Exxon to excavate Pegasus crude pipeline to find cause of leak

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Pegasus crude oil pipeline, which was shut on Friday after a leak was detected in Arkansas, will need to be excavated as the company looks to determine what caused the breach, a spokeswoman said.

“I can’t speculate on when excavation will happen,” Kimberly Brasington, a spokeswoman for the company, said in an e-mail. “Excavation is necessary as part of an investigation to determine the cause of the incident.”

The 20-inch pipeline, which originates in Patoka, Illinois, and carries crude oil to the Texas Gulf Coast, was carrying Wabasca Heavy Crude from Western Canada, she said.

About 12,000 barrels of oil and water have been collected so far near Mayflower, Arkansas, after “a few thousand barrels were observed in the area,” the Mayflower Incident Unified Command Joint Information Center, which includes Exxon, Faulkner County and the city of Mayflower, said in a statement Sunday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies any spill of more than 250 barrels as a “major spill,” the command said.

“Crews are steam-cleaning oil from property,” according to the joint statement. No oil has reached Lake Conway, and clean-up crews have deployed 3,600 feet of boom as a precaution, the command said.

Residents affected by an oil pipeline spill in central Arkansas could be displaced for weeks, officials say.

Police called for the evacuation of 22 homes in a Mayflower subdivision after the pipeline ruptured, the Associated Press reported. The AP also said that Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that residents from all but one of the affected homes have complied with the evacuation request.

“This is going to be an extensive and long cleanup,” onsite EPA coordinator Nicolas Brescia told more than 200 people at a community meeting Saturday at Mayflower High School, according to the Democrat Gazette, the AP said. “So there is going to be stages in it. Right now, the goal is to pick up as much free product as they can.

“I can’t tell you how long it’s going to take to clean up all the impacted areas.”