Lab says ExxonMobil pipeline rupture, spill caused by defects

11 July 2013 22:28  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--An independent laboratory has determined that original manufacturing defects, not corrosion, were the root cause of ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline rupture and subsequent oil spill that occurred on 29 March in Mayflower, Arkansas, the US energy giant said on Thursday.

The failure can be attributed to hook cracks near the seam, ExxonMobil spokesman Aaron Stryk said, citing a report by Hurst Metallurgical Research Laboratory.

Contributing factors include atypical pipe properties, such as extremely low impact toughness and elongation properties across the electric resistance welded (ERW) seam, he added.

“While we now know the root cause of the failure, we are still conducting supplemental testing, which will help us understand all factors associated with the pipe failure and allow for the verification of the integrity of the Pegasus Pipeline,” Stryk said. “These tests will help us determine the mitigation steps we need to take to ensure a similar incident does not occur again.”

The US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said it is also reviewing the metallurgical report.

“The report is part of an active investigation and cannot be released at this time,” said Damon Hill, a spokesman with the federal agency. “The pipeline is shut down, and it will remain that way until we are convinced it can be safely restarted.”

The Mayflower incident spilled about 5,000 bbl of oil and forced the evacuation of 22 homes in the neighbourhood of the spill.

Two residents have filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the energy giant, seeking more than $5m (€3.9m) in damages. Separately, a group of at least 85 residents have filed a county lawsuit for compensatory damages related to the incident.

Additionally, the US government and the state of Arkansas have also filed a federal lawsuit against the company, seeking penalties and damages from environmental harm caused by the incident.

The pipeline also leaked 1 bbl of oil in a separate incident in Missouri about a month after the Mayflower incident.

($1 = €0.78)

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By: Tracy Dang
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