Warnings Finally Coming on Pipeline Safety in West Virginia (Marshall County Subsidence & Explosion)

by Duane Nichols on July 25, 2018

Pipeline leaks, fires, & explosions more likely in rough terrain

Explosion triggers safety notice for TransCanada in West Virginia

From Jenny Mandel and Mike Soraghan, E&E News, July 13, 2018

Federal regulators yesterday said that land movement may have triggered a natural gas pipeline explosion at a remote West Virginia site last month and that similar conditions exist at a half dozen other spots along the line.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration warned TransCanada yesterday that it intends to impose new safety-related requirements on a portion of the Leach XPress pipeline in response to the risk of land subsidence, which might have been responsible for an explosion last month that blew an 83-foot section of pipe into the air, released 165 million cubic feet (mmcf) of natural gas and triggered a fireball that burned for several hours.

The incident took place in a remote area and no injuries or damage to private property was reported (Greenwire, June 7).

PHMSA’s notice of proposed safety order, issued to TransCanada Corp. subsidiary Columbia Gas Transmission LLC, points to geological factors in the incident and could pose a challenge for other projects proposed for construction in similar steep, unstable Appalachian terrain. The pipeline that failed was constructed last year and went into service early this year, raising questions around why it failed so quickly and dramatically.

“The preliminary investigation suggests that the failure was the result of land subsidence causing stress on a girth weld,” PHMSA said in the notice. An initial report on the incident filed by TransCanada and released earlier this week notes the cause of the failure as a landslide not related to heavy rains or floods.

“Since the failure, TransCanada has identified six other points along the pipeline that, based on their geotechnical flyover, are areas of concern to the existence of large spoil piles, steep slopes, or indications of slips,” it said.

Those six additional locations, combined with the fact that the pipeline was operating well below its maximum rated pressure when the explosion took place, led PHMSA to conclude that “the continued operation of the affected segment, without corrective measures, poses a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property and the environment.”

PHMSA’s notice of proposed safety order comes more than a month after the explosion.

Inspections, analyses and enhanced monitoring

The order does not reflect a completed investigation of the incident but puts TransCanada on notice that PHMSA intends to impose new safety-related requirements in light of what is now known about the incident. It also spells out a series of inspections and analyses that the company must conduct.

PHMSA proposes to require that TransCanada conduct extra surveillance and analysis of the roughly 50-mile section of the pipeline system that runs through terrain similar to that in the area where the rupture took place.

The Leach XPress pipeline system consists of 36-inch and 30-inch diameter carbon steel pipe that carries natural gas about 130 miles from Majorsville, W.Va., to Crawford, Ohio. The section of the route that PHMSA called out “runs along several hills and ridges with steep elevation changes.” The rupture took place near Moundsville, W.Va., on a feature known as Nixon Ridge.

TransCanada has 30 days to review the proposed safety order and request “informal consultation” about the agency’s proposed remedy and may also request a hearing to contest the facts and actions laid out by the regulator.

PHMSA recently committed to providing public notice of its hearings for pipeline safety enforcement actions, but it was not immediately clear if a hearing on the safety order would also be publicly announced under the same commitment (Energywire, July 5).

Barring changes to the proposed safety order, TransCanada has 30 days before requirements for enhanced monitoring in that higher-risk area kick in, and 45 days to install extra gauges to monitor for pipeline stress. Other requirements of the order include conducting a range of assessments of the pipeline segment that ruptured and of conditions at the time of the incident, and completing a root cause failure analysis.

TransCanada has already completed “minor repair work and grading of the failure site,” PHMSA noted. Service on portions of the Leach XPress line has been restored following an initial shutdown. TransCanada initially told customers it would resume full service on the line in early July but later pushed that timeline back to midmonth.

‘A minor miracle‘ — Opponents of two pipelines being built through the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia and West Virginia said authorities need to take another look at the approvals for those projects in light of the explosion.

“If things are likely to blow up, that’s certainly something they should take into account in their analysis going forward,” said David Sligh, an environmental attorney for Wild Virginia fighting the Atlantic Coast pipeline, a 600-mile system to run from northern West Virginia to North Carolina. “Thank God that one wasn’t next to someone’s house. Some of these are.”

The developers of the Atlantic Coast pipeline said they are confident that the project is safe. “Dominion Energy will review and learn from the PHMSA safety order,” said Jen Kostyniuk, spokeswoman for Dominion Energy, the lead company on the project. She said the company and its construction contractor “have more than 200 years’ experience safely building pipelines in steep mountainous terrains all across the United States,” including more than 2,000 miles in the mountains of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania.

Roberta Bondurant, a lawyer fighting the Mountain Valley pipeline, a 300-mile pipeline to run from northern West Virginia to southern Virginia, agreed that the terrain is “a huge concern.” She said there have already been landslides during construction, including one that blocked a road.

Cat McCue, a spokeswoman for Appalachian Voices,` said the proposed projects are the largest-diameter pipelines ever to be built across rugged sections of the Allegheny and Blue Ridge mountains.

“It’s a minor miracle no one was injured or killed in that explosion. Are the MVP and ACP companies asking landowners in the path of these massive industrial projects to count on miracles to keep their families safe for the next 30, 40 years?” she asked.

Bill Limpert lives on the front line of that development, as the Atlantic Coast pipeline is slated to run along a mountain ridge on his property in Bath County, Va., coming within 250 feet of a landslide that occurred three years ago.

Limpert said a PHMSA inspector visited the property last year and dismissed concerns about landslides.

“His only comment was that pipeline companies can put pipelines about anywhere they want these days,” Limpert recalled. “That sounded to me like the pipeline company’s running the show.”

Click here for the notice of proposed safety order.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

WBOY 12 News September 8, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Fire Crews respond to gas pipeline fire in Harrison County

Article by Jonah Marcum, WBOY 12 News, September 7, 2018

Clarksburg, W.Va – Crews responded to a gas pipeline fire that’s owned by Dominion Resources on Thursday evening in the area of Sun Valley Road.

The call came in at 8:00 p.m., 911 officials said.

Fire departments from Reyonldsville, Lumberport and Mt. Clare responded to the scene, along with Dominion workers.

It was a six inch, low pressure gathering line, according to Dominion. Workers were able to shut valves off on either side of the fire, allowing it to burn its self out, Dominion officials said. The fire was contained to the pipeline’s right of way and was out by early Friday morning, officials said.

The fire was in a remote location and there were no injuries, according to Dominion.

The cause, believed to be a lightning strike, is under investigation. Dominion plans to repair the line on Friday, officials said.

SOURCE: https://www.wboy.com/news/emergencies/crews-responded-to-gas-well-fire-in-harrison-county/1424220515


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