Following is a condensed summary of talking points prepared for Plains representative Pat Hodgins and Rick McMichael in connection with news conference held on May 24, 2015:
Recovery effort updates, pipeline draining and excavation
Source: Rick McMichael, Senior Director of Operations, Plains All American Pipeline
Every day we continue to see visible progress on the response effort. Regarding beach cleanup, our response workers are still collecting oiled materials washing up on the shore, such as seaweed and kelp.
Plains completed the process of draining oil from the affected section of the pipeline. It took longer than expected because there were additional safeguards required to empty this portion of the line.
We have recovered approximately 450-500 barrels of oil from the affected part of the pipeline (approximately 18,900 to 21,000 gallons). Our plan to move the crude oil to a remote site for more accurate measurement and segregated and sealed storage was just approved by Unified Command.
Based on the most current information and some additional recalculations, we now believe the worst-case release amount is approximately 100 barrels or 4,200 gallons lower than previously reported. This downward adjustment is the result of netting the 450 barrels removed against an adjustment to the previous calculation of 370 barrels. There is a small difference in the calculation because in all cases we have rounded the final estimate up to the nearest 100 barrels.
To recap, the current estimate of the worst-case volume release is now approximately 2,400 barrels or 101,000 gallons. Our efforts to recover oil from the pipeline are ongoing and all calculations remain under review.
We are moving forward with the preparations for extracting the affected section of pipe from the ground—we have to make the release site safe to remove it. Our work plan outlines the
steps we will take to ensure everyone stays safe and the conditions of the area and pipe are preserved and recorded.
PHMSA is on site to supervise the preparation for, and eventual extraction of, the affected piece of pipe. We have not yet determined when we will actually remove the pipe from the ground, but it will likely be within the coming week.
Pipeline valves and pumps
Source: Patrick Hodgins, Senior Director of Safety & Security, Plains All American Pipeline
Line 901 is part of an interstate pipeline regulated by federal law. It is equipped with one check valve and three remotely controlled, motor-operated valves.
The remotely controlled, motor-operated valves are operated by our Midland Control Center via a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system which provides real-time operating information to our pipeline controllers. The Midland Control Center monitors flows and pressures on a 24-hour basis and has the ability to remotely start and stop pumps and open and close motor-operated valves.
Pumps move the oil through the pipeline and are equipped with controls that are programmed to automatically shut down under certain operating conditions. All of our pump stations are equipped with pressure monitoring devices and will automatically shut down if operating pressures exceed maximum discharge or minimum suction thresholds.
There has been some commentary and questions as to why the pipeline did not have automatic shut-off valves. Closing a valve on an operating pipeline increases the pressure. Use of these types of valves could have the unintended consequence of pressuring the line beyond its maximum operating pressure.
It is much safer for controllers who understand the hydraulics of a crude oil pipeline to shut it down using a planned sequence of steps than for a computer to automatically close a valve on oil that is traveling in a confined space under high pressure.
We regret the impact this incident has had on the community and pledge to remain aggressively engaged in the recovery efforts until the job is done.