Natural Gas Company In OK Has History Of Violations
OKLAHOMA CITY - Northern Natural Gas, which owns the pipeline that failed and caught fire last night in Harper County, has a history of safety violations, but also a record of spending significant dollars to address problems.
The explosion and resulting fire in northwest Oklahoma appears to be the first major problem for the company along its 283 miles of pipeline in Oklahoma. But, in Amarillo last February, federal regulators found 500 feet of pipe in danger of corroding. Northern fixed the problem.
Northern has almost 15,000 miles of pipeline in 11 states, stretching from the Permian Basin in Texas north to distribution locations in the Upper Midwest. In Michigan, in 2009, the company had a pipeline rupture and 15 homes were evacuated. Three years earlier, in Wisconsin, Northern was cited for violations involving population growth around a pipeline; regulators fined the company $205,000.
Regulators have closed 14 enforcement cases against Northern since 2006. The company has not been fined since 2008.
In a statement, the company said, "Northern does everything it can do to mitigate the threat of pipeline failure. In those rare instances in which an incident does occur, Northern makes a concentrated effort to identify root causes
and makes the financial commitment to incorporate best practices and the optimal facilities throughout its system."
Company officials say they have spent $1 billion since 2002 on safety improvements.
Here is the company's entire statement:
Northern Statement on Safety:
October 9, 2013
Northern's company culture focuses on safety and reliability – two components that drive decisions internally to protect the public and to ensure the highest integrity for its pipeline facilities. This focus means that Northern will act in full compliance with all federal and state pipeline safety rules and regulations and, as a prudent operator, will in many cases exceed those requirements to protect its assets. The focus requires a commitment to a fully integrated integrity management plan that encompasses both its facilities and its employees.
Our integrated integrity management plan includes practices to ensure the highest level of safety. These practices include:
• Cathodic protection – attaching electrical anode systems on our pipeline for early detection of corrosion and pipe anomalies
• Over-pressurization protection for our entire system - including built-in redundancies for safety
• Constant monitoring of its pipeline by a 24/7 state-of-the-art gas control system with an off-site redundant facility
• Annual inspection of each of its 14,900 miles of pipeline through foot patrols, aerial observations and surveying the pipeline route looking for leaks – using electronic natural gas detection instruments
• Strong and comprehensive public awareness and damage prevention program
Northern does everything it can do to mitigate the threat of pipeline failure. In those rare instances in which an incident does occur, Northern makes a concentrated effort to identify root causes and makes the financial commitment to incorporate best practices and the optimal facilities throughout its system, Since 2002, Northern has spent more than $1 billion on facility integrity.
Finally, it should be noted that the largest single threat to the integrity of our system is third-party damage and that threat can be controlled through enhancing state One Call laws and vigorously enforcing them. Northern spends considerable capital and manpower in public outreach to educate the public on the importance of making a utility facility locate request prior to every excavation. Doing so is easy – just use the three-digit 8-1-1 phone number. Further, the call is free.