Another pipeline explosion : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I post this only because it's the latest in a series of pipeline explosions over the last nine months or so.

A 6-inch natural gas pipeline in Northeast Texas ruptured and exploded Saturday night. The pipeline is near Beckville, Texas, about 45 miles from Shreveport.

The explosion sent flames 500 feet into the air, and eight nearby families were evacuated.

The pipeline originates in Beaumont and supplies natural gas to Chicago. Investigators were on the scene Monday morning probing a possible cause.

The story broke on KTBS-TV in Shreveport.

-- Vic (, July 12, 1999


Hi Vic, Keep us posted if you hear anymore. Shortly after the natural gas explosion a few weeks ago I received in the mail a brochure addressed to box holder. It was from AShland oil and detailed inportance of pipelines and signs to watch for in case of leak and lists of emergency numbers. Suprised me...felt like they were preparing us for something. In all these years I've never received a mailer on pipelines and possible explosisons and what to do. Weird huh?

-- Moore Dinty moore (, July 12, 1999.

Anybody know where the pipelines are located? What about those in your state/city?

-- where (are@the.pipelines?), July 12, 1999.

We sure do not know where they are located. I wonder if there is a web site that locates them State by State??

Taz...who wonders if you guys have anything more for me to have to think about???

-- Taz (, July 12, 1999.

For the most part, the pipelines are underground. I live in East Texas where there are thousands of oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing the landscape.

Here, at least, there are warning signs periodically noting the presence of a pipeline to keep some yahoo with a backhoe from cutting into one.

In Texas, the Texas Railroad Commission is responsible for regulating the oil and gas industry, and its field offices have maps showing the location of the lines. Whatever agency in your state is responsible for that regulation should have maps showing the locations.

-- Vic (, July 12, 1999.

While we were talking about the Bellinham gaoline pipeline fire, I had said that natural gas pipelines "flared" hundreds of feet like this - I wish in this case that I had not been right.

Typically, it is extremely difficult to find and track high pressure natural gas and oil (usually oil is at slightly lower pressure) trans-state (and intra-state) pipelines. You could check your local library, your local fire chief's office, your electric transmission office - these people should have "emergency response" maps showing the locations of all pipelines, all cutout and surface stations, and all control centers and emergency numbers.

In practice though - many are missing or out-of-date. Atlanta (last summer ?) had a pipeline-fed fire, but could not isolate it for hours because they could not "find" the cutout valve. (Apparently, the valve wasn't where the map showed it was supposed to be. We are finding the same kind of problem mapping the steam distribution system for Manhatten in a current project I'm assigned to at work Missing data, missing maps, old maps, inaccurate positions, etc.) Had to let it burn. That was downtown, and yes, nearby houses adn business had to be evacuated.

On the surface, look for "straight, clear, tree-free lines with a triangular pipe vents at the surface marking the pipe line. Often, they will have air-visible (but cryptic) markings on signs at road crossings to show where different pipes are crossing. Inspectors use these markings from the air to look for leaks and failures. The buried pipe will be usually silver, with irregular control stations and regulators in a small building. Look for a pipe coming out of the ground, going through various regulating and metering valves (these are part of the SCADA systems) and then going back underground. The regulation station willhave a telephone or satellite or celluar phone control station nearby. All systems in the control station (regulators, monitoring, control, and metering systems; any pumps, pump regulators, or pump power supplies) are vunerable to y2k disruptions or failures.

Each regulation station is also vunerable to simple (terrorist) surface sabatoge.

National and regional nat gas, gaoline, and oil pipe line maps are available from the various trade organizations that serve the pipeline industry - but these are expensive. Doubt you'd want to buy the maps, but let me known, I'll get you the addresses of people who can provide them.

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, July 12, 1999.

[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

National alert from pipeline accident

Regulators urge review of computer systems

Friday, July 9, 1999



Breakdowns in the Olympic Pipe Line Co. computer system just before and during last month's deadly accident in Bellingham have so alarmed federal regulators that they have issued a nationwide warning.

The federal Office of Pipeline Safety issued the warning this week to the 2,000 operators of liquid and natural-gas pipelines in the United States. It urged them to make sure that computer systems used to operate and monitor pipelines are working properly.

The advisory details a series of computer failures on June 10 around the time Olympic's 16-inch line leaked up to 277,000 gallons of gasoline into Bellingham creeks. Gasoline vapor later exploded in flames, and two 10-year-old boys and a teenager were killed.

After the accident, Olympic acknowledged that its computer system crashed on the afternoon of the accident. The computer problems may have kept Olympic personnel from reacting quickly to the leak, regulators said.

The computer system is known as SCADA -- supervisory control and data acquisition. Such systems are common in the industry, though they may have been built at different times by different manufacturers.

All such systems go under the generic name of SCADA.

Some companies, including Olympic, add to their computer systems leak- detection equipment. Olympic's uses such information as temperature and pressure to detect leaks.

But investigators with the Office of Pipeline Safety have determined that Olympic's computer system broke down on the day of the accident.

"Immediately prior to and during the incident, the SCADA system exhibited poor performance that inhibited the pipeline controllers from seeing and reacting to the development of an abnormal pipeline operation," regulators said in their advisory.

The Office of Pipeline Safety is part of the U.S. Transportation Department.

Regulators did not name Olympic in the advisory. But Patricia Klinger, a spokeswoman for the Office of Pipeline Safety, acknowledged that the incident mentioned in the advisory and prompting the warning was Olympic's Bellingham accident.

The message to other pipeline operators, she said, is to "take extreme caution."

"We don't want to see this repeated."

Gerald Baron, an Olympic spokesman, said the company believes federal regulators are being prudent in sending out the advisory to pipeline operators.

Baron could not discuss the details of the computer problems and cautioned against focusing on computer difficulties or any other single factor as a cause of the accident.

Regulators believe Olympic's computer system typically operated at 65 percent to 70 percent of capacity.

But on June 10, the system had an internal database error. That error, plus the demands put on the computer by the leak, "hampered controller operations," the advisory said.

"The combination of the database error, the inadequate reserve capacity of the SCADA processor and the unusually dynamic changes that occurred during the upset condition appear to have combined and temporarily overburdened the SCADA computer system," regulators said.

"This may have prevented the pipeline controllers from reacting and controlling the upset condition on their pipeline as promptly as would have been expected."

Regulators also said that modifications made to the computer system after it was installed may have caused it to malfunction.

The Office of Pipeline Safety ordered Olympic on June 18 to find out what went wrong with its computer system and correct it. It also ordered the company to make a comprehensive review of its SCADA system.

Those demands came as part of a corrective order that closed the upper 37 miles of the 400-mile pipeline. Regulators also ordered the company to undertake several safety modifications and reviews.

The Office of Pipeline Safety may soon issue additional orders regarding Olympic's pipeline , Klinger said.

P-I reporter Scott Sunde can be reached at 206-448-8331 or


-- Linkmeister (, July 12, 1999.

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