Tuesday, March 24, 2015

DOT Considers Overhaul of Aging Oil Pipeline

Federal regulators have quietly proposed a sweeping rewrite of oil pipeline safety rules almost 2
years after an Exxon Mobil Corp. pipeline split open and sent Canadian crude oil flowing through a neighborhood in Mayflower, AR.

If the proposal is finalized in its current form, as much as 182,000 miles (95%) of the U.S. pipelines that carry crude, gasoline and other liquids would be subject to the  rules and about half the system may have to undergo extensive tests to prove it can operate safely, according to information from DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Known as the Hazardous Liquids Integrity Verification Process, the plan is an acknowledgment that some of the oil industry's testing technology isn't sophisticated enough to detect cracks or corrosion in time to prevent failure. As a result, PHMSA may have to tell companies they have to replace certain aging pipelines.

The oil and pipeline industries are already lobbying against the idea, saying PHMSA has overstepped its legal mandate. The agency has been struggling for years with the rapid runup in oil and gas production driven by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in shale. The amount of crude pumped in the U.S. has jumped nearly two-thirds in the past 5 years, forcing companies to replumb the North American pipeline network. The bulk of oil, gasoline, diesel and other fuels that PHMSA lumps together as hazardous liquids is still shipped by pipeline. Half of the oil and liquids pipelines in the country were built before 1970, according to PHMSA, and companies are continually reversing pipelines to serve new markets or converting pipelines to carry new products.

Visit Energywire for more on the overhaul plan.