Question of the day – I see a pipeline just spilled oil into the ocean near Santa Barbara, California. What can you tell me about the company that operates that pipeline and their safety record?
Thanks for the question. The cause and the size of the spill are still being determined, and the clean up will go on for weeks we are sure. Here is a quick analysis of the company that operates that pipelines
Quick Analysis Plains Pipeline L.P pipeline that failed in California
With the spill yesterday into the Pacific Ocean from a pipeline operated by a subsidiary of Plains All American Pipeline L.P. we have received a lot of calls about why the pipeline failed and how Plains safety record compares to other companies operating similar pipelines. To date we have not seen any information about why the pipeline may have failed, so speculating on that would serve little purpose. The Plains All American Pipeline L.P. system that failed is referred to in the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) database as Plains Pipeline L.P, and their operator identification number is 300. Plains Pipeline L.P. is only part of the entire Plains All American Pipeline system which according to their website includes 17,800 miles of pipeline.
According to PHMSA Plains Pipeline L.P operates 6437 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines in 16 states, with 480 miles of it in California. In the past ten years they have reported 175 pipeline incidents, which caused nearly $24 million of property damage. Of those 175 incidents only 11 were in California. There have been 20 enforcement actions initiated against this company resulting in $284,500 in fines. Of those enforcement actions none of them were for issues specific to California.
The Pipeline Safety Trust today took a look at the incident data from PHMSA for the past 5 years (2009 – 2013) and compared Plains All American’s incident rates to the national average. Here is what we learned.
The number of Incidents reported to PHMSA for all hazardous liquid pipelines is increasing, but incidents for crude oil pipelines are increasing at a faster rate. The number of incidents on crude oil pipelines operated by Plains Pipeline L.P. follows this trend, and is increasing faster then the national average.
Since the mileage of pipelines has changed over the past few years we also normalized this analysis by looking at the number of incidents per mile of pipeline. We found that the rate nationally for crude oil pipelines is twice that of other types of hazardous liquid pipelines, and that the rate of incidents/mile of pipe for crude oil pipelines operated by Plains Pipeline L.P. was about 14% higher than the national average for crude oil pipelines.