USA: Inland oil spills point to pipeline threats
11th June 2012
Even though the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon disasters have grabbed
the headlines, oil spills hit land much more frequently, posing risks for lakes,
streams and rivers.
That’s especially true near pipelines, suggests a study in the current issue of the
journal Risk Analysis that looks for places particularly vulnerable to inland oil
spills across the Upper Midwest.
Despite the attention paid to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, which
released about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the majority of oil
spills, about 60%, are inland ones. A 30-inch pipe rupture near Marshall, Mich.,
two years ago, for example, spilled about 19,000 barrels of crude oil into a creek
and then the Kalamazoo River, stopping 80 miles short of Lake Michigan.
The problem is the plethora of “roads, railroads, pipelines, tanks” crossing some
10,851 watershed locales stretching from Minnesota to Ohio, each one a
potential spill location, says EPA analyst Thomas Brody, who led the study.
[source: USA Today, Risk Analysis}
Lubetech says: International Spill Control Organisation (ISCO) highlight the
article as "although it relates to a study focused on the upper Mid-West of
the USA many of the conclusions have far wider relevance...
Many countries have pipelines installed decades ago. Over time, external
and internal corrosion increases risk of spillage. Older pipelines are often
buried at shallow depths not acceptable today, increasing vulnerability to
accidental damage. Others are not buried at all, even more susceptible to
sabotage, vandalism and the ravages of time and the increasing
prevalence of.associated oil theft." Construction techniques employed
in older pipelines often inhibit the use of intelligent pigs used to monitor
In short, the frequency of failures in ageing pipeline networks can be
expected to increase, presenting major challenges for operators.
ISCO concludes: "This underlines the need for
the response community to be ready for rapid and effective intervention to
minimise environmental damage. However, the required high level of response
preparedness can only be achieved and maintained if contractors are adequately
funded by way of stand-by retainer fees."