PHMSA finds 82% WT loss at Santa Barbara rupture site

Plains All American Pipeline LP’s (PAA) 24-in. OD Coastal Line 901 crude pipeline had suffered 82% WT loss at the site of the May 19 rupture in Santa Barbara, Calif., according to an amended corrective action order issued June 3 by the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Corrosion had reduced WT at the rupture point to 0.0625 in. Investigators found a 6-in. longitudinally oriented opening near the bottom of the pipe.

PHMSA also said its findings conflicted with results of PAA’s own inspection, conducted May 5, which reported a 45% WT loss in the area of the pipe break. The agency, which had already ordered the indefinite shutdown of the line, ordered PAA to conduct additional research into the break and possibly execute repairs.

Inspectors observed three repairs to the affected pipeline in the area near the failure made to address external corrosion in wake of a 2012 inline inspection (ILI) conducted by PAA. They also determined PAA’s cathodic protection at both the failure site and the sites of three other digs made in the failure’s wake to be adequate according to current standards.

PHMSA ordered restrictions on a second stretch of PAA pipeline—the 30-in. OD Line 903, extending 128 miles from Gaviota Pump Station in Santa Barbara County to Emidio Pump Station in Kern County, Calif.—with similar insulation and welding to the failed segment. Operating pressure on Line 903 must not exceed 80% of the highest pressure sustained for a continuous 8-hr period between Apr. 19 and May 19, 2005. PAA has shut Line 903.

The amended corrective action order called on PAA to list and describe all ILI features identified elsewhere on Line 901 by the May 5 inspection that would require inspection under current standards (49 CFR § 195.452(h)) or the criteria for investigation under PAA’s own integrity management plan, whichever is more stringent, and investigate and remediate any features or anomalies according to either standards or PAA’s own policies. PAA must also have third-party nondestructive testing conducted at the site of each feature or anomaly and conduct additional testing and remediation as required.

PHMSA also detailed enhanced prevention and mitigation measures PAA must undertake on both Line 901 and 903, including weekly inspection of the pipeline right-of-way and daily inspection of pump stations. The agency has not yet determined the cause of the failure.

Late June 3, an amendment from US Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), whose district includes Santa Barbara, to push federal regulators to finalize enhanced safety rules for oil pipelines advanced in the House of Representatives as part of the fiscal year 2016 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. Specifically, the safety rules would strengthen federal regulations by requiring automatic shutoff valves on new pipelines and reinforce requirements for the inclusion of leak detection technologies on pipelines. The amendment was included in the bill by a bipartisan voice vote.

Capps offered a second amendment to the same bill that would increase funding for federal pipeline safety programs. The House had yet to vote on it.

Contact Christopher E. Smith at

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