The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ordered Colonial Pipeline Co., Alpharetta, Ga., to shut down a segment of its Line No. 1 near Helena, Ala., a week after a gasoline leak was detected there. The US Department of Transportation agency’s Sept. 16 corrective action order also required the petroleum products pipeline company to prepare a restart plan for PHMSA’s approval before resuming shipments through the repaired segment.
Colonial shut the pipeline and nearby Line No. 2 down on Sept. 9 after an Alabama Surface Mining Commission inspector notified the company that he smelled gasoline at a surface containment pond and found dead vegetation nearby. It immediately sent repair and cleanup crews to the scene and began to arrange transportation alternatives for customers receiving gasoline shipments through Line No. 1.
Normally, the two pipelines transport 2.6 million b/d of products. “Colonial is currently shipping significant volumes of gasoline on Line 2, the distillate mainline, to help mitigate the impact of the service interruption to Line 1,” the company said on Sept. 19. “These changes have allowed all origins and delivery markets to be served along the entire system, albeit in a reduced capacity.”
Colonial began to gather gasoline from Gulf Coast refiners the previous week to ship supplies on its distillate line to terminals in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, and North Carolina, it noted. It began to implement construction of a bypass around the affected Line No. 1 segment on Sept. 17 under initially favorable weather conditions. It initially estimated that 6,000-8,000 bbl of gasoline had leaked.
The governors of the five states issued executive orders temporarily suspending various state and federal regulations that potentially could have impeded delivery of gasoline supplies, Colonial said. “In addition, fuel shippers continue to implement contingency plans to further mitigate potential disruptions to their operations,” it said on Sept. 17.
Under PHMSA’s order, Colonial must complete mechanical and metallurgical testing and a failure analysis of the failed pipe by an independent laboratory or expert within 45 days of excavation and exposure of the assumed failure site, and perform an in-line inspection of the affected pipeline segment within 90 days of restarting it to ensure there has been no metal loss, deformation, or other damage.
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