Category Archives: Pipeline Integrity

Oil spill brings calls for scrutiny of small lines

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A northwestern Montana oil spill that went unreported for a month has led to calls for increased scrutiny over the thousands of small flow pipelines within the nation’s oil and gas fields.

Flow lines are completely contained within the fields and pipe unprocessed oil, gas and water from wells to holding tanks and separating facilities and aren’t regulated like larger pipelines, such as the one that broke under the Yellowstone River earlier this month.

But flow lines often face the same issues of corrosion and defects, and should fall under the same federal regulation as larger transmission pipelines, conservation advocates say.

“They’re unregulated lines and they periodically have nasty spills,” said Lois Epstein, engineer and Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society in Alaska. “It’s a problem. Whether there is any motivation to do anything about it, is where we’re at right now.”

The broken line at the Cut Bank oil field on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation 50 miles east of Glacier National Park may have been slowly leaking oil for up to two weeks before FX Energy Inc. discovered it on June 12. FX Energy officials attributed the break to shifting ground during last month’s heavy rain and flooding.

The Salt Lake City-based company fixed the break and shut down the two small oil wells that fed the line, but never reported it to the tribe or the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the tribe’s mineral leases.

The spill — estimated to be up to 840 gallons — then spread nearly a mile down a steep coulee and into the Cut Bank Creek before a neighboring landowner discovered the stained ground on July 12.

A cleanup crew has been digging oil by hand from the steep, treacherous ravine for more than a week. There have been no signs of wildlife affected by the spill.

The company is paying for the cleanup and has pledged to permanently plug the wells that fed the broken line. Grinnell Day Chief, the tribe’s oil and gas director, said the company has been very cooperative.

FX Energy is one of the largest of the 15 oil and gas companies with production or exploration leases on the Cut Bank field. Combined with its five wells at Bears Den field and a small interest in two wells at Rattlers Butte field, FX Energy leases a total of 10,732 acres in Montana and produces 184 barrels of oil per day.

The broken flow line is one of many that gather oil from FX Energy’s 125 wells on the declining field, which has been producing oil since the 1940s. Many of the 4-inch flow lines are 40 or 50 years old, said Don Judice, the BLM’s Great Falls supervisor.

Because the failed line only carried unprocessed oil from wells to a central tank and never left the oil field, there were no requirements to inspect it, test it for corrosion or perform any preventative maintenance to ensure it doesn’t break.

“Only when a pipeline is used for longer-range transportation does it get more scrutiny,” Judice said. “There’s not a requirement within the regulations for the testing of flow lines.”

But depending on the outcome of an investigation into the recently discovered spill, federal officials may require FX Energy to upgrade all of the aging flow lines that carry oil from the wells to tanks on the Cut Bank field, Judice said.

It was not immediately clear how many flow lines there are, since the lines generally gather oil from more than one well. Judice and Day Chief each said they recalled only one other significant spill from a flow line in the past decade.

Day Chief said another oil company that leases a different part of the sprawling field is already in the process of voluntarily upgrading all of its flow lines. He said the tribe hasn’t discussed recommending a similar remedy for the FX Energy itself, but would support the BLM if it required FX Energy to do so.

“We would back that 100 percent,” Day Chief said.

SOURCE – and to Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Oil-spill-brings-calls-for-scrutiny-of-small-lines-1567351.php#ixzz1T7KnbGlW

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.

BP Ducks Investor Suit for Prudhoe Bay Spill

(CN) – The 9th Circuit on Wednesday dismissed a securities-fraud complaint against BP Exploration related to the oil company’s 2007 conviction for negligently discharging oil into Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay.

This decision from the federal appeals court in Seattle unanimously reverses a federal judge’s finding that BP’s contractual filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission laid adequate foundation for securities fraud.

BP Exploration pleaded guilty in 2007 to violating the Clean Water Act after some 200,000 gallons of oil befouled Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope. The company admitted that the spill resulted from internal corrosion in its pipelines. In its plea agreement, BP said it knew about accumulated sediment had caused the corrosion, but it had neglected to fix the problem.

Claude Reese led a federal class action, claiming that BP’s negligence amounted to securities fraud, as the spill had caused the company to temporarily shut down its operations in the bay and costing investors billions of dollars.

Despite knowledge of the corrosion, BP failed to take action or notify investors, Reese argued. He also claimed that the oil company’s executives had made misleading statements about the operation, and that BP continued to mislead investors though its SEC filings.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle tossed most of Reese’s claims for failure to meet the heightened standards of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. But the judge said Reese could move ahead with the claim that accused BP of defrauding investors through SEC filings.

On appeal, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed, finding that the filings were forward-looking contractual promises, the breaking of which did not amount to fraud.

“The breach of a contractual promise of future performance typically does not constitute a misrepresentation that will support an action for fraud,” Judge Ronald Gould wrote for the panel. “BPXA’s contractual promise to act as a prudent operator did not expressly or implicitly assert that BPXA was in full compliance with its obligations thereunder, and we do not view the public filing of the ORC Agreement as the sort of traditional fraudulent misrepresentation of fact that could induce investors mistakenly to buy securities. We hold that, in this case, the public filing of a contract containing a promise of future compliance did not, upon the contract’s breach at a time after execution, provide an actionable misrepresentation for the purposes of a private damages action for securities fraud.

SOURCE: http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/06/29/37791.htm

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

75 percent of US nuclear sites have corrosion issues — leaking tritium

BRACEVILLE, Ill. (AP) – Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.

Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP’s yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard – sometimes at hundreds of times the limit.

While most leaks have been found within plant boundaries, some have migrated offsite. But none is known to have reached public water supplies.

At three sites – two in Illinois and one in Minnesota – leaks have contaminated drinking wells of nearby homes, the records show, but not at levels violating the drinking water standard. At a fourth site, in New Jersey, tritium has leaked into an aquifer and a discharge canal feeding picturesque Barnegat Bay off the Atlantic Ocean.

Any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how slight, boosts cancer risk, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Federal regulators set a limit for how much tritium is allowed in drinking water, where this contaminant poses its main health risk. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says tritium should measure no more than 20,000 picocuries per liter in drinking water. The agency estimates seven of 200,000 people who drink such water for decades would develop cancer.

The tritium leaks also have spurred doubts among independent engineers about the reliability of emergency safety systems at the 104 nuclear reactors situated on the 65 sites. That’s partly because some of the leaky underground pipes carry water meant to cool a reactor in an emergency shutdown and to prevent a meltdown. Fast moving, tritium can indicate the presence of more powerful radioactive isotopes, like cesium-137 and strontium-90.

So far, federal and industry officials say, the tritium leaks pose no health or safety threat. Tony Pietrangelo, chief nuclear officer of the industry’s Nuclear Energy Institute, said impacts are “next to zero.”

EAST COAST ISSUES

One of the highest known tritium readings was discovered in 2002 at the Salem nuclear plant in Lower Alloways Creek Township, N.J. Tritium leaks from the spent fuel pool contaminated groundwater under the facility – located on an island in Delaware Bay – at a concentration of 15 million picocuries per liter. That’s 750 times the EPA drinking water limit. According to NRC records, the tritium readings last year still exceeded EPA drinking water standards.

And tritium found separately in an onsite storm drain system measured 1 million picocuries per liter in April 2010.

Also last year, the operator, PSEG Nuclear, discovered 680 feet of corroded, buried pipe that is supposed to carry cooling water to Salem Unit 1 in an accident, according to an NRC report. Some had worn down to a quarter of its minimum required thickness, though no leaks were found. The piping was dug up and replaced.

The operator had not visually inspected the piping – the surest way to find corrosion- since the reactor went on line in 1977, according to the NRC. PSEG Nuclear was found to be in violation of NRC rules because it hadn’t even tested the piping since 1988.

Last year, the Vermont Senate was so troubled by tritium leaks as high as 2.5 million picocuries per liter at the Vermont Yankee reactor in southern Vermont (125 times the EPA drinking-water standard) that it voted to block relicensing – a power that the Legislature holds in that state.

In March, the NRC granted the plant a 20-year license extension, despite the state opposition. Weeks ago, operator Entergy sued Vermont in federal court, challenging its authority to force the plant to close.

At 41-year-old Oyster Creek in southern New Jersey, the country’s oldest operating reactor, the latest tritium troubles started in April 2009, a week after it was relicensed for 20 more years. That’s when plant workers discovered tritium by chance in about 3,000 gallons of water that had leaked into a concrete vault housing electrical lines.

Since then, workers have found leaking tritium three more times at concentrations up to 10.8 million picocuries per liter – 540 times the EPA’s drinking water limit – according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. None has been directly measured in drinking water, but it has been found in an aquifer and in a canal discharging into nearby Barnegat Bay, a popular spot for swimming, boating and fishing.

SOURCE: http://gazettenet.com/2011/06/17/75-percent-of-nuke-sites-have-leaked-tritium

Mike Feuer Calls Upon Public Utilities Commission to Provide Gas Pipeline Safety Information

Feuer Requests Answers to Concerns Raised by Investigation of San Bruno Pipeline Rupture.

Assembly Member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) has asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to provide information about the safety of gas pipelines in Feuer’s district after a devastating explosion in San Bruno, California raised questions about the safety of aging pipeline infrastructure.  In a letter dated June 10, 2011, Feuer called for the CPUC’s assistance in obtaining answers to a number of specific concerns identified by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in its investigation of the pipeline rupture in San Bruno.

“The safety of my constituents is my number one priority, which is why I called on the CPUC to provide answers to a comprehensive set of questions about the safety of the pipelines running through neighborhoods in my district,” said Feuer. “I want to ensure that residents and businesses have the information they need to protect their families and workplaces.”

After the San Bruno disaster, Feuer’s office met with representatives from Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), whose pipelines serve most of Southern California, to discuss issues of pipeline safety.  This session, Feuer supported Assembly Bill 56, legislation designating the CPUC as the state authority responsible for the development and administration of a safety program for natural gas pipelines. Feuer’s current request to the CPUC seeks information that would increase transparency and communication between SoCalGas and the communities it serves.

“I am asking for the CPUC’s help to gather information about SoCalGas pipelines to increase public awareness and promote industry practices that will contribute to safer communities,” Feuer stated.

In his letter to the CPUC, Feuer asked a number of specific questions, among them:

  • Has SoCalGas identified all gas transmission lines in the District that have not previously undergone a testing regimen designed to validate a safe operating pressure?
  • What steps has SoCalGas taken to ensure it is basing operating pressures on accurate information contained in its records?
  • Where are the high consequence areas (HCAs) located within the 42nd District?  Have residences, businesses, schools and other institutions been made aware of their proximity to the HCAs?
  • Does each high-pressure pipeline identified by SoCalGas pursuant to the NTSB recommendations have an automatic or computerized shut-off valve?  If not, why not, and when could a plan be developed to install and pay for such valves?

A complete copy of Feuer’s letter to the CPUC can be found here.

The 42nd Assembly District includes all or part of the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Sherman Oaks, Studio City, North Hollywood, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Toluca Lake, Universal City, Griffith Park, West Los Angeles, Brentwood, Bel Air, Holmby Hills, Beverly Glen, Westwood, Century City, Hollywood, Fairfax, Hancock Park, Los Feliz and the Cities of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.

SOURCE: http://studiocity.patch.com/articles/feuer-calls-upon-public-utilities-commission-to-provide-gas-pipeline-safety-information-to-42nd-district-residents

Illinois American Water continues its pipeline replacement program – Aging Infrastructure

The barricades are coming down on Illinois 159 at the Swansea-Belleville  border as Illinois American Water completes the first phase of its $1.6 million water  main replacement and corrosion project.

About  700 feet of 8-inch water main dating from 1958 was replaced at a cost of about $325,000.

The replacement program focuses on replacing mains where leaks occur,  corrosion has caused damage or the size of the pipe isn’t sufficient.

Work on the $1.6 million project is starting up in other parts of the  metro-east as 1.8 miles of two-inch water mains are replaced with six-inch and  eight-inch mains.

The replacement will enhance water quality and water pressure, as well as  fire protection, the company said. The main replacement projects kicked off in  May with the replacement of about 800 feet of water main on Fahey Place in Belleville.

“Water mains are critical to the delivery of water for use by residents,  businesses, manufacturers and fire fighters,” said Grant Evitts, operations  manager for Illinois American’s Interurban District. “While this infrastructure  is underground and out of sight, it is easy to take it for granted, but at  Illinois American Water, we continue to invest to ensure reliability.”

“The age of the pipes coupled with corrosion and sediment accumulation over  the years makes the replacements necessary,” Evitts said. “Illinois American  Water continues to invest annually in its systems to ensure that local water  quality and service continues to be as good as or better than local, state and  federal quality standards.”

SOURCE: http://www.bnd.com/2011/06/14/1747648/barricades-on-illinois-159-in.html#ixzz1PFYN2h7E

Rainbow Pipeline outage extended to end of June

Plains Midstream continues integrity work on oil line in northern Alberta

Follow-up article from a recent MATCOR Blog Posting: A pipeline which caused the largest oil spill in Alberta since the 1980s likely will remain out of service until the end of June, said operator Plains All American Pipeline.

The parent of operator Plains Midstream Canada said Thursday dig operations to check pipeline integrity along the northern portion of the 187,000 barrel per day line Rainbow pipeline will continue until at least the end of the month.

The line, which runs from Zama to Edmonton, has been shut down since rupturing late April near Little Buffalo in northwestern Alberta. At least 28,000 barrels of crude were spilled into boggy muskeg, flowing to a beaver pond where it was contained.

The rupture was caused by soil settlement after a maintenance program that allowed a section of the pipeline sag, according to initial reports. Plains was ordered by the Alberta Energy Conservation Board to check along the entire portion of Rainbow’s 20-inch line, from Zama to Nipisi in north-central Alberta, as part of the restart plan. The extended program came after the operator found a crack on a weld seam approximately 25 kilometres south of the original break.

“We asked them to do two dig programs and we are waiting for the results of the programs,” said Kim Blanchette, spokeswoman with the ERCB on Thursday.

After the April 29 spill, Plains identified five areas that has similar maintenance to the failure site, Blanchette said. The discovery of a crack downstream of those areas prompted the regulatory to call for a second, random dig program.

Plains said its digs were going slowly due to the remote locations of the sites, as well as the forest fire threat and bad weather.

“We are working to complete the remaining digs by the end of June,” the company said in an e-mail. It said it did not have a firm timeline for the restart of the line.

Plains said it expects repair and remediation costs of the Rainbow pipeline to range from $64 million US to $75 million US, with insurance covering the bulk of the expense.

Also on Thursday, the Houston-based company said it expected to “meet or exceed the high end” of its second quarter guidance for adjusted earnings of $290 million US to $320 million US

Operations on Rainbow’s 24-inch line from Nipisi to Edmonton started soon after the spill was detected, then interrupted for 10 days after forest fires caused power failures in the region.

The outage of the pipeline’s southern leg prevented delivery of about 150,000 barrels a day of heavy crude to the Edmonton, Alberta, refining and pipeline hub.

The northern section of Rainbow, which was built in the 1960s, carries mostly conventional crude from northern Alberta fields. It was moving about 75,000 barrels a day at the time of the rupture.

In May Enbridge Inc. also reported a major leak on its Norman Wells oil pipeline, which feeds directly into the Rainbow line. The spill, in a remote location of the Northwest Territories, could be as large as 1,500 barrels, Enbridge recently disclosed.

The 39,400 barrel per day line flows oil from Imperial Oil’s processing facility in Norman Well, NWT to Zama. Imperial had to reduce production on the Rainbow outage. When the Enbridge line started flowing again at reduced capacity, the company was able to add some barrels to the pipeline.

“That’s helping but it’s not resolving the situation for us,” said Imperial spokesman Jon Harding. “It is status quo.”

Imperial has been storing production at Norman Wells, increasing storage capacity by re-certifying tankage left over from the sites days as a refinery, Harding said. Other volumes are flowing to Zama, where it is being trucked to market.

The outages have had minimal impact on cash crude prices, traders said, but come at a time when several ruptures and leaks in pipelines carrying Canadian oil have raised questions about reliability and safety.

Since the Rainbow spill, TransCanada Corp. suffered two leaks and outages on its 591,000 barrel a day Keystone pipeline to Oklahoma from Alberta due two faulty equipment in pump stations.

SOURCE: http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Rainbow+Pipeline+outage+extended+June/4920080/story.html#ixzz1OsZyujf1

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