Learning About Pipeline Leaks, (Part one of two in a series)
With the recent news about President Trump’s executive orders to move forward with two very disputed pipelines and foreseeing the inevitable upcoming protests from environmentalists, I've decided to find out what causes pipeline leaks.
I've worked in the construction industry for many years, so I'm a little familiar with regular plumbing and possible leak causes. Thus, I imagined that it couldn't be much different in the case of pipelines because it serves the same purpose although it carries a different substance. Sure enough, the three main causes for leaks are corrosion, material/weld failures, and excavation damage.
One would think that all three are preventable to some extent. If an adequate blueprint of the existing pipeline is available, excavation damage can only be the result of poor management in preparing areas for excavation. As homeowners, we all know to "call 811 before you dig," so we don't end up with a broken water line while planting a tree. That's because the city will come and mark where not to dig. If they can do that, then surely someone can figure out where not to dig and break an oil pipeline pipe.
Corrosion - that is simple maintenance..! Pipes will corrode over time. But, the origin of the pipes and quality of the manufacturing can greatly reduce corrosion.
Material/weld failure - Another preventable problem if the right material is used and the correct weld is applied by a skilled welder. At this point I was curious about what type of material we have been using and who was manufacturing it. Could it be that some of the leaks could have been avoided the same way that we could have avoided thousands of homeowners with leaky copper pipes imported from China? Maybe.
So where do we get the materials to build these pipelines? It seems that Sen. Jim Brewster from Pennsylvania (Democrat) found himself asking the same question, and also found the answer for me. In 2015, concerned with the closing of a steel plant in his state, Sen. Brewster decided to find out why the plant was forced out of business. What he discovered was that there was no requirement that drillers use domestic steel, so the oil companies were buying their pipes mostly from Canada, Austria, South Korea, Turkey, Russia and China.
Here's where this gets complicated. Pipelines require different types of pipes, different diameters, thickness, joints, etc., and the standards are different in each country. If an oil company needs let's say five different types of pipes and has to buy them from three different countries and then put them all together, they are then assembling three different types of products that were manufactured slightly different from one another. I'm not an expert on the subject, but it is pretty obvious to me that for maximum safety one would have a stronger joint if the materials being welded together shared exactly the same properties.
Another area to be considered is the quality. My friends in the construction business can verify that materials from China are not only inferior, but have cost builders thousands of dollars in losses and homeowners to even lose their homes. It seems to me that the solution to avoiding future pipeline leaks is not to deprive ourselves of the incredible economic growth that new pipelines could bring, but double down on that growth by having American steel companies produce the high quality materials necessary for the oil companies. Which explains why President Trump signed an executive order to move forward with the XL and Dakota pipelines, but required that American companies produced the pipes.
He might be orange, he might have goofy hair, but there is a lot of knowledge behind everything he does!Add a comment