United States: Mid-Valley Pipeline cited for crude spilled into Kentucky, Ohio rivers

The state can set a fine of up to $25,000 for each day for each violation. The company may contest the findings and seek a hearing.

The Mid-Valley Pipeline, which traverses 1668km from the Gulf of Mexico to refineries in northwest Ohio, ruptured at a welded junction 17m from the river near Carrollton, Ky., early on 26 January, spilling an estimated 63,000 gallons (1,500brl) of crude oil into the Kentucky River. The repaired pipeline was restored to service on 31 January, said officials with the US Environmental Protection Agency, state of Kentucky, and Sunoco Logistics Partners, which operates the pipeline. At the time service resumed, an estimated 40,000 gallons of crude oil had been recovered. The segment of pipeline that failed was replaced and the damaged segment sent to a metallurgical lab to determine the cause of the failure.

While the Kentucky River has no community water intakes from the leak site to its confluence with the Ohio River, the 20-km long oil slick threatened the Ohio, on which several communities in northern Kentucky, including Louisville, rely for their water supplies. Response crews initially placed six booms across the river to capture the crude and guide it to collection points, where it was captured by vacuum trucks and other collection equipment. Most of the spilled oil was contained about 12km from the confluence with the Ohio. The “last resort” containment effort for the floating slick was at a lock and dam near the confluence of the Kentucky and the Ohio.

The 22-in diameter steel crude oil delivery pipeline involved in the incident is jointly owned by Sunoco, BP, and Chevron. The Mid-Valley line, which is operated by Philadelphia-based Sunoco, failed near where it crosses the Kentucky River about 55km south of Cincinnati. Capable of delivering 195,000brl/d, Mid-Valley normally delivers 180,000brl/d of crude to the Premcor refinery at Lima, Ohio, and the Sunoco Toledo, Ohio, refinery.

Company dispatchers remotely monitoring the line were alerted to a pressure drop in the system about 12.30am on 26 January. The pipeline was shut down within 10 minutes of the detection of the pressure drop, and emergency crews were dispatched to begin clean-up and minimize the environmental impact. The break occurred about 15m from the river bank, said a spokesman for Sunoco Logistics. The pipeline and the river are usually farther apart, but recent rain and snow swelled the waterway.

Dan Harden, area supervisor for Mid-Valley, said the pipeline is checked periodically by on-line inspection tools. Mike Deahl, district supervisor for Sunoco Logistics, said that the section of 52-year-old pipeline that ruptured had been inspected as recently as two years ago by its operators, and no problems had been detected.

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