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Aging Oil Pipelines – a Ticking Time Bomb

Posted on Sunday, August 25th, 2019 at 10:38 pm    

The death of a 58 year old woman and injuries to five others in central Kentucky at the beginning of this month (August) highlighted the growing problem of the nation’s aging fossil fuel infrastructure. The Kentucky deaths took place due to an explosion on the Texas Eastern Transmission gas pipeline, owned by Canadian company, Enbridge. 75 people had to evacuate when the explosion took place, with flames reported to reach 300 feet into the air.

If this explosion was just a one-off incident, there wouldn’t be such a worry about what it meant for other similar infrastructure. But, it’s not. The same gas pipeline has witnessed three gas explosions in the last three years with the Kentucky explosion the latest.

Much of the U.S. oil and gas infrastructure is over 50 years old – a ticking time bomb

The Texas Eastern is 8,835 miles long and was built in 1943 at the height of the Second World War to carry liquid petroleum to the eastern states and New York. The conversion to natural gas took place after the war ended. Much of the pipeline is now over 50 years old. The part of the pipeline that exploded just 70 miles from Louisville in Kentucky was over 60 years old. The other explosions on the same pipeline were in Ohio in January this year and Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 2018, when a man was so badly injured he spent months in hospital.

Part of the potential danger is that much of the pipeline and similar oil and gas pipelines that makeup the estimated 2.6 million mile network across the country, now lie close to built up areas and dense residential neighborhoods. The Ohio explosion destroyed two houses and the Kentucky explosion led to the evacuation of 75 people from their homes.

Enbridge is no stranger to pipeline problems. It experienced one accident every 20 days between 2000 and 2018 somewhere on its network of pipelines. Some of these accidents were oil or gas leaks and others were explosions.

Enbridge is also implicated in some of the country’s worst oil pipeline spills. The largest on record happened in 2010 when an Enbridge pipeline burst open in Michigan. The oil in this case was thick, tar sands from Alberta. 1 million gallons of the stuff eventually leaked into the river near Kalamazoo in Michigan. It took over a year and 1 billion dollars to clean up the spill that involved cleaning large amounts of extremely toxic chemicals that are carried together with this particular oil in the pipelines.

In November last year, an Enbridge gas pipeline exploded in Canada, in an area where First Nations people lived, forcing their evacuation.

50,000 gallons of oil were leaked from a ruptured Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin in 2012. 17,000 tons of soil that had been contaminated had to be removed. In the same year, 58,000 gallons of oil from an Enbridge pipeline leaked out in Alberta.

Refineries like Exxon’s Baytown refinery are equally a risk

Aging pipelines are not the only fossil fuel infrastructure risk. Many of the oil refineries that still operate were built years ago. Some are over 100 years old, including Texas’s very own Baytown refinery, expected to reach 100 years old next year. Part of the Baytown refinery burst into flames just 24 hours before the Kentucky pipeline explosion. The Baytown refinery, owned and operated by Exxon, is now 200 times as big in scale as it was 100 years ago when it was built to refine just 2,500 barrels of crude oil a day. The refinery has not only expanded in capacity but now houses chemicals and plastics plants and the petrochemical site where the fire took place.

Contact Injury Lawyer San Antonio if you have been affected in any way by a petrochemical pipeline or refinery accident

Oil and gas companies may be taking shortcuts and ignoring safety issues in the name of making a profit when it comes to maintaining their aging infrastructure. The result can be horrendous fires, oil leaks and human tragedy. If you, or a loved one, have in anyway been injured in an oil infrastructure accident, contact Injury Lawyer San Antonio for professional and dedicated legal help at 833-210-4878.