Pipeline corrosion: seawater and acid blackwater rivers in the fragile karst limestone Floridan Aquifer

Who could have suspected that corrosion caused the crude oil pipeline rupture still pollution California’s coastline from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, according to PHMSA’s amended corrective order as reported by Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk, Santa Barbara, 3 June 2015?

Right after TransCanada Keystone 1 Pipeline Suffered Major Corrosion Only Two Years In Operation, 95% Worn In One Spot, as reported Julie Dermansky, Desmogblog, 30 April 2015?

Both pipeline companies claimed they used cathodic protection, which is supposed to detect and prevent such leaks.

Kinder Morgan, proposing to gouge its Palmetto petroleum products pipeline across South Carolina and the Georgia coast to Jacksonville, also claims to use cathodic protection and other measures, yet is no stranger to many incidents of corrosion and leaks.

There’s lots more evidence that such preventative measures don’t work, and often aren’t even applied, not for oil pipelines and not for fracked methane (“natural gas”) pipelines. You can sign the petition to help stop Texas pipelines from invading Georgia.

Decades of Pipeline Corrosion

As WWALS wrote to the judge 13 April 2015 in the Leesburg, GA case where Sabal Trail is suing a Georgia landowner to attempt to get Georgia eminent domain, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reporting on PHMSA’s failures goes very far back. Spectra’s 1994 Durham Woods apartment fire in Edison, NJ sent children screaming into the night and left hundreds homeless after major property destruction. Writing about that fire (NTSB, “RESPONSE TO PETITION FOR RECONSIDERATION”, Re: Pipeline Accident Edison, New Jersey, March 23, 1994, NTSB Report: PAB-95/01, 18 May 2001), NTSB reconfirmed that Spectra’s own contractors had damaged the subject Texas Eastern Transmission (TETCO) pipeline in 1986 and TETCO (now Spectra) had done nothing to repair it or to stop the corrosion that eventually caused the explosion eight years later.

NTSB reported (“Pipeline Accident Report: Texas Eastern Gas Pipeline Company Ruptures and Fires at Beaumont, Kentucky on April 27, 1985 and Lancaster, Kentucky on February 21, 1986,” NTSB/PAR-87/01, 18 February 1987; see Exhibit N) that Spectra’s Texas Eastern 1985 Beaumont, Kentucky explosion and fire killed 5, burned 3, and destroyed numerous houses and cars, and its 1986 Lancaster, Kentucky explosion and fire injured three people, two seriously, evacuated 77, and destroyed more buildings and cars, plus ripping 480 feet of pipe out of the ground. NTSB wrote in the same report:

“The probable cause of the pipeline accident near Lancaster, Kentucky, was the failure of the Texas Eastern Gas Pipeline Company to fully investigate the extent and severity of previously detected and inspected corrosion-caused damage and to replace the damaged segment of pipeline before its failure. Contributing to the accident was the lack of gas company guidelines for its personnel for further inspection and the shut down or reduction in line pressure upon detecting corrosion damage on its pipeline.”

Thirty years later the same pattern of negligence, corrosion, leaks, and explosions continues, as evidenced by the NTSB report on the 1994 explosion and the 2013 PHMSA Final Notice to Spectra CEO Greg Ebel, and NTSB’s 2015 report about the general problem, which says:

This study found that while PHMSA’s gas IM requirements have kept the rate of corrosion failures and material failures of pipe or welds low, there is no evidence that the overall occurrence of gas transmission pipeline incidents in HCA pipelines has declined. This study identified areas where improvements can be made to further enhance the safety of gas transmission pipelines in HCAs.

If the rate of occurrence of pipeline incidents has not declined, then we should expect more fatalities, injuries, and property damage.

Corrosion issues in our acidic soil and blackwater rivers

WWALS filed with FERC 15 November 2014:

In addition, the famously acid soil of this southeast region and the acidic waters of our blackwater rivers, including the Withlacoochee River. could exacerbate the already severe corrosion issues of pipelines. Issues illustrated by the 21 December 2013 PHMSA Final Order to Spectra Energy CEO Greg Ebel for five violations of Spectra’s company procedures and federal regulations regarding inadequate corrosion inspection and prevention.


And illustrated by the PHMSA Final Order of 26 October 2014 for a civil penalty of $74,300 to Mr. Larry Hjalmarson, VP Safety, Environment & Integrity, Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC., also about inadequate inspection for and prevention of corrosion.


Prior to that PHMSA Final Order to Transco, Jason Cannon reported in the Demopolis Times 21 February 2012, "Corrosion cited in pipeline explosion",


"‘‘Although we have systems and processes in place to prevent and identify corrosion, our investigation indicated there were multiple factors working in conjunction that led to this problem not being recognized,’’ said Transco spokesman Chris Stockton. ‘‘Extremely corrosive soil conditions, combined with failures in the pipelineâs protective coating and cathodic protection system ultimately weakened the pipe, causing it to rupture.’’"

"Stockton said the rupture forced the company to make several changes in its corrosion control program."

"‘‘These changes are designed to more closely monitor levels of pipeline protection from corrosion, assure a higher degree of protection equipment uptime, and provide higher standards for levels of corrosion protection,’’ he said. ‘‘We are also continuing our investigation into this failure to better enhance our corrosion control procedures in the future.’’"

Apparently the changes Transco made did not satisfy PHMSA anymore than Spectra’s inadequate corrosion inspection and maintenance, because Transco, like Spectra, also received a PHMSA Final Order.

The same Chris Stockton has recently been quoted in Alabama newspapers speaking for the Transco’s Hillabee Expansion Project, which is part of the same Southeast Market Pipeline Project as Spectra and FPL’s Sabal Trail Transmission pipeline. "Natural gas pipeline plans moving forward," by Mitch Sneed in the Alexander City Outloook, 18 October 2014.


Corrosion in a Transco pipeline in Alabama could contaminate the contents of a Sabal Trail pipeline in Georgia. Corrosion in a Sabal Trail pipeline could cause leaks into our fragile karst limestone that contains our drinking water in the Floridan Aquifer. Leaks at high-pressure could cause sinkholes.

This is all in addition to the issue of boring under rivers and through that fragile karst limestone potentially causing sinkholes, and in addition to all the other issues described in Item 9 of the Georgia Water Coalition Dirty Dozen 2014.

Stop Sabal Trail as well as the Palmetto Pipeline

Kinder Morgan is already on the ropes in Georgia, after the Governor and Lt. Governor both opposed its Palmetto Project and the Georgia Department of Transportation denied a permit. KMI will sue, but it will lose.

Now let’s petition the Governor to oppose Spectra Energy’s Sabal Trail pipeline. One unnecessary, destructive, and hazardous invader from Texas is no better than the other. Please sign the petition.