the integrity of the 1,300-mile Keystone oil  pipeline following a May 29 spill in Kansas, the U.S. government said.

Canadian pipeline company TransCanada restarted the Keystone oil pipeline  during the weekend. The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous  Materials Safety Administration issued a corrective action prohibiting a restart  last week but reconsidered in time for a Sunday restart.

Julia Valentine, a spokeswoman for the PHMSA, was quoted by The Wall Street  Journal as saying there weren’t any concerns about the integrity of  Keystone.

“Every pipeline incident is unique,” she said. “In this case, the failure did  not raise concerns for the integrity of the pipeline.”

Keystone transits around 591,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada.  A May 29 leak in Kansas spilled about 10 barrels of oil. There were 11 separate  spills on the pipeline recently though the company said all were relatively  minor.

TransCanada is pushing for a $13.3 billion extension to the pipeline. The  project is scrutinized by regulators and environmentalists who worry about the  potential for spills and uncertainty about the safety of transiting oil from tar  sands in Canada.

SOURCE: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2011/06/06/TransCanada-reopens-Keystone-oil-pipeline/UPI-85081307364816/#ixzz1OaJxzzrS