Oil industry responds to NTSB report on Michigan crude oil spill

NTSB identifies "complete breakdown of safety" at Enbridge

July 12, 2012
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American Petroleum InstituteAmerican Petroleum Institute (API) Pipeline Director Peter Lidiak says he “welcomed” the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation findings and recommendations for the 2010 crude oil spill in Marshall, Michigan.

During the incident, a 30 inch-diameter pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge Incorporated ruptured and spilled crude oil into an ecologically sensitive area near the Kalamazoo River for 17 hours until a local utility worker discovered the oil and contacted Enbridge to report the rupture.

The NTSB report was harshly critical of the Canadian company.

"This investigation identified a complete breakdown of safety at Enbridge,” said NTSB Chairman Deboarah A.P. Hersman. “Their employees performed like Keystone Kops and failed to recognize their pipeline had ruptured and continued to pump crude into the environment. Despite multiple alarms and a loss of pressure in the pipeline, for more than 17 hours and through three shifts they failed to follow their own shutdown procedures.”

The API’s Lidiak said that the oil industry has a number of safety enhancement initiatives underway, including improving recognition of, response to and reporting of large ruptures; accelerated research and development to improve in-line inspection tools (or smart pigs); and better ways to share industry learning from incidents like the Marshall spill.

The draft NTSB report addresses a number of issues around pipeline leak detection, control room management, emergency response preparedness and pipeline integrity management practices. A final report is expected soon.

“API and its members will work with its regulators and the NTSB to appropriately address the findings and recommendations of the final report when it is released,” said Lidiak.

“The industry continues to strive for zero incidents,” said Lidiak. “Our goal is to continually improve our practices and procedures to have the highest safety record in the world.”

The API represents more than 500 oil and natural gas companies.

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