Federal report shows ruptured oil pipeline was corroded and thin

Jun 3, 2015

A federal report released Wednesday shows differing accounts of the thickness of the Plains All-American oil pipeline that ruptured in Santa Barbra County back on May 19.

Third party metallurgists in the field following the oil spill reported the pipeline walls were down to an estimated 1/16th of an inch in some places, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA) Amended Corrective Action Order (CAO).

The ruptured area of Pipeline 901 along the Gaviota coastline in Santa Barbara County in the days following the spill.
Credit Santa Barbara County Fire Department

PHMSA inspectors noted general external corrosion during the field examination and observed three repairs that had been made as a result.

The results of a Plain's May 5, 2015 In-Line Inspection (ILl) survey revealed four areas on the pipeline with anomalies requiring immediate investigation and remediation.

"Measurements of three of these areas indicated extensive external corrosion, primarily on the bottom quadrant of the pipe," the report states. "The deepest metal loss at each area, as measured by Plains nondestructive testing contractors, ranged between 54 and 74% of the original pipe wall thickness."

The pipeline company said in a statement that "Plains is committed to working with PHMSA to understand the differences between these preliminary findings, to determine why the corrosion developed and to determine the cause of the incident."

Pipeline 901 ruptured back on May 19 sending an estimated 100,000 gallons of crude oil onto the Gaviota coastline with a direct path into the Santa Barbara Channel.