PHMSA may fine ExxonMobil $1.7 million for crude oil pipeline failure

DOTThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is initiating an an administrative enforcement action with a proposed fine of $1.7 million to ExxonMobil Pipeline Company.

ExxonMobil’s Silvertip Pipeline, a 12-inch crude oil pipeline in the Yellowstone River near Laurel, Montana, failed in July 2011, releasing 1,509 barrels of crude oil. The 69-mile-long pipeline transports crude oil from the Silvertip station in Elk Basin, Wyoming, to an ExxonMobil Refinery in Billings, Montana.

According to PHMSA, ExxonMobil failed to properly address known seasonal flooding risks to the safety of its pipeline system or to attempt to prevent a spill into a waterway.

PHMSA has also issued a proposed compliance order. In this case, the operator would have to implement ongoing training for supervisory and control room personnel on emergency response procedures.

Immediately after the Silvertip Pipeline failure, PHMSA issued ExxonMobil a Corrective Action Order, which directed the company to take a number of measures such as replacing and re-burying the pipeline underneath the Yellowstone River, evaluating the pipeline for any existing or potential damage and revising its operation and emergency response procedures, to ensure its safe restart and continued operation.

ExxonMobil completed all of PHMSA’s required actions by August 2012.