Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mayflower, AR Tar Sands Dilbit Pipeline Rupture/Spill

link to this:

See also:

UPDATE 4-2-2013: This pipeline is 66 years old. The flow direction used to run from South to North from Texas to Illinois. It sat idle "for a few years", then was brought back into service with the flow direction REVERSED. Dilbit commonly requires operating pressures 1300-1450 psig which is ~160% greater then the operating pressure in 1961.  DETAILS BELOW

UPDATE 2 4-3-2013: TALKING OUT BOTH SIDES OF THEIR MOUTH? Exxon-Mobil is telling the media this is Crude Oil, but telling the government it is Not Crude Oil. Why would they do that? See below.

Update 3 4-4-2013: Pressure anomalies. (see below)

Intro: Mayflower, AR Tar Sands Dilbit Pipeline Rupture/Spill being called "Crude Oil",
like most other Dilbit spills.

Why would this be?

Is it a harmless error? Maybe.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: Tar sands "oil" is not oil at all. It is Bitumen, a highly viscous, semi-solid hydrocarbon more akin to Coal than to "oil". Bitumen actually shatters like solid rock, but flows like a liquid over geologic time. (cf. Wikipedia and Youtube for "Pitch Drop Experiment". Warning, watching this is more dull than watching golf.)

Dilbit LOOKS LIKE CRUDETo an Oil Executive, Dilbit shares many properties of Crude Oil.

It is a broad-spectrum mixture of many types of hydrocarbon molecules.
From Methane (the purest form of "natural gas") which is a C1,
to lighter oils (commonly called "distillates", or "natural gas liquids",
because they can be  distilled from "natural gas")
e.g., Ethane, Propane, Butane, Pentane,
to heavier lubricating oils, gasoline, kerosene, fuel oil,
to soapy diesel, to waxes and paraffin (like petrolatum, i.e., Vaseline),
to the heaviest pitch, asphalt, tar, bitumen.

They may *think* about it like crude oil. But it is not crude oil.

Dilbit (Diluted Bitumen) is a kind of synthetic crude oil, with lots of lighter hydrocarbon solvents added, which is necessary to transport it in a pipeline.

Or, is the media calling Dilbit "Crude Oil" a deliberate coverup?
... to keep the public from understanding A) that this "oil" is really from Alberta Tar Sands?
or b) To keep the public from understanding the unique hazards of Dilbit Pipelines? and c) cleanup of spills?

This ruptured 20-inch pipeline runs 858 miles from Patoka, Ill. to Nederland, Texas, and is called by several names, "Pegasus",  "Exxon Patoka - Corsicana" (NPMS/PHMSA) , and also by the partnership which operates it: Mobil Pipe Line Company (MPLCO). 

NOTE: part of the problem with emergency response is these pipelines often have several different names. 

The pipeline was transporting "Wabasca Heavy Crude" which is a high density, high-viscosity form of Diluted Bitumin (Dilbit) from Alberta, Canada Tar Sands:

Many of the mainstream media are calling this a "crude oil spill", however this is somewhat of a misnomer. It should properly be called Dilbit.

This search of google news produces 11,400 results (calling it Crude or Oil)

Whereas only 2 results for Dilbit: 

Dilbit is a kind of synthetic crude.

This is a very important distinction for the press to get correct for several reasons.

While DILBIT (Diluted Bitumen) is a complex mix of hydrocarbons, similar to crude oil, the basic component is Bitumen, which is more like coal or pitch than like oil. They have to dilute it with all kinds of other lighter hydrocarbon solvents to transport it in a pipeline.

You can even see the chunky nature of the Dilbit... this is not ordinary crude oil. Dilbit has special risks when transported in pipelines. Let's hope the mainstream media starts reporting this correctly, as a DILBIT spill.

Chunky (and nasty) Dilbit Spilll

The important reasons to get this exactly correct are

a) because crude oil and dilbit are REGULATED differently,
b) they have different toxic properties,
c) they have different safety concerns.

For example, due to the high viscosity (and specific gravity) of dilbit, shipping it in a pipeline requires higher pressure and higher heat than ordinary crude oil.  This makes DILBIT PIPELINES especially subject to cavitation, friction, fluid hammer, and piezoelectric effects, which can produce vibrations, resonances, shock, explosions, and weld failures and pipeline ruptures.

PHMSA to study DILBIT pipelines:

Also see: "Kohlhase Effect" e.g.,

Map detail showing route of the "Pegasus" line, also called the "Exxon Patoka - Corsicana line (NPMS/PHMSA) , and also by the partnership which operates it: the Mobil Pipe Line Company (MPLCO) line.

This pipeline was put into service April 2006:


news release

ExxonMobil Pipeline Company Delivers Canadian Crude to Gulf Coast Refineries; Historic 20-Inch Pipeline Reversal Project A First in Industry
HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 20, 2006--Mobil Pipe Line Company (MPLCO), an affiliate of ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, has started delivering Canadian crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast through an 858-mile crude oil pipeline that runs from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas. Deliveries to Beaumont, Texas-area refineries began in early April.

A first for the U.S. Gulf Coast region and Canadian crude producers, the successful completion of the 20-inch Pipeline Reversal Project gives shippers of western Canadian crude oil direct pipeline access to U.S. Gulf Coast refining markets. It also allows MPLCO to optimize a previously under-utilized pipeline to best advantage.

Mike Tudor, president of ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, said, "The 20-inch Pipeline Reversal Project is a win-win for the people of the Gulf Coast and Canada, the crude producers, refiners and ExxonMobil Pipeline. It is also an excellent example of our efforts to maximize the value of our pipeline and terminal assets. Canadian shippers have committed an average volume of 50,000 barrels per day for the next five years, and, in light of the high shipper interest, we anticipate that the pipeline will operate on average near its estimated capacity of 66,000 barrels per day in heavy crude service."

"The project team, from our Business Development group's work with Canadian producers to the engineering and operations activities in the field, did an exemplary job in implementing a project with a unique and valuable niche in the marketplace. The team worked over 240,000 hours, many in challenging winter conditions, without a recordable safety incident and we commend them for their utmost commitment to safety," he added.

The project reversed a 20-inch, 858-mile MPLCO crude oil pipeline that had historically run south-to-north from Nederland, Texas, to Patoka, Illinois. The 648-mile segment from Patoka to Corsicana, Texas, had been idle for several years, while the 210-mile segment from Corsicana to Nederland had been moving predominantly foreign crude north to markets in North Texas and Oklahoma.

The project has also enhanced synergies with Mustang Pipe Line Partners, a joint venture in which MPLCO has a 70% ownership share. Mustang operates a crude pipeline that extends from the Chicago area to Patoka, which allows access to other pipeline systems further north.
CONTACT: ExxonMobil

Brian Dunphy, 713-656-5431

SOURCE: Exxon Mobil Corporation

Overview of Pipelines in Faulkner County, Arkansas. The "A" marker at the bottom center of the image, near where the Red "Pegasus" line crosses a blue natural gas pipeline, is the actual site of the spill. (Map composition from Google Maps and the NPMS / PHMSA public viewer)

Detail. Marker A is site of spill. The blue pipeline is natural gas. The red pipeline is the one that ruptured, called variously, the "Pegasus",  "Exxon Patoka - Corsicana", or the MPLCO.

This is the Northwood subdivision near Starlite Rd. North. Notice the pipeline runs right under some houses in the upper left of the subdivision.


Dilbit Coverup?

Is the Oil+Gas industry deliberately trying to mislead the public and the government by referring to dilbit spills as "Crude Oil"?

Media reports that the Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010 is "Crude Oil" over the correct "Dilbit" by a factor of 4:1. (by using Google matches as a guide).

Yellowstone River July 2011 Dilbit spill called "crude oil" by industry and most media 15:1:

Alberta Red Deer River Dilbit spill June 2012 widely reported to be "Crude oil" over "dilbit" by 10:1 (by using Google matches as a guide).

Alberta Red Deer River Dilbit spill June 2012

March 28, 2013 Minnesota train derailment. Media Reports "Crude Oil" over Dilbit by 1,000:1
Mayflower Arkansas DILBIT spill called "crude oil" by the mainstream news over the correct term by 1:000 : 1. 

Notice the trend. 4:1, 10:1, 1000:1. Media is getting it wrong more often.

Hmmm... Intentional media/corporate coverup? YOU BETCHA!

See also:

UPDATE 4/2/2013 -- Just found the history of this pipeline.  

It's 66 years old, built in 1947. Seems like the Maximum Allowable Operating Pressure was 800 psi. Dilbit typically requires 1300-1440 psi, which is around 160-175% the design pressure.
It used to be operated by the Magnolia Pipe Line Company, and ground first broke June 2, 1947:

It cost $46 million in 1947:,2834674

This line was to supply about 250.000 barrels per day. It was to service the Lubrite Refinery in E. St. Louis. The Strawberry station was automated in 1962 and operated remotely from Dallas. It has a single 900 hp electric motor turning a centrefugal pump and producing an output pressure of from 600-800 psi.
-- Mother of Counties, Lawrence County 1815-2001 History and Families

Dilbit pipelines typically run at 1300-1440 psi. That's around 160-175% the design pressure.
Nearly 2x!

No wonder the thing ruptured.

They basically took and old pipeline which used to ship crude from Texas to Illinois, and reversed the direction in 2006 after it had sat ideal "for a few years".


While 99.5% of the media is repeating what they are being told by Exxon Mobil, that this is a "crude oil spill", the same Exxon Mobil is telling the government the truth, that this is DILBIT, thus exempting them from paying into a fund for the cleanup.

Update 4/4/2013 -- Pressure anomalies

"Exxon Mobil increased the capacity of its 1,381-kilometre Pegasus Pipeline by 50% to about 96,000 barrels a day, the Irving, Tex.-based company said Wednesday in a statement."

Huh, no mention of HOW they were going to do that. No mention of laying new pipe, so they must have accomplished this by increasing pressure. Keep in mind that Dilbit already requires much higher pressure to flow, typically 1300-1400 psi:

Yet, yesterday Inside Climate News reports: "....the agency ordered pressure in the pipeline to be reduced to 656 pounds per square inch once operations are allowed to resume, just 80 percent of the operating pressure of 708 psi moments before the rupture. At the time of the reversal, the pipe was tested at 820 psi."

Dilbit = high pressure (1300-1440psi) + increased capacity by 50% in 2009
does not add up to an operating pressure of 708 psi. 

I smell something fishy. 
Or maybe it's Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

I want to especially thank my friend Leland Snyder for helping me understand chemistry better. Any errors or omissions are mine alone!!

link to this: 


The Weather UNIT said...

Nice post on this story. Very informative:

Mary and Jonathan said...

Great explanation here - thanks so much.

Mike said...

You ask how the pipeline capacity is increased. It is increased by adding more pumping stations.

Mike said...

Pipeline capacity is increased by adding pumping stations. Mobil Pipeline Co added 5 new pumping stations as part of the capacity upgrade project. This doesn't necessarily increase total operating pressure, it just helps prevent pressure drop offs along the line.