PHMSA issues corrective action order in ExxonMobil oil line spill

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, July 7 -- The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration ordered ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. on July 5 to make safety improvements along the company’s Silvertip Pipeline 3 days after an accident led to the spilling of 750-1,000 bbl of oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana.

ExxonMobil has not identified the rupture’s cause, but its investigation team is gathering information and will follow where it leads, a spokesman told OGJ. The company shut the pipeline down soon after 11 p.m. MDT on July 1 after technicians detected an abnormal drop in pressure.

PHMSA ordered the ExxonMobil Corp. subsidiary to rebury the pipeline beneath the river bed to protect it from external damage and conduct a risk assessment on the line wherever it crosses a waterway. ExxonMobil will then have to submit a restart plan before the pipeline’s operation can resume, PHMSA said.

The 69-mile, 12-in. pipeline transports oil from the Silvertip station in Elk Basin, Wyo., to an ExxonMobil refinery in Billings, Mont. PHMSA said three of its inspectors are at the scene.

The US Environmental Protection Agency, which is conducting air and water tests and overseeing the cleanup, said on July 5 it is coordinating its response with the ExxonMobil unit, PHMSA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and state and local agencies.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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