PART 2. ACP & MVP Pipeyard Storage Times are Very Excessive

by Duane Nichols on October 16, 2020

ACP pipe in storage for four or more years would have much weakened corrosion protection

Too Much Sun Degrades Coatings That Keep Pipes From Corroding, Risking Leaks, Spills and Explosions, Part 2

From an Article by Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News, 10/11/20

More Testing Is Needed on Aging Pipe

To gain a better understanding of the safety concerns posed by long term aboveground storage, experts say more testing is needed.

The majority of stored pipe is unlikely to have significant UV exposure as pipe sections are typically stacked on top of each other in storage yards with only the top and outermost sections of pipe exposed. The Corrosion Management study, which found pipe coating exposed to sunlight for close to 10 years was no longer acceptable, estimated that approximately 20 percent of the Keystone XL pipes stored in Little Rock received significant exposure to ultraviolet radiation. However, the study only looked at 12 out of 24,000 sections of Keystone XL pipe at the Little Rock storage yard.

“The very small sample size tested does not give a real picture of what is happening,” said Norsworthy, the consultant. “For me to be comfortable, they probably have to [test] something like one out of every 100 [pipes].”

Kuprewicz, the pipeline safety expert, said the degradation caused by UV light is not necessarily a fatal flaw but is cause for concern. “Anything that can cause the coating to deteriorate and prevent it from doing its function is a concern,” Kuprewicz said. “However, it’s only one part of corrosion protection.”

Kuprewicz said pipeline operators can also use “cathodic protection,” a weak electric current that changes the electrochemistry of the surrounding environment, raising the pH to make any water in contact with the steel pipe less corrosive.

Additional current would have to be added if pipe coatings are deteriorated. Such efforts would add additional project design and operational costs, and potentially added risk, Kuprewicz said.

“Cathodic protection is meant to supplement the [protective] coating, it isn’t meant to replace it,” Kuprewicz said.

Pipes are Exposed, but Information About Them is in a ‘Black Box’

As pipeline projects across the country face increasing legal challenges and construction delays, long-term aboveground storage of pipe sections are not limited to the Keystone XL and Constitution pipelines. Yet basic information is scant on how long pipe has been stored above ground; what, if any, measures developers took to protect the pipe from the elements, or what condition the pipe is in.

“There is such poor inspection and disclosure of what is going on,” said D.J. Gerken, program director for the Southern Environmental Law Center in Asheville, North Carolina. “It’s a black box.”

PHMSA requires that all oil and gas pipelines have protective coatings and use cathodic protection but the agency does not typically monitor how long pipe sections are stored above ground. One exception, however, was the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), a now cancelled project that would have transported natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina.

The agency took a closer look at pipe sections for the project in November 2017, one year after they were first stored above ground, and reported no signs of coating degradation. However, data obtained through a public records request suggests otherwise.

In the fall of 2017, PHMSA oversaw third party inspection of pipe coating at six ACP storage yards across Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. The testing looked for chalking, a sign of coating degradation. Inspections in late 2017 and early 2018 showed “slight chalking” in the protective coating of the majority of pipes assessed.

“It was worrisome to me that the pipes were out in the sun and are still out in the sun,” said William Limpert, a retired state environmental regulator who until recently owned land along the route of the now canceled ACP pipeline.

Limpert received a letter from the agency in June 2018 stating there was “no evidence of degradation of the pipeline protective coating.” It was “completely opposite of what the pipeline inspections show,” said Limpert, who acquired the actual test results one year later through a records request. “As far as we know they haven’t done anything to prevent further degradation and they were degrading that long ago.”

Limpert was also concerned that PHMSA did not include a flexibility test of the pipeline coating. An industry study from 2000 assessed the impact of ultraviolet light on the protective coating of a natural gas pipeline in Canada, finding that “the most severe influence was noted on the marked reduction in flexibility.”

Industry standards set by the National Association of Corrosion Engineers recommend flexibility tests for coatings. Pipeline developers do not have to follow the guidelines, but there could be legal implications if a company were to use pipe that didn’t pass all of the recommended tests, Kuprewicz said.

After years of delay and rising costs, Dominion Energy and a project partner, Duke Energy, canceled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on July 5. Dominion is now determining its long-term plan for the unused pipe, said Ann Nallo, a spokesperson for the company.

“I think there is a lot of reason to be worried and a lot of reason to be concerned that this pipe doesn’t then find its way to another storage yard waiting to be used for another pipeline without being retreated and reinspected,” said Gerken, of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Toxicity Concerns Because of Toxic Coating

State health officials in Virginia and North Carolina have also expressed concern about potential health impacts of pipeline coating degradation for those who live near vast pipeline storage yards.

In March 2019, the heads of the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) noting that epoxy resins similar to the coating used in the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines can release benzene and styrene, carcinogens that are produced as the coatings degrade.

The agencies requested information on the possible public health and environmental impacts from long-term above ground storage. Dominion commissioned a toxicity assessment at one of its storage yards but found “no impact on human health or the environment from the chalky residue.”

However, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services criticized the methodology of the report and its findings and asked that FERC require the pipelines’ developers to provide additional information. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) also reviewed the test results but determined the “sampling data are not sufficient for ATSDR to fully evaluate the public health concerns.” A second test commissioned by Dominion also found no adverse health or environmental impacts.

“The pipe coating has no impact on human health or the environment,” said Nallo. Yet, the Dominion-funded tests have failed to put to rest concerns about the pipes’s environmental safety, Limpert said. Limpert said the additional testing is also flawed and has asked FERC to conduct an independent expert review.

On Oct. 8, FERC responded to health officials in Virginia and North Carolina, saying it had reviewed the issue and found no environmental health concerns related to coating degradation at pipe storage yards.

Limpert said he would still like to see a separate review by an independent, expert agency. “It’s possible that there are no negative environmental or public health impacts from the coating, but it would be nice to know that for sure,” he said.


See also:
Toxic Coating on ACP Pipe Stored at Morgantown Industrial Park Needs Monitoring, Report to Monongalia County Commission, Wallace Venable, September 21, 2020

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