Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pipeline that leaked wasn't equipped with auto shut-off

Pipeline that leaked wasn't equipped with auto shut-off

Workers prepare an oil containment boom at Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, Calif., Thursday, May 21, 2015. More than 7,700 gallons of oil has been raked, skimmed and vacuumed from a spill that stretched across about 9 miles of California coast, just a fraction of the sticky, stinking goo that escaped from a broken pipeline, officials said.
Published: Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 9:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 9:49 p.m.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The pipeline that leaked thousands of gallons of oil on the California coast was the only pipe of its kind in the county not required to have an automatic shut-off valve because of a court fight nearly three decades ago, a county official said.
The original owner of the pipeline skirted the Santa Barbara County requirement by successfully arguing in court in the late 1980s that it should be subject to federal oversight because the pipeline is part of an interstate network, said Kevin Drude, deputy director of the county's Energy and Minerals Division. Auto shut-off valves are not required by federal regulators.
"It's the only major pipeline that doesn't have auto shut-off," Drude said. "For us, it's routine."
Federal regulators are investigating the cause of Tuesday's leak that spilled up to 105,000 gallons of crude oil from an underground pipe into a culvert and as much as 21,000 gallons into the ocean at Refugio State Beach. The spill killed untold numbers of fish, at least five pelicans and a sea lion. It also mired other wildlife, including an elephant seal, in the muck.
Plains All American Pipeline was still draining the pipe and trying to locate the leak Saturday. Federal regulators ordered the company to remove the damaged section and send it to a lab for tests on the metal, along with a series of other steps before it could resume pumping oil through the pipe to inland refineries.
Plains said the pipeline had one valve to shut it down if oil flowed in the opposite direction and three valves controlled by operators in its Midland, Texas, control room.
Plains defended its people approach to manually shutting down the system, saying it's the standard across the country for liquid pipelines.
"It is much safer for operators who understand the operations of the pipeline to shut it down following a planned sequence of steps than for computer to automatically close a valve on oil that is traveling in confined space at high pressure," Patrick Hodgins, the company's senior director of safety, said Saturday. "This is all standard operating procedures within our industry."
While it's not known if an auto shut-off valve would have detected the leak and reduced the size of the spill, environmentalists have criticized the lack of such a device, saying it could have averted or minimized the disaster.
"Everyone is pretty mystified why the pipeline didn't automatically shut down when the leak occurred," said Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center.
Santa Barbara County regulations sometimes exceed state and federal standards, requiring additional environmental analysis or imposing conditions to further protect health and the environment, Drude said. One additional requirement is a valve that can detect changes consistent with a leak and automatically shut down.
The county successfully fought another operator that didn't want to install automatic shutdown valves on a pipeline from an offshore drilling platform, Drude said.
However, when there was a leak on that line in 1997, an operator overrode the automatic shutdown, and it continued spewing crude into the Pacific Ocean a couple miles from shore. The 10,000 gallon spill fouled 21 miles of shoreline and killed more than 150 birds.
Richard Kuprewicz, president of Accufacts Inc., which investigates pipeline incidents, said such valves aren't always effective, though newer, more sophisticated "smart" models provide more accurate signals that can trigger shutdowns.
A Plains employee discovered the leak early Tuesday afternoon, about three hours after mechanical issues with the pipeline, according to the company. The pipe was restarted for about 20 minutes before a pump failed and then it was shut down because of changes in pressure.
The company said it was looking into whether those earlier problems led to the leak.
A surge in pressure from starting up a system could cause a leak or exacerbate one, but it's too soon to tell, Kuprewicz said.
"In the past, surge pressures have caused pipes to rupture. But there were other failures, too," he said, speaking in general and not about the Plains incident. "If that were the case, that would become fairly evident ... pretty quickly."
Plains All American subsidiaries have reported at least 223 accidents along their lines and spilled a combined 864,300 gallons of hazardous liquids since 2006, according to federal records. The company has been subject to 25 enforcement actions by federal regulators and tallied damages topping $32 million.
The company has defended its record, saying accidental releases have decreased as its pipelines have increased to 17,800 miles.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Finding California oil spill's cause could take months

Finding California oil spill's cause could take months

Published: Friday, May 22, 2015 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 22, 2015 at 3:05 a.m.
GOLETA, Calif. (AP) — The operator of a broken oil pipeline that fouled a California shoreline says it could be weeks or even months before investigators are able to determine what caused the break and subsequent spill.
Crews have yet to excavate the broken piece of pipeline, which under the law must be done in the presence of federal regulators and a third party, officials with Plains All American Pipeline LP said at a Thursday night news conference at the Santa Barbara County beach where the spill occurred two days earlier.
"We have not even uncovered the pipe yet," said Patrick Hodgins, senior director of safety for Plains All American.
The company would not yet say whether two malfunctions that occurred shortly before the spill was discovered were part of the cause.
"We were having some pump problems on the pipeline," said Rick McMichael, another Plains All American Representative. "Whether it led to the leak or not is part of our investigation."
The 24-inch pipe, built in 1987, had no previous problems and was thoroughly inspected in 2012, according to its operator, Plains All American Pipeline. The pipe underwent similar tests about two weeks ago, though the results had not been analyzed yet.
The spill involved an estimated 105,000 gallons of crude; about 21,000 is believed to have made it to the sea and split into slicks that stretched 9 miles along coast. A 23-mile by 7-mile area was closed to fishing.
As of Thursday, more than 9,000 gallons had been raked, skimmed and vacuumed up, officials said.
The thick, powerful-smelling crude coated rocks and sand, but only six oil-coated pelicans and one juvenile sea lion had been rescued.
An abundance of volunteers had made themselves available to help sop up oil and in particular to help clean off animals, but they were being turned away and encouraged not to act on their own.
"We just don't have enough positions," U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jennifer Williams said.
The latest spill is just a drop in the bucket compared with a catastrophic blowout on the same stretch of coast in 1969, when a Union Oil platform blew out and spewed an estimated 3 million gallons of crude along 30 miles of coast. Some 9,000 birds died, new regulations were passed and a new era of environmental activism began in the U.S.
Nevertheless, the new spill is being held up as another reason to oppose such things as fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Canada to Texas, the moving of crude by train, and drilling in far-flung places.
"What we see from this event is that the industry still poses enormous risks to an area we cannot afford to lose," said Joel Reynolds of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Plains All American and its subsidiaries operate more than 6,000 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines in at least 20 states, according to company reports. Those companies handle more than 4 million barrels of crude and other liquid fuels daily.
Since 2006, the companies have reported 199 accidents and been subject to 22 enforcement actions by federal regulators. The accidents resulted in a combined 725,500 gallons of hazardous liquids spilled and damage topping $25 million.
Corrosion was determined to be the cause in more than 80 of those accidents. Failures in materials, welds and other equipment were cited more than 70 times.
Enforcement cases against the companies resulted in the collection of $154,000 in penalties, according to a federal database.
Hodgins, of Plains All American, said the company has spent more than $1.3 billion since 2007 on maintenance, repair and enhancement of its equipment.
He also defended the company's safety record, saying accidental releases have decreased as the number of miles of pipelines has increased.
Associated Press writers Christopher Weber and Alicia Chang contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Byron Encalade, Voices From The Gulf

Byron Encalade, Voices From The Gulf.

Drew Landry (left Byron Encalade (right) ((Click to enlarge))
The second in a series of interviews with South Louisiana Fishermen, Drew Landry took me to Byron Encalade, in East Pointe A-LA Hache, LA, a small fishing village in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.  He engages in harvesting seafood, oysters and shrimp; also in transporting seafood along the gulf coast states.  He is currently serving as Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana Constable 3rd Ward, American Legion Post 430 Judge Advocate, Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries Seed Ground Permit Appeals Board, President of Louisiana Oystermen Association, President of South Plaquemines United Fisheries Cooperative and most proudly a lifetime member of the Wolfhound Pack 27th Infantry Regiment Historical Society, Inc.

Louisiana barrier island oyster bed

Byron has been an oysterman all of his life and tells it like it is for his friends and family 5 years after the BP oil disaster.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Acy Cooper, Voices From The Gulf

"Voices From The Gulf"
There is too much going on in the Gulf region today to address it with only one post and account from the people's voices. This is the first installment of a year long expose'.  I will be releasing a series of video interviews from the region over the next year. During the entire 5th I will try my best to expose first hand accounts of as many impacts to the fisheries and more importantly, the people.

We have all heard from the BP ads and lawyers that all is well and the Gulf is recovering. We have heard the stories of the incredible amounts of money BP has supposedly paid to impacted families. Please turn off the BP tv commercials that BP paid for and listen instead to the "Voices From The Gulf"

Acy Cooper, Vice President, Louisiana Shrimp Association

Acy Cooper isn't a scientist, lawyer, or corporate giant CEO. He is the vice president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association. A fisherman working in the Gulf of Mexico today while BP claims the Gulf is healing well and everyone is being compensated. Acy has the eyes and ears of the fishing community in his area. Take time to listen to his account of the shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico, 5 years after the BP disaster.

(Click photos to enlarge)
His account of what the fishing communities are facing is startlingly different from the B P ads and what our government wants interior America to believe. (BP = Bought Paid for)
People all over the world who are confronting the deep sea drilling monster should share these stories widely. 5 years after the Deepwater Horizon, BP disaster we are just now seeing the long-term impacts. It only takes one "spill", "incident", one disaster to completely change the way of life for people who are directly impacted.