Chevron pipeline to resume operations Tuesday morning

Published: Monday, Jan. 31 2011 6:09 p.m. MST

Workers from Salt Lake City Fire Department and Chevron work to clean up an oil spill at the Red Butte Gardens next to the University of Utah Thursday. The oil seeped from a pipeline owned by Chevron Oil Company.

Tom Smart, Chopper 5, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — Oil will once again flow Tuesday morning through the beleaguered Chevron pipeline that has been the culprit of two controversial oil spills in the past six months.

The agreement to restart the pipeline — with the approval of Salt Lake Mayor Ralph Becker and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon — was announced Monday afternoon following a meeting among the two mayors, representatives of Chevron and a federal pipeline safety regulator.

Elected officials had expressed dismay when they learned late last week the federal regulatory agency had signed off on Chevron's startup plan — without them being kept in the loop about what guarantees would assure the pipeline is safe to operate.

But Becker said a number of the city's independent pipeline safety consultant's recommendations had been incorporated into the startup plan, including round-the-clock monitoring in its first few days of operation and additional monitoring that will be conducted along Emigration Creek.

Additionally, Chevron has agreed to pursue an "alternatives analysis" that contemplates a possible different location for the pipeline, which has failed twice, heavily contaminating Red Butte Creek and the pond at Liberty Park in the first spill in June.

"We feel like our questions have been addressed and this startup will be safe," Becker said during a news conference. "We have a level of assurances and comfort that our community and residents" will have additional safeguards that help prevent a repeat of the June spill.

Chevron said it plans to start the oil flowing at 8 a.m. and provide round-the-clock monitoring.

The consultant's report said the pipeline system needs more remote operation and monitoring of its valves and that Chevron needs to do a better job of curtailing the incidences of false alarms that occur with its leak-detection system.

"Leak-detection modifications should focus on the rapid detection of pipeline rupture (a high rate of release caused by pipe fracture)" the reported pointed out, stressing that with this segment of the pipeline, to detect any and all leaks through a remote system is improbable.

"Public expectations and understandable desires are setting standards beyond technical capabilities, and caution is warranted to not overstate the capabilities of leak detection for this segment" it reads.

While the company routinely performs aerial patrolling to troubleshoot possible problems along the line, the report also stressed the company needs to be more aggressive in catching right-of-way breaches that could occur along the pipeline corridor.

While the public has raised concern over the pipeline's integrity because it was built more than 50 years ago, Becker said he has received assurances from the consultant that age of the pipeline was not a factor in the two spills.

In the report, the consultant noted that "no pipeline, even new pipeline, is free of imperfections in pipe or welds (anomalies)."

Overall, the consultant said none of the findings in the safety analysis "technically warrant the prevention of the startup of this pipeline."

e-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

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