Wuori on Marshall

Nov 30, 2012 by

Forgive us for this morning’s flurry; it’s just that the latest media effort featuring a couple of Enbridge heavy-hitters—Stephen Wuori, the president of the Liquids Pipelines Division, and Thomas Hodge, Line 6B Project Manager— have got us all on fire. We’ve already discussed Hodge’s dismissive characterization of landowner displeasure (twice now). But we’ve yet to take a look at Wuori’s comments. Partly that’s because the Lansing State Journal doesn’t quote him at all.

In retrospect, that may have been a good idea, because when Wuori does speak (to the Daily Press & Argus) it does not go well. This is what Wuori says about Marshall:

Wuori said the 2010 oil spill has been unfairly represented in the press, namely claims that Enbridge had knowledge of how to prevent the spill but didn’t act on it.

Wuori said the spill was caused by a series of cracks in that section of Line 6B, and that company officials did not have prior knowledge that line break would occur.

This is extraordinary. Two years later and top executives from Enbridge are STILL, as our friend Susan Connolly pointed out yesterday, unwilling to take full responsibility for Marshall? They’re still portraying themselves as victims of unfair treatment by the press? Even if what Wuori says here were true (and we’re getting to that), how can he not recognize that this sort of self-presentation is a very poor way to try and win people over?

But let’s get to the facts. Wuori appears not to have read the NTSB report. We don’t know what “claims that Enbridge had knowledge of how to prevent the spill” he’s talking about, exactly. But we do know what the NTSB says about Enbridge’s knowledge of the series of cracks that eventually caused the pipe to rupture. Let’s review:

Among the NTSB’s most important findings was:

The inadequacy of Enbridge’s integrity management program to accurately assess and remediate crack defects. Enbridge’s crack management program relied on a single in-line inspection technology to identify and estimate crack sizes. Enbridge used the resulting inspection reports to perform engineering assessments without accounting for uncertainties associated with the data, tool, or interactions between cracks and corrosion. A 2005 Enbridge engineering assessment and the company’s criteria for excavation and repair showed that six crack-like defects ranging in length from 9.3 to 51.6 inches were left in the pipeline, unrepaired, until the July 2010 rupture.

In other words, in contradiction to Wuori’s claim, Enbridge DID have knowledge of serious “crack-like defects” in the pipe, the very defects that caused the rupture. Yet they failed to repair them– for FIVE years.

Again, the NTSB:

The Enbridge crack management plan operated under the premise that defects in an aging pipeline with disbonded coating could be managed using a single in-line inspection technology and that prioritization of crack defects for excavation and remediation could be effectively managed through engineering assessments based strictly on the crack tool inspection data.

The program did not account for errors associated with in-line inspections and the interaction of multiple defects on a pipeline. The 51.6-inch-long crack-like feature that eventually led to the Line 6B rupture was one of six features that had been detected on the ruptured segment during an in-line inspection conducted by Enbridge’s integrity management program in 2005. Non-detection and improper classification of the defect are inherent risks when relying solely on in-line inspection data to ensure the integrity of the pipeline, yet for nearly 5 years following the inspection, the integrity management program failed to identify the 51.6-inch crack feature located adjacent to the weld as a threat to the pipeline.

And here are a few more of the NTSB’s findings about Enbridge’s failure to adequately address the crack issue:

Enbridge applied a lower margin of safety when assessing crack defects versus when assessing corrosion defects.

In 2005, Enbridge had no procedure that accounted for the interaction between corrosion and cracking and the potential influence on crack depth reporting.

Enbridge did not have a procedure to account for wall loss due to corrosion when it was evaluating the in-line inspection crack-tool-reported data and was preparing the excavation list.

Enbridge integrity management did not adequately address the effects of a corrosive environment on crack growth rates.

Enbridge’s crack management program and reinspection interval selection is inadequate because it fails to consider all potential crack growth mechanisms that are prevalent in its pipeline.

And this is just a small taste. We encourage you to read it for yourself. Oh, and none of this even addresses the actions of Enbridge following the rupture, like the way they ignored their own safety protocols.

So, did Enbridge “company officials have prior knowledge that line break would occur”? Well, Wuori’s way of putting it suggests that they couldn’t have had a crystal ball– and that’s probably true. So no, maybe they didn’t “know that line break would occur.” But, did company officials know (for five years) that there were serious defects in the pipe? Yes, they did. And did they also know that such defects could, possibly, lead to line break? Certainly. Yet, according to the NTSB, they chose not to take steps necessary to prevent it. These aren’t mere representations in the press; these are the facts discovered by an exhaustive investigation conducted by a federal agency.

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1 Comment

  1. Tar Sands Oil Horrors

    Jeff, your reporting expertise leads us to believe you have missed your calling. And the fact you are volunteering your valuable time is more than admirable.

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