PHMSA orders Plains All American to keep Illinois pipeline shut down

The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a corrective action order directing Plains All American Pipeline LP to keep a southern Illinois crude oil pipeline and pumping station out of operation following a 100-bbl leak on July 10.

PHMSA issued the July 14 order the same day that Stacy Cummings, its interim executive director, spent some 2 hr responding to questions from a US House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee about delays in the agency’s implementing mandates under the 2011 Pipeline Safety Reauthorization Act (OGJ Online, July 14, 2015).

“On Friday, a pipeline fitting blew out, spilling about 100 bbl of oil on the ground,” Cummings told Energy and Power Subcommittee Ranking Minority Member Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) in response to his question about the incident.

“We were notified of the spill through the National Response Center, as procedures require, and had an investigator on the scene by 4 p.m. that day,” she said. “The center immediately went in and stopped the flow of oil before it could threaten a nearby water source.”

PHMSA said in its order that a failure was identified at PAA’s Pocahontas Station near Highland, Ill., the morning of July 10. It said the crude was released through a 1-in. fitting used to connect the 55.7-mile, 20-in. pipeline to a gravitometer. The station had no history of failures associated with tubing fittings.

PHMSA’s order said the crude flowed into a creek that feeds Silver Lake, a reservoir that provides drinking water to Highland. The city shut down its water intake there that evening, and found no contamination of its supply following tests on July 11. It also plumbed up an alternative water supply if it had to stop taking water from the lake.

This was the second failure of a PAA pipeline in as many months. Its 901 pipeline north of Santa Barbara ruptured on May 19, spilling more than 500 bbl of crude onto Refugio State Beach north of Santa Barbara, Calif. (OGJ Online, May 20, 2015).

In a July 14 response to PHMSA’s order, PAA said, “We take any incident that occurs within our asset portfolio very seriously. We are engaged in an internal review into the factors that led to our recent incidents, and we are committed to implementing any changes to our procedures indicated by the findings.”

Contact Nick Snow at

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