Federal regulators crack down after pipeline caught spewing CO2

Federal regulators are beginning to crack down on a new generation of pipelines that will be crucial to the Biden administration’s plans to capture millions of tons of carbon dioxide to fight climate change.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) suggested Fines were imposed yesterday on the operator of such a pipeline that ruptured in Mississippi, requiring at least 45 people to be hospitalized by 2020. of pipelines to transport captured CO2.

There aren’t many of these pipelines (compared to oil and gas pipelines) in the US yet, which are mainly used by the fossil fuel industry, so it can shoot CO2 into the oil fields to push away hard-to-reach reserves. One of those pipelines ruptured in February 2020, releasing about 30,000 barrels of liquid carbon dioxide that immediately began to vaporize, causing the evacuation of 200 residents in and around the small town of Satartia, Mississippi. Some of those who couldn’t leave in time were left convulsing, confused or unconscious, according to a study published last year by HuffPost and the Center for Climate Research

Pipelines for CO2 transport the gas under high pressure and in a concentration high enough to make it asphyxiating. The CO2 in the pipe that ruptured was also mixed with hydrogen sulfide, but CO2 on its own can still be harmful. About 100 workers a year die from CO2 accidents worldwide† It is heavier than air, allowing a plume of it to sink to the ground and cover a large area. That could also starve vehicles of the oxygen they need to burn fuel, stranding people trying to evacuate or authorities trying to respond to the crisis.

PHMSA proposed $3,866,734 in fines to the operator of the pipeline that broke open in 2020, Denbury Gulf Coast Pipeline, for “probable violations”. After investigating the incident, PHMSA says Denbury failed to report to authorities “at the earliest possible time” after detecting the CO2 emissions. That hindered emergency workers who had to guess what was going on after receiving reports from residents of “a green gas” in the area.

PHMSA too say that Denbury failed to conduct routine inspections and lacked written procedures “for conducting normal operations, as well as procedures that would enable the operator to respond appropriately to emergencies, such as guidelines for communicating with emergency services.” In particular, PHMSA says Denbury was unable to provide documentation to show it has been in consistent contact with local officials about what to do in the event of an emergency involving the pipeline.

A statement emailed to The edge by means of Denbury spokesman Brad Whitmarsh says the company plans to improve monitoring of its pipelines to prevent future problems and “work constructively with all federal, state and local agencies.” The 2020 rupture occurred after heavy rains in the area caused the ground to shift, putting pressure on the pipeline, according to Whitmarsh’s email.

PHMSA says it is in the process of drafting new regulations for CO2 pipelines, including requirements for emergency response and preparedness. There is shockingly little supervision on those pipes, according to a rating commissioned by the Pipeline Safety Trust charitable and advocacy group published earlier this year.

In the meantime, PHMSA posted a advice bulletin urging pipeline operators to plan ahead for risks posed by geo-hazards such as those that caused the Satartia rupture – especially as climate change leads to more extreme weather that could affect soil stability around pipelines.

“As Denbury’s failure in Satartia, MS demonstrates, CO2 emissions can be incredibly dangerous for our communities,” said Bill Caram, executive director of Pipeline Safety Trust in a statement. press release† “The list of proposed new CO2 pipeline projects seems to be growing every week, making it all the more important to immediately modernize our safety regulations.”

The bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year includes roughly: $18 billion for projects that remove carbon dioxide from the air or from flue emissions. Those projects will depend on a new network of pipelines to take the greenhouse gas to places where it can be stored, ostensibly preventing it from warming the planet further. That means the US must solve its pipeline problems if it wants to deal with climate change by capturing carbon dioxide.

SOURCE – www.theverge.com

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