Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Officials order shutdown of 27 miles of El Paso gas pipeline in Ohio

HOUSTON, Texas - Federal officials have ordered the continued shutdown of 27 miles of natural gas pipeline in Ohio because of repeated problems with welds in the pipe, including one linked to an explosion that leveled several houses on Nov. 16.

The investigation into the cause of a Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC explosion near Glouster, Ohio, is continuing, according to an order released Nov. 17 by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Authorities said that a visual inspection suggests that the pipeline failed at a weld similar to those that caused problems, including an explosion and fire in northeastern Ohio, in February and March. The high-pressure pipeline, three feet in diameter, runs from Kentucky to Pennsylvania.

"I find that the continued operation of the pipeline without corrective measures would be hazardous to life, property and the environment," wrote Jeffrey D. Wiese, associate administrator for pipeline safety at PHMSA.

Those measures include the shutdown, operating more than 200 miles of the affected line at reduced pressures, performing mechanical and metallurgical tests, and completing an analysis of the root cause of the failure within 60 days.

Gretchen Krueger, a spokeswoman for El Paso Corp., which owns Tennessee Gas, said the company has been working closely with federal authorities since the first report of the Nov. 16 explosion and will fully comply with the order.

Ms. Kruger added the company is in "full compliance with the consent order" imposed after the failures earlier this year and is working to implement corrective measures it required.

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