Sprat Issue 10 - Ruptured Pipelines
By James Donahue
Item number ten on the Jack Sprat list of concerns was simply "ruptured pipelines."
We have heard of a few gas and oil pipeline breaks but until we began researching this issue, we did not realize just how
severe this problem has become all over the United States.
So far in 2012 there have been 27 major breaks recorded and resulting in major spills
of crude oil, gasoline and natural gas. Often explosion and fire occur, with death, personal injury and property losses. There
were 29 major line breaks in 2011 and 30 events in 2010.
So what is causing these breaks, which in most instances cause major local disasters.
Some of the breaks, like the Embridge Energy pipeline rupture in 2010 that spilled over 800,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo
River near Marshall, Michigan, caused extreme ecological damage.
A fractured Pacific Gas & Electric Co. natural gas line was responsible for an explosion
and fire in San Bruno, a suburb of San Francisco, California, in 2010 that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. A second
break in the same area this year was caused by a construction crew. The problem was contained before it caused another explosion,
but numerous homes were evacuated, just in case.
The list of known breaks for just the first half of 2012 includes:
--A gas pipeline in Estill County, Kentucky, exploded and burned on January 2. Flames
shot over 1,000 feet in the air. Residents up to a mile away were evacuated. Nobody was hurt.
--A forest fire in Floyd County, Kentucky, caused a gas pipeline to explode and burn
on January 7. Nobody was hurt.
--A leaking gas line was blamed for an explosion and fire that destroyed a home and
left one man dead in Austin, Texas, on January 9.
--A Sunoco pipeline ruptured in Wellington, Ohio, on January 12, spilling an estimated
117,000 gallons of gasoline.
--An eight-inch gas pipeline exploded in an open field at Rio Vista, California, on
January 13. Nobody was hurt.
--An excavation project in West Havenstraw, New York, caused a massive gas explosion
and fire at a condominium complex on January 16. Two firefighters and two utility workers were hurt.
--Another construction project in Topeka, Kansas, was blamed for a gas leak on January
30 that exploded in a nearby house and killing an elderly woman who lived there.
--In Arenac County, Michigan, oil was found in the ground around a 30-inch diameter
Enbridge crude oil pipeline in February. The line had obviously ruptured.
--A crude oil pipeline fractured near Grand Isle, Louisiana in March, spilling an estimated
8,400 gallons of oil.
--Also in March, a gas pipeline compressor station in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania,
exploded and burned.
--Pennsylvania was struck by yet another gas explosion and fire that same month. This
time it involved a gas compressor station near Springville. The leak was blamed on a worker who had accidentally left a valve
open during maintenance work.
--On April 4 a 12-inch gas pipeline exploded and burned for five hours near Gary, Texas.
Nobody was hurt.
--A gas pipelines in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana and Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana,
exploded and burned on April 9. Nobody was hurt.
--A 26-inch natural gas transmission pipeline ruptured near Laketon, Texas, on June
6. The gas blowing from a 50-foot-long rupture ignited, burning two acres of agricultural land and utility poles. It left
a carter 30 feet in diameter.
--A gasoline pipeline burst near Jackson, Wisconsin, on July 17, releasing about 54,000
gallons of gasoline. At least seven water wells were contaminated.
--A 14-inch gas pipeline exploded and burned near Intracoastal City, Louisiana, on July
18. There were no injuries.
--An Enbridge crude oil pipeline ruptured at Grand Marsh, Wisconsin in July, spilling
an estimated 1,200 barrels of oil.
The list of pipeline breaks gets really long if we go back a few years. It is small
wonder that so many residents across the United States are opposed to the construction of that controversial Trans-Canada
Keystone Pipeline to carry thick, bitumen crude from Canadian shale south across the central United States to the Texas gulf
So what is causing all of these pipeline breaks, explosions and fires? A lot of it is
blamed on the aging infrastructure. But many of the breaks occurred on relatively recent pipelines and were obviously the
result of poor construction work. And then there has been the problem of construction work occurring over buried and often
It all appears directly linked to the nation’s growing demand for carbon based
fuels and the need for more and more pipelines to move these materials to processing and distribution centers where they can
be sold to consumers.
Yes Mr. Sprat, you are correct. The increase in pipeline fractures is a growing problem
and hidden danger to all of us.