The One of the Nation’s Largest Pipelines Caused the Biggest Spill

By | March 21, 2021

As long as you live in Huntersville, North Carolina, you will be unaware that America has the largest gasoline spell since the last summer of 1997. Slightly unfolding in the state, little reports include a company controlled by special interests such as the Koch brothers and Shell, and a pipeline that has been transporting filthy energy for decades. And the crisis of the colonial pipeline points to one of the next big issues for American fossil fuel infrastructure: what to do about dangerous, aging pipelines as they move forward for clean energy.

In August, two teenagers riding an ATV in a nature park outside Huntersville, a suburb north of Charlotte, saw gasoline coming off the ground and told the city’s fire department. (State lawmakers say Colonial first told them a different story, initially claiming that they would shut down the pipeline after leaving pressure at another point in the line. A company spokesperson told Earther He dispatched the crew after receiving the site. The leak was reported.) At first, the pipeline company reported that only 63,000 gallons of gasoline had been spilled, but during the fall, the number steadily increased: 273,000 gallons in September, November. 311,000 gallons. The company now says that about 1.2 million gallons have been leaked; This number may still increase as more assessments are made.

While the pipeline’s owners outlined their initial estimates of the spill, this level of screw-ups is “somewhat astronomical and not ordinary”, said Jared Maragolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. It is unclear why the initial estimates are so far away.

The pipeline’s age, Margolis speculated, could be the culprit if there were an exact number of defaults. Unlike new pipelines, such as the colonial pipeline, the old “do not have the same mechanism to monitor spills and leaks,” he said. “It’s a 40-year-old pipeline, it’s not just that kind of technology.”

Colonial Pipeline is owned by a company of the same name, controlled by companies including Koch Industries (its largest shareholder, which had $ 85 million in dividends from the pipeline in 2016) and Royal Dutch Shell. The pipeline was initially built in 1963, and extended from Texas to New Jersey. According to the company, the pipeline transports about 2.5 million barrels of fuel per day, mostly underground, which supplies 45% of the entire East Coast gasoline. In 2016, North Carolina alone received 70% of gasoline from the pipeline. Its owners have said that the technology can detect leaks of up to 3% of the pipeline’s daily flow – which works out to about 1.8 million gallons.

Colonial Pipeline (Company) has been doing damage control since summer. As officials slowly and quietly speculated in the press, it bought three properties near the leaked site, spending more on those purchases than they had spent on environmental penalties imposed over the past three decades. Yet the company has not revealed the cause of the rift in the pipe segment outside of the Charlotte. (The same line segment was also repaired in 2004.) The company said the investigation into the cause of the crack is ongoing.

Margolis said that the colonial pipeline is so old that its anti-corrosion system is inadequate. “It’s scary,” he said, adding that there are still accidents in new pipelines with updated technology. A Colonial spokesperson said in an email, “This section of the pipeline is protected by an epoxy coating. In addition, the Colonial employs cathodic protection and related close interval surveys, among other safeguards.

“When you think of Keystone 1, what’s in the ground has leaked that thing, like, fifteen years ago or twice, and all the bells and whistles, supposedly, were all new technology,” Maragolis. Said, referring to several accidents. The TC energy-owned pipeline, the predecessor to the Keystone XL project, has been in its 10-year existence. “What we’re talking about here is an entire stage, which they originally painted with tar and threw it into the ground.”

Anti-pipeline activists focus their attention on new infrastructure (and for good reason). The new construction represents the closure of the world to new emissions, and it is much harder to argue for pulling the plug on a colonial-sized pipeline, which would represent a significant disruption to our daily lives if it Had suddenly disappeared. Back-to-back spills and explosions of 2016, for example gas shortages in six states.

Yet the colonial may represent the next step in fighting for an energy transition: finding out how fragmentation pipelines are collapsing.

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