Monday, June 8, 2015

Spectra Energy working to recover 400 feet of lost pipeline after blast on Arkansas River

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2015 at 10:22 PM

Still no news on the cause of the May 31 rupture of an auxiliary section of the Texas Eastern pipeline beneath the Arkansas River, but operator Spectra Energy said over the weekend that it has located a 400 foot section of pipe that "became disconnected as a result of the May 31, 2015 incident." (Google Maps and an index card tell me that the river is a little over 1000 feet wide near that point.)

"This segment of pipeline traveled downstream from its original location and now lies along the north bank of the Arkansas River. The nearest end of the pipe segment appears to be approximately 100 feet downstream from the original pipeline crossing," a spokesperson for the company said in a news release earlier today.

Spectra said it will begin recovering the pipe for inspection as soon as river conditions permit it to send divers into the water, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. The Arkansas remains dangerously high after weeks of rain. 

"Once the recovery process begins, the pipe will be cut into sections for safe removal and transport from the area. Some of the cuts will be made under water, and further cuts will take place once the pipe is raised onto a barge," the spokesperson said.

The main line of the Texas Eastern — which is a little downstream of the auxiliary section — remains turned off for now as a precaution. "Sonar surveys indicate that approximately 450 feet of the main line is now partially uncovered at the riverbed," Spectra said. Whether a similarly eroded condition may have contributed to the backup line's failure is still unknown.

I did get confirmation from a Spectra representative over the weekend about a portion of the account given by Mike Metzler, who examined damage caused to the nearby towboat Chris M after the incident. The company representative said that concrete was indeed found on the deck of the vessel, and that this concrete was coating from the ruptured auxiliary pipeline. However, he maintained that "there is no evidence of combustion"; Metzler earlier said he believed the concrete fragments he saw were charred from a fire.

I'll take this opportunity to post a cell phone video sent in last week by Kenny Grober, a reader who happened to be at the Downtown Riverside RV park in North Little Rock when the incident occurred. Grober said the plumes of water were initially far higher — over a hundred feet.

When I asked Grober last week if he considered contacting authorities about the incident — which was not called to the attention of the Coast Guard or others until over 24 hours later — he told me that a police car pulled up while he and others stood watching the river. The officer asked the bystanders if they knew what was happening on the river, Grober said, and when they replied 'no,' the cop drove off.


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