ExxonMobil starts plan for Silvertip oil line replacement

Christopher E. Smith
OGJ Pipeline Editor

HOUSTON, July 14 -- ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. has begun preliminary work toward replacing the damaged segments of its 69-mile, 12-in. OD Silvertip crude pipeline, which ruptured July 1 and leaked 750-1,000 bbl of oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana.

Work includes discussions on permitting requirements, right-of-ways, drilling equipment, contracting, and pipeline fabrication and transport.

US Environmental Protection Agency-led cleanup activities continue in the meantime, with ExxonMobil reporting almost 700 people, more than 43,000 ft of boom, and about 260,000 absorbent pads as dedicated to the task.

Flooding on the Yellowstone has complicated cleanup efforts, but ExxonMobil says it has 46 boats available for deployment on the river once conditions permit.

EPA air quality monitoring has confirmed no airborne danger to public health, with continued monitoring of municipal water systems also so far clean.

The cause of Silvertip’s failure remains under investigation, though the Yellowstone’s flooding is thought to be a contributing factor.

The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ordered ExxonMobil to rebury the pipeline beneath the river bed to protect it from external damage and conduct a risk assessment on the line wherever it crosses a waterway. The company will also have to submit a restart plan before Silvertip can resume operations (OGJ Online, July 7, 2011).

Contact Christopher E. Smith at chriss@ogjonline.com.

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