January 28, 2023
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Plains ordered to take more corrective actions before restarting Lines 901 and 903


Updated on June 17 at 10:50 a.m.:

Federal regulators have ordered Plains All American Pipeline to improve its inaccurate pipeline inspection process, implement better leak detection measures such as installing additional shutoff valves, expand its emergency training, and repair the pipeline before restarting Line 901.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued on June 16 its third amendment to its corrective action order following last year’s Refugio oil spill caused by the rupture of Line 901.

“I find that continued operation of Line 901 and Line 903 without additional corrective measures is or would be hazardous to life, property or the environment,” Alan Mayberry, acting associate administrator for pipeline safety, wrote in the report.

PHMSA outlined how Plains needs to properly configure low- and high-pressure alarms, which weren’t set up adequately during the spill. The order requires the installation of additional emergency-flow restriction devices, which are defined as remotely controlled valves that can be activated automatically or remotely from a control room. Officials said EFRDs may include a mix of remote-controlled and automatic shutoff valves.

Plains can replace the buried and insulated pipeline but the order only requires that it repairs the faulty sections. According to PHMSA’s final investigation issued in May, the main source of the corrosion was from moisture trapped between the pipe and its insulation. The company must also repair compromised portions of the coating.

Plains may need to apply for a permit 120 days in advance of its restart. That includes a monitoring plan that mandates more frequent and stringent inspections and repair criteria targeted at corrosion under insulation, properly collecting in-line inspection data and more accurate reporting of potential corrosion growth.

“The contracted in-line inspection significantly undersized the external corrosion feature that failed on Line 901,” the report reads.

As for the connecting Line 903, Plains must fix all of the safety flaws on Line 903 and submit a restart plan that details oversight measures.

PHMSA’s final investigation found that Plains did not properly protect against external corrosion, it misreported the extent of the wear and tear and didn’t respond quick enough to the spill.

Plains can contest the order within the next 10 days. The company has to submit a remedial work plan that PHMSA will review.

• Contact Alex Kacik at akacik@pacbiztimes.com.