ExxonMobil Seeks To Reassure Officials About Safety Of Pipeline

Aug 26, 2013

ExxonMobil Pipeline Company executives Karen Tyrone, vice-president, and Johnita Jones, pipeline risk and integrity manager, speak to reporters Monday at the Capitol.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR

Representatives of the ExxonMobil Pipeline Company are working to reassure state legislators and officials about the safety of the Pegasus pipeline.

It follows the March rupture of the pipeline in Mayflower, spilling more than 200,000 gallons of oil.

Monday, Karen Tyrone, vice-president of the company, was among executives at the Capitol, meeting with state lawmakers, local officials and representatives of Central Arkansas Water.

“We're going to restart the line when PHMSA says we can restart the line and in fact, beyond that, as ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, our commitment is that we're not going to submit a plan to restart until we understand what happened and believe that we have the actions to prevent it from happening again," Tyrone said.

The company is also asking for patience in completing an assessment of inspections before the spill, saying a full analysis will take several additional  months because it is a complicated process, verifying the information.

"There are many questions, I know, about why it takes so long to receive this information, when in fact, there are thousands of data points that are generated when we run one of these tools," said Johnita Jones, ExxonMobil's pipeline risk and integrity manager.

"The vendor must then take those data points, analyze them, bring them back to us, whereby we take a few of those data points, go to the field, dig a hole in the ground, look at the pipe and determine did the data points actually report what's happening."

Jones said a 2006 hydrostatic test injected water into the pipe at a pressure 25 percent above the pressure it would normally operate with.  There were some failures then, she said, which were fixed.

In 2010, Jones says a magnetic flux test was done to look for corrosion and seam anomalies, finding five imperfections, which were repaired.

The company says an independent lab hired to inspect the damaged section of pipe concluded that original manufacturing defects in places where the pipe had been welded were to blame for the spill.

The ExxonMobil executives defended the use of pipelines as the safest way to transport oil and said they're committed to learning from the Mayflower spill to prevent future accidents.

Environmental activist Glen Hooks with the Sierra Club watched Monday's press conference, saying afterward that he wasn't reassured.

"This pipeline should never be restarted," Hooks said.  "If we've got these kind of manufacturing defects that they're talking about, I'd like to see what kind of defects are in the Maumelle Watershed.  I think the risks far outweigh any sort of rewards here.  There's no real reasonable benefit to the people of central Arkansas to have their drinking water put at great risk.  So shutting down this pipeline seems like a good idea to me."

Many political leaders, including Republicans and Democrats, have been calling for ExxonMobil to move the pipeline outside of the watershed if it is to be restarted.