| Connect Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook
About | Subscribe | Advertise


Download our free Blasting Resource Guide eResource Book

Paint and Coatings Industry News

Main News Page

Pipeline Blast Tied to Coating Failure

Friday, February 24, 2012

More items for Program/Project Management

Comment | More

Coating failure is being blamed in part for pipeline corrosion that led to a massive natural-gas explosion in Alabama in December.

The blast at 3:07 p.m. Dec. 3 in Sweet Water could be heard for more than 30 miles, causing a 90-minute blaze that burned eight acres of pine forest. Reports said flames were nearly 100 feet high. The pipeline was shut down immediately, and no injuries were reported.

 2008 pipeline explosion in Appomattox, VA


More than 1,100 feet of smoking ground surrounds the site of a 2008 pipeline explosion in Appomattox, VA. That blast—like one in December in Alabama—was blamed on external corrosion.

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is investigating the blast, along with pipeline owner Williams-Transco. Transco is one of three pipeline systems operated by Williams Gas Pipeline Company.

However, the company’s “analytical reports” have already blamed corrosion for the explosion.

“Extremely corrosive soil conditions, combined with failures in the pipeline’s protective coating and cathodic protection system ultimately weakened the pipe, causing it to rupture,” Williams spokesman Chris Stockton said in a statement.

Problem ‘Not Recognized’

The company did not say exactly why it had not spotted and addressed the corrosion earlier.

“Although we have systems and processes in place to prevent and identify corrosion, our investigation indicated there were multiple factors working in conjunction that led to this problem not being recognized,” Stockton said.

The line was smart-pigged in early October, but Transco had not yet received those data from the vendor when the rupture occurred, Cindy Ivey, manager of public outreach for Williams, said earlier.

Corrective Action Order

Stockton said Williams-Transco had made “significant changes to our corrosion control program” since the explosion to prevent a recurrence.

“These changes are designed to more closely monitor levels of pipeline protection from corrosion, assure a higher degree of protection equipment uptime, and provide higher standards for levels of corrosion protection,” he said. “We are also continuing our investigation into this failure to better enhance our corrosion control procedures in the future.” 

 Flames rise over Sweet Water, AL, on Dec. 3 after a pipeline rupture
Flames rise over Sweet Water, AL, on Dec. 3 after a pipeline rupture. Coatings failure contributed to the explosion, the pipeline owner says.

The company has been working under a PHMSA Corrective Action Order since the blast. That order details a list of actions required before the pipeline is returned to service. Stockton said Williams-Transco was also “taking steps above and beyond regulation to ensure our pipeline is safe.”

He said the pipeline had been smart-pigged again, to check for other areas of corrosion, metal loss and any other anomalies. After that, he said, the line will be hydrostatically tested at pressures above normal operating pressure.

Previous Corrosion Problems

The statement says Transco will “do our best to learn from this incident,” but the company has been in trouble over pipeline corrosion before.

In April 2010, a 24-inch-diameter Transco line built in 1949 leaked near Kingston, TX. The leak was not reported to PHMSA for four days, due to permissions required to excavate the line, which was on private property.

Ultimately, that leak was traced to Microbiologically-Influenced Corrosion (MIC), as well as degraded, damaged coal tar coating at the leak site. In the end, Transco had to replace 30 feet of pipeline to make the repair.

VA Explosion

In September 2008, a Transco 30-inch diameter pipeline dating from 1955 ruptured in Appomattox, VA.

The blast ripped a 32-foot section of pipe from the ground and scorched more than 1,100 feet of surrounding ground.

Five people were injured, 23 families were evacuated, two homes were destroyed, and four others were damaged. The property damage exceeded $3 million.

That blast was also laid to external corrosion, which caused 40% pipe wall loss.

PHMSA eventually fined Transco $952,500 for corrosion control lapses that led to the accident—the first major fine the agency had issued in several years.

The notice of probable violation says Williams violated a provision for buried lines installed before Aug. 1, 1971, that requires cathodic protection of externally coated pipelines.

“Williams did not maintain cathodic protection sufficient to control corrosion along the entire coated pipeline as evidenced by its corrosion record showing low pipe-to-soil readings for Line B in the vicinity of the rupture site,” the notice reads.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Coal tar epoxy; Coating failure; Corrosion; Explosions; Pipelines

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (2/28/2012, 2:40 PM)

Interesting that over two months later, Williams did not have the "smart pigging" results. Does it really need to take that long to get (presumably digital) results?

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Armakleen Company, The
ARMEX when nondestructive cleaning is critical

The gentle physical propriety of baking soda but yet aggressive cleaning ability is what makes ARMEX the only choice for nondestructive abrasive blasting.

SAFE Systems, Inc.
Custom blast rooms
by SAFE Systems

Don't waste time and money "making do" with a "standard" design. Let us work with you to design and build the
system that best fits
your requirements.
Call 1-800-634-7278

U.S. Zinc
Historic Reliability. Innovative Performance.

As an industry leader with an established global footprint, we provide the products that prolong the life your paints and coatings. U.S. Zinc – Helping the world work™

Termarust Technologies
Termarust (HR CSA) Chemically Stops
Active Corrosion

Pipeline Utility Aerial crossings coated since 1992. Termarust's (HR CSA) was used to overcoat lead paint and preserve cables, pipes and support towers.

LS Industries
LS Blasters: Optimum Steel Cleaning Efficiency

Simplify surface prep with the precise shot control of LS Blasters. Our blast technology delivers optimum coverage and finish. 800-533-8008

HoldTight Solutions Inc.

Our HoldTight®102 salt remover & flash rush inhibitor prevents flash rust by removing surface contaminants.
Contact us for your nearest distributor. (800) 319.8802

Advanced Recycling Systems

Recycling Machines, Dust Collectors, Rapid Deployment units are time-tested and approved for the rugged industrial environment. Contact ARS today!

GMA Garnet USA
GMA Garnet™
Natural Abrasives

- Superior cleaning
- Even Profile
- Low Dust
- Cost-Effective
- Environmentally friendly
- Recyclable up to 5 times
Tel : +1 832 243 9300

Absolute Equipment/Grand Rental Station
Portable Power from Absolute Equipment

•Lighting Systems
•Light Compaction
Sales • Rental • Service
Call 1-866-931-6655
Over a century of
providing excellence.

Technology Publishing

The Technology Publishing Network

The Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings (JPCL) PaintSquare
Durability + Design Paint BidTracker

EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
MORE:      About   |   Privacy policy   |   Terms & conditions   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us

© Copyright 2000-2015, Technology Publishing / PaintSquare, All rights reserved
2100 Wharton Street, Suite 310, Pittsburgh PA 15203-1951; Tel 1-412-431-8300; Fax 1-412-431-5428; E-mail