Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pipeline agency warns about reversed, reworked or restarted pipelines, a result of the fracking boom

For the first time the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration "has officially cautioned the industry about potential safety threats from restarting, reversing or reworking pipelines to handle Canadian tar sands oil and the surge in U.S. oil and natural gas supplies," Elizabeth Douglass reports for InsideClimate News. "If not handled properly, those changes can increase the risk of pipeline leaks and ruptures," the notice said.

Most pipelines travel through rural areas, often near homes, and most have been the subject of controversy, including the proposed Energy Transfer Partners pipeline that is causing concern in Iowa, reports that some pipelines pose safety threats and lack regulations, a study that the Keystone XL Pipeline will emit high rates of greenhouse-gas emissions and the rural Massachusetts town that has become ground zero in the battle for the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline.

The PHMSA notice said "reversing oil and natural gas pipelines or switching the product they're carrying can have a 'significant impact' on the line's safety and integrity—and 'may not be advisable' in some cases, federal regulators told pipeline companies in a recent advisory," Douglass writes. "PHMSA said the advisory was triggered in part by last year's oil spills involving two reversed pipelines, ExxonMobil's Pegasus tar sands line in Arkansas and the Tesoro Logistics line in North Dakota. Those accidents, as well as 'other information PHMSA has become aware of' led the agency to issue the alert, the bulletin said."

"PHMSA said pipeline companies should consider conducting a water pressure test, known as a hydrostatic pressure test, especially in pipelines with previous failures or a history of certain kinds of cracking or corrosion," Douglass writes.

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