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Ark. probing ExxonMobil Pipeline oil spill as new rules set

Keywords: Tags  ExxonMobil, ExxonMobil Pipeline, Pegasus pipeline, Dustin McDaniel, PHMSA, Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, pipeline oil spill

NEW YORK — Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has opened an investigation into the "cause and impact" of the recent oil spill from ExxonMobil Pipeline Co.’s Pegasus pipeline near Mayflower, Ark.

"This incident has damaged private property and Arkansas’ natural resources," McDaniel said, adding that he has asked the company, an affiliate of Irving, Texas-based ExxonMobil Corp., to "maintain all documents and all other information" related to the March 29 incident.

"Requesting that Exxon secure these documents and data is the first step in determining what happened and preserving evidence for any future litigation," he said.

About 90 residents in the affected area have filed claims as a result of the spill, ExxonMobil said April 2.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has published a corrective order regarding the incident, which it estimates led to the release of 3,500 to 5,000 barrels of oil.

The order forces ExxonMobil to obtain PHMSA permission prior to restarting the line, sets a timeline for metallurgical testing of the failed section of pipe, and puts a cap on the amount of pressure the line can initially be put under following restart.

ExxonMobil inspected the spill site in February. The results aren’t yet known, but in 2010 no "significant anomalies" were found, the order said.

The 850-mile pipeline, running from Patoka, Ill., to Nederland, Texas, was constructed in the late 1940s. It consists of 20-inch-diameter X42 seamless and low-frequency electric-resistance welded (ERW) pipe of 0.312-inch wall thickness, according to the PHMSA order.

PHMSA noted that changing the direction of flow can affect the hydraulic stress demands on a pipeline. ExxonMobil in 2006 reversed the flow of the Pegasus pipeline, which originally brought oil from the Gulf to Illinois.

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