PHMSA orders Texas Eastern to address Penn Jersey pipeline failure

The US Pipeline & Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration issued a corrective action order requiring Texas Eastern Transmission LP to take necessary corrective actions following the failure of a gas pipeline on its Penn Jersey system.

The US Department of Transportation agency shut down the Spectra Energy Corp. subsidiary’s Line 27, on which a reportable accident in Delmont County, Pa., occurred on Apr. 29. A rupture released an undetermined amount of gas that ignited and destroyed one home and injured an individual. PHMSA also shut down three other nearby Penn Jersey pipelines. The lines transport gas 263 miles from a compressor station near Delmont, Pa., to Lambertville, NJ.

“PHMSA, along with local emergency responders, responded to the scene on the day of the failure,” PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez said on May 4. “This explosion was devastating: It injured one person, destroyed one home, and caused a fire that burned within ¼-mile radius,” she said. “We have directed the operator to take several immediate actions to determine the root cause of the failure, and to ensure the integrity of three nearby pipelines before they can be restarted.”

The order said the preliminary investigation has identified evidence of corrosion along two of Line 27’s circumferential welds: one at the point of failure and another excavated after PHMSA’s response to the failure site. The corrosion pattern indicates a possible flaw in the coating material applied to girth weld joints following construction welding procedures in the field at that time.

A 2012 inline inspection revealed no areas requiring repair or remediation before the next inspection, Spectra Energy said. It supports the ongoing investigation, the company added.

PHMSA said it is investigating the cause of the failure, any factors that contributed to the severity of the incident, and the operator’s adherence to federal pipeline safety standards. As its investigation continues, it can amend the order to direct Texas Eastern to take additional actions to address the incident’s root cause, as well as any other factors that may have contributed to the pipeline’s failure.

If PHMSA determines the operator has violated any federal pipeline standards, the agency can issue an enforcement action, levy civil penalties, or refer the case for criminal investigation, it said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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