Environmental Policy News

Plains Ordered to Make More Repairs After California Oil Spill

In an amendment dated 12 November 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has ordered the Plains Pipeline, LP to “take additional corrective actions with respect to line 903 of its pipeline system.”


According to the amendment, “Line 903 between Gaviota and Pentland Station is currently filled with raw, unprocessed crude oil from Freeport's offshore platforms. This unprocessed crude may contain water, natural gas, and other impurities that contribute to internal corrosion. According to Freeport, the biocide and rust inhibitor in this crude oil will begin to lose effectiveness around November 2015, adding to the risk of accelerated internal corrosion on Line 903.”

“Due to the number of corrosion-caused anomalies identified on Line 903 in past ILI surveys, particularly on the Gaviota to Sisquoc segment, it does not appear that Plains has an effective corrosion control program and the pipe can be expected to have degraded (lost metal due to corrosion) since the last ILI survey. Furthermore, leaving crude oil in Line 903 is likely to result in an increased potential for internal corrosion as the inhibitor loses its effectiveness. The crude oil in Line 903 needs to be removed from the pipeline and the line purged with an inert gas in order to prevent further degradation of the pipeline, and eliminate the potential harm it poses from an unintended release.”

After evaluating findings thus far, a federal representative concluded that “continued operation of Line 901 and Line 903 without corrective measures is or would be hazardous to life, property, or the environment. Additionally, having considered the uncertainties as to the cause of the Failure, the location of the Failure, the similarities between the characteristics of the Affected Pipeline and Line 903, the material being transported, and the proximity of the pipelines to the Pacific Ocean and environmentally sensitive areas, I find that a failure to issue this Order expeditiously to require immediate corrective action would result in the likelihood of serious harm to life, property, or the environment.”

Actions required include 1. Empty, Purge, and Shutdown Line 903 until authorized to per ate by the Director of the Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety.

To read all the full findings, amendments and orders, click here.

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