Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Two massive oil export pipelines facing shutdowns amid construction

Even without Ida, one of the worst storms to hit the East Coast in recent memory, there have been concerns about the condition of the oil infrastructure underneath the Gulf Coast. But in the Gulf region, this issue isn’t confined to hurricanes and intense weather events. CNN’s Samantha Stevens reports.

After Hurricane Ida, Oil Infrastructure Spring Dozens of Leaks

Even without Ida, one of the worst storms to hit the East Coast in recent memory, there have been concerns about the condition of the oil infrastructure underneath the Gulf Coast.

CNN’s Samantha Stevens reports.

(CNN) – For the first time in more than two decades, two huge infrastructure projects — the oil export pipelines along the coast of Alabama and Panama City, Florida — could be shut down soon, due to ongoing maintenance and inspections.

The Capella crude oil pipeline from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was shut down in September after an inspection revealed a hole in the pipeline. While the damage was contained, the utility shut down the pipeline at the request of oil companies, in order to resume operations as soon as possible.

The pipeline was last restarted on November 15, but on November 24 state regulators issued an “operational order,” declaring the site unsafe to operate.

Environmentalists worried about potential spills like the one that happened this year near Mobile, Alabama, when a line and valve failure sent 30,000 gallons of crude oil onto the Mobile River.

Now, as contractors are inspecting the pipe for damage, a similar issue could be looming in the Gulf of Mexico: The oil exports pipeline that runs along the border of Mobile, Alabama, and Panama City, Florida, could be shut down if repairs are not made quickly to the problem that was found.

At the time of the Capella closure, the safety director for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management said the pipeline’s problems “have not been related to any storms or the environment.”

In a statement, the pipeline company, Kinder Morgan, said that the company would do everything possible to finish repairs on the damaged section of pipe, and keep the line open as long as it could.

Meanwhile, about 100 miles away from Capella, in Texas, hundreds of miles of pipeline are under scrutiny following the massive devastation caused by Hurricane Ida. In addition to the spill at the Mobile River, emergency crews responded to about 50 other spills and incidents.

According to CNN, a review of records related to Ida by the Coast Guard found that 42 of the closed and shut down pipelines traversed the gulf. The documents reveal that the pipelines were closed due to a variety of reasons: After the hurricane, ruptures on old terminals, anchor debris and emergency calls.

The power outage following the hurricane caused multiple natural gas processing plants to also close, which prompted gas shortages and higher prices for area residents.

The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said the pipeline and facility operators may face civil penalties after each spill.

Though the pipelines provide petroleum products to some of the nation’s largest states and nations, there are varying standards for safety and maintenance at each. The spill in Mobile is among the largest environmental cleanups in Mobile history, but there are no figures on the size of the cleanups.

According to the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, as of April, pipeline operators were fined a total of $12.5 million in connection with pipeline incidents from 2015 to 2018. That number doesn’t account for fines paid in the first few months of the year, as a small number of the incidents received fines in January to April.

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