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What led to the Enbridge pipeline rupture

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Pipelines,

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have said that the rupturing of a 30 in. natural gas pipeline and a subsequent fire caused the 2019 death of one person and the destruction of five homes near Danville, Kentucky.

What led to the Enbridge pipeline rupture

This photo illustration shows the post-rupture aerial view of the accident area, the location of pipelines across the northwest, rupture of central pipeline, ejected pipe to the south, destroyed, and damaged residences to the southeast.

The accident occurred when a 30 in. pipeline, owned and operated by Enbridge Inc., ruptured and released natural gas that ignited on 1 August 2019. 14 other residences were damaged, and the fire burned about 30 acres of land.

NTSB investigators determined that the combination of a pre-existing manufacturing defect – known as a hard spot – together with a degraded pipeline coating and ineffective cathodic protection, led to hydrogen-induced cracking at the outer surface of the pipe.

Contributing to the accident, according to the NTSB, was Enbridge’s integrity management programme, which did not accurately assess the condition of the pipeline or estimate the risk from interacting threats. The report said Enbridge underestimated the risk posed by hard spots because its processes and procedures were inconsistent with PHMSA guidance and industry knowledge of hard spot threat interaction.

Investigators noted Enbridge and its predecessors increased cathodic protection voltages on the affected pipeline segment to compensate for the increased external corrosion. Buried steel pipelines will corrode because of the presence of moisture and ground water in the soil. Cathodic protection is an electrochemical method used to prevent corrosion on buried pipelines where the applied coating has been damaged, exposing bare pipeline metal to the soil.

Based on the results of its investigation, the NTSB issued six safety recommendations, three to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and three to Enbridge Inc. The safety recommendations address:

  • Incomplete evaluation of the risks caused by a change of gas flow direction.
  • Limitations in data analysis related to inline inspection tool usage.
  • Incomplete assessment of threats and threat interactions.
  • Missed opportunities in training and requalification practices.

The Pipeline Accident Report 22/02 is available online.

The accident docket, which contains interviews, photos, and other factual material is also available online.

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US pipeline news Enbridge pipeline news Natural gas pipeline news