Houston operator of ruptured gas pipeline fined in 2011 inspection

Gregory Ebel, President and CEO of Spectra Energy, talks about the Texas Eastern Transmission which has 9,200 miles of pipeline connecting the Gulf Coast to Northeast United States on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012, in Houston.  Gregory Ebel, President and CEO of Spectra Energy, is featured in a Business Q&A  ( Mayra Beltran / Houston Chronicle )
Gregory Ebel, President and CEO of Spectra Energy, talks about the Texas Eastern Transmission pipeline connecting the Gulf Coast to Northeast United States on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012, in Houston. ( Mayra Beltran / Houston Chronicle )

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Federal inspectors found several violations during their most recent review of Spectra Energy’s Texas Eastern Transmission system, which includes the pipeline that burst last month in the Arkansas River.

Spectra Energy was cited during the 2011 inspection for three violations, including failure to inspect sections of pipe for corrosion, and was required to pay a civil penalty of $134,500, according to reports by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The 24-inch pipeline ruptured May 31, and roughly 4 million cubic feet of natural gas flooded in the river.

The auxiliary line is part of the company’s Texas Eastern Pipeline, which transports fuel from Texas to New Jersey. The company provides gas to CenterPoint Energy in the Little Rock area.

The company closed the main pipeline while crews work to determine how the backup was damaged. Spokesman Phil West told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the company isn’t prepared yet to say what caused the rupture.

The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration between February and December in 2011 inspected facilities and records related to sections of the Texas Eastern Transmission line that run through Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico.

The inspections found Spectra Energy didn’t check the internal surface of “removed sections of pipe for evidence of corrosion.”

Regulations require pipe to be checked for corrosion when it’s removed from a line for any reason. The sections of pipe that were removed were from part of the line that runs outside of Arkansas.

Federal officials also issued two citations to the company for not following its own written procedures for operations, maintenance and emergencies. One involved pipe monitoring at a compressor station at a location outside of Arkansas, and the other was for failure to conduct annual valve inspections.

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