What If You Had a Big Pipe…

and never peeked?

Corroded Alaska Pipeline Untested for 14 Years
The severely corroded pipeline that forced the shutdown of the country’s largest oil field had not been inspected or cleaned by BP Oil for at least 14 years, according to U.S. Department of Transportation records.
The lines at Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oil field carry eight percent of the domestic crude oil production but are exempt from federal regulation.

And how did BP get their name in the paper at all?

The Department of Transportation increased its scrutiny of BP’s Alaska operation only after the discovery of a 250,000 gallon crude oil spill there in March.
The spill went undetected for days until a worker who was passing by smelled the oil. The spill, which was caused by another corroded pipeline, has lead to a federal criminal investigation of BP.

So it gushed until someone without a headcold wandered by. ‘Scrutiny’ and ‘enforcement’ are two very different animals. If there’s no one to force you to do something ~ and no mechanism for consequences if you don’t ~ you do nothing. That keeps money in your jingling pocket, continuing and enhancing the Big Payoff.
Now, federally regulated pipelines are required to be inspected every five years. So why doesn’t the BigPipe fall under those same regs? Because it’s considered a “low-stress” pipeline.

…Removal of the “low-stress” pipeline exemption. Two weeks ago on March 2, 2006, the largest oil spill to date on the North Slope of Alaska of 200,000 gallons or more was discovered at a caribou crossing. This spill came from a BP crude oil transmission pipeline which was exempt from PHMSA regulations because it was a “low-stress” hazardous liquid pipeline that met the following criteria: it did not transport a highly volatile liquid (HVL), it was located in a rural area, and it was outside a waterway currently used for commercial navigation.13Moreover, according to BP spokesperson Daren Beaudo, the pipeline “had known interior and exterior corrosion damage. Because of this, BP had downgraded the maximum pressure allowed within the line…” [page 9]

I guess BP figures “low stress” to be the same as “NO maintenance”. If the thing rots apart, you reduce the pressure in the line.
Holy crap! You think, with the price of oil the past two years, they could have spent just a little of it making sure their golden goose was still laying unimpeded. I’m not liking the looks of our goose at the moment…
UPDATE: CNN’s got a little more. It seems everybody’s shocked, SHOCKED! They should read the report I linked to.

16 Responses to “What If You Had a Big Pipe…”

  1. Mike Rentner says:

    Unbelievable. Irresponsible.
    As a libertarian leaning kind of guy, I hate government intrusion into almost anything, but I’ve worked in industry long enough (it only would require a few days though) to know that if it weren’t for OSHA and the EPA a lot more people would be getting maimed and killed and horrific environmental disasters would ensue.
    This is one reason I don’t get too upset at the decline of nuclear energy. Yeah, sure, when they build the place and when it’s managed properly nothing bad happens. But human institutions are subject to entropy and will inevitably decay and rot. This goes for asphalt roofing factories where I used to work, as well as for oil pipelines and nuclear reactors.
    The only things to prevent this in the short term (decades) are inspections, and the fear of imprisonment of responsible individuals who should not be allowed to hide behind a corporate shield.
    In the long term (centuries), disasters are inevitable. Oil spills can be cleaned up. Let’s hope we never have another Chernobyl in this country.

  2. Robb Allen says:

    “You think, with the price of oil the past two years”
    While I agree with your general points, don’t make the mistake of thinking increases in oil costs are pure profit. From my understanding (and granted it is limited), oil companies have only made money because of increases in volume, not price per unit.
    I.E. $1 profit on 100 gallons is less than $.50 profit on 400 gallons (per gallon).
    Still, if all I do in life is transport oil, I’d make sure the transportation methods are up to snuff.

  3. Robb Allen says:

    Oh, and I make it a daily habit to peek at my pipe.
    Although we may be talking about two entirely different things…

  4. Well, darlin’ Robb, when they report ten BILLION dollars in ‘profit’ like Exxon did, they could spare the change to Rustoleum the pipeline. ESPECIALLY as that maintenance itself is a write-off.
    And I don’t think so ~ things flow, it works. It gets crusty, rusty and decrepit, then it hurts and you’d better get it fixed. So no. They’re the same.

  5. Robb Allen says:

    Again, I agree with you it’s just that increased oil prices don’t translate into pure profits.
    10 billion would buy me a few of those Bugattis, though.
    Personally, I think it’s criminal to run a business that bad.

  6. Nightfly says:

    We’re the ones paying for this retail. If they get fined out of the wazoo, the government ought to return it to the taxpayer, every last dime. (And like Mike, I’m no fan of that sort of thing, but this is direct cause and effect; in any case it’s better than the gummint keeping it, where it becomes a new program that has to be “maintained” after the one-time influx of revenue has been exhausted.)

  7. I’m afraid I’ll also be casting a jaundiced eye towards the next touchy feely ‘what an oil company should do is love the caribou‘ BP commercial I see.

  8. nobrainer says:

    Assuming it’s down for for 90 days, 400,000 BPD and a profit of say $30/B, they’re out a cool Billion.
    Somebody give those managers a clue.
    Or maybe they need some better engineers. Where can I send my resume?

  9. Mike Rentner says:

    ” . . . crusty, rusty, and decrepit. . .”?
    Sheesh. I’ve never met Major Dad, and I already think I know too much about him.

  10. Mr. Bingley says:

    Who is this person who’s stolen our Mike?

  11. I already think I know too much about him.
    This from the expert on wet wipes…

  12. Mr. Bingley says:

    Crusty ones, at that.

  13. Who is this person who’s stolen our Mike?
    Keep him! We like the pod person better!!

  14. major dad says:

    Sheesh…if it’s not one pencil neck it’s another. And Mikey, to think I stand up for you from time to time. I got your crusty right here.

  15. The_Real_JeffS says:

    I’m a bit late on this thread, but deferred maintenance on major infrastructure is the rule, not the exception. While not an exact parallel, much of our highway system is in the toilet, especially in the cities where traffic is very high. Politicians (and managers and/or CEOs) are happy to cut corners for short term gains, thinking that they’ll never be the chump left holding the bag.
    Odds are that there are a large number of blue collar workers in BP who saw this coming, and a fair number of junior staff as well. But it’s funny how senior management can turn willfully stupid when it comes to budget cuts.

  16. major dad says:

    Wait till they try and find enough “skilled” pipe welders to fix this mess. Those guys don’t grow on trees and they are going to have to pay them, a lot.

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