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Plains ordered to shut down and clean California pipelines

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World Pipelines,

Federal regulators have ordered Plains All American Pipeline LP to shut down and clean out lines running from offshore oil platforms to Santa Barbara and then to Bakersfield, California.

This comes after another of Plains’ pipelines ruptured and fouled Santa Barbara County shores last May.

The US Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has ordered Plains to purge oil from Line 903, a 130 mile (209 km), pipeline that runs from Gaviota, California inland to Kern County. Plains must also purge three shut offshore oil pipelines operated by Freeport McMoRan that normally feed Line 903.

PHMSA said surveys have shown that Line 903 has "similar corrosion characteristics" as Line 901, which ruptured and spilled up to 3400 barrels of crude in May.

Investigators have since discovered that the pipe was badly corroded, and are worried that the same problem may threaten other pipelines owned by the company.

“It does not appear that Plains has an effective corrosion control program,” PHMSA wrote in its order last Friday.

Plains said in a statement that it disagrees with several of the agency’s findings, but is working on plans to empty the line.

After reviewing a decade’s worth of inspection results, regulators wrote in an order released on Friday that inspection tools missed or understated the severity of problems on two of Plains’ pipelines.

The regulators found that Plains could have done more to make sure its inspection tool’s measurements were accurate and being interpreted correctly.

Further California news: gas pipeline explosion

In other California pipe news: a gas pipeline near Bakersfield exploded on Friday after somebody hit it with a piece of heavy equipment, killing one person and injuring three others.

The Pacific Gas & Electric Corp line was buried deep underground when it was sliced, and the ensuing gas leak ignited a 200 ft fireball.

The California Public Utilities Commission has ordered the company to set up a 100 ft perimeter, survey for leaks in the pipeline, and keep staff on scene until the area has been declared safe.

Officials are certain the pipeline was hit, and did not explode due to a leak, based on testing of the pipeline for leaks within the last week.

Edited from various sources by Elizabeth Corner

Sources: Wall Street JournalReutersUPIReuters

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