Kinder Morgan, Owner of Illinois Natural Gas Pipeline Co. Where Explosion Occurred, Has Lengthy Record of Pipeline, Workplace Safety Violations

Aug 17th, 2011 | By Mark | Category: Lead Articles, Natural Gas Explosions

NatGas Consulting

An explosion at the Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America, in Herscher, IL, sent five workers to the hospital on Tuesday. The company is owned by Kinder Morgan.

Kinder Morgan, the company that owns the Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America, where an explosion sent five employees to the hospital on Tuesday, has a lengthy record of pipeline and workplace safety violations, according to federal records obtained by NaturalGasWatch.org.

According to one media account, Tuesday’s accident injured the members of a welding crew who were engaged in maintenance operations when a flash fire ignited an explosion.

Kinder Morgan spokesperson Joe Hollier told NaturalGasWatch.org that both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) were conducting investigations into the incident.

“Both agencies are investigating and both investigations are ongoing,” Hollier said. “It wasn’t a pipeline accident, so it’s unclear which agency will have jurisdiction, but we are also conducting our own internal investigation as well.”

Hollier said he did not know when the investigations would be concluded.

Kinder Morgan is a massive company with a convoluted ownership chain that reaches all the way to Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs. On its website, the company bills itself as the country’s second-largest transporter of natural gas, and documents obtained from federal regulatory agencies reveal that this most recent incident is not the first time that Kinder Morgan and its subsidiaries have drawn the scrutiny of federal agencies.

According to records obtained from PHMSA, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners paid a $65,000 fine in connection with pipeline safety violations that were cited in June and July 2010 for the company’s Wink-to-Guadalupe pipeline in Texas. The company was cited for failing to identify and repair a damaged pipeline within 60 days, as required by federal law.

From the initial complaint:

KMEP assessment records show that on March 30, 2009, KMEP completed the discovery of a “60-day condition” on its L304, Wink to Guadalupe 20-inch pipeline in joint number 76440 at odometer reading 309051.91, which is located in an HCA [High Consequence Area]. KMEP records described it as a “deformation anomaly dent-detected w/ metal loss” i.e. a dent with metal loss located on the bottom of the pipeline (6:09 position).

KMEP remediated this “60-day condition” on June 27, 2010; 454 days after KMEP discovered the “60-day condition” and 394 days past the 60-day regulatory deadline.

On Feb. 28, 2011, PHMSA cited Kinder Morgan Pipelines USA for, among other violations, failing to maintain current maps showing pipeline locations, failing to test pipeline safety devices, failing to maintain proper firefighting equipment and failing to adequately inspect its pipelines. PHMSA documents indicate the case is still open.

From the PHMSA Notice of Probable Violation:

Kinder Morgan Pipeline USA (KMPUSA) had not revised their Montana Express Pipeline maps and records, including alignment sheets, since 2003. Interviews revealed that many field personnel are still using their 1998 alignment sheets. Meanwhile, KMPUSA documents all new crossings in their Geographic Information System (GIS), however, they neither had printed maps from the GIS to be used by field personnel, nor did field personnel have access to the GIS. Making construction records, maps and operating history available for safe operation and maintenance is a regulator’s requirement under §195.402(c)(1). To this end, an operator must maintain their maps and records so they are current.

KMPUSA did not inspect and test overpressure safety devices at the Wild Horse pump station at intervals not exceeding 15 months, but at least once each calendar year. The Wild Horse station in Canada is operated by another operator, Kinder Morgan (Canada, Inc.), but, it provides the sole pressure and overpressure protection for the US segment of the Express Pipeline from the Canadian Border to Faulkners Coulee pump station. KMPUSA did not have evidence to demonstrate that Kinder Morgan (Canada, Inc.) tested or inspected pressure control devices at the Wild Horse pump station.

KMPUSA did not know if they maintained adequate firefighting equipment at its Montana facilities. The potential for inadequate fire equipment existed because KMPUSA failed to distribute tactical fire fighting preplans for their pump stations and breakout tanks to localfirefighting organizations. These tactical preplans describe equipment and products needed for fighting fires at KMPUSA facilities. These preplans are critical for an operator to ensure they have adequate fire fighting equipment at each pump station and breakout tank area for their staff and local firefighters to use. KMPUSA plans to distribute fire fighting preplans and coordinate with the local fire fighting entities this fall to ensure they have the proper equipment, foam product, and training. Determination of adequate fire equipment at each pump station and tank are not complete.

Kinder Morgan bills itself as the country's second-largest transporter of natural gas and has an extensive network of pipelines that criss-cross the country.

In addition, the PHMSA also cited Kinder Morgan Liquid Terminals LLC on May 11, 2011 for multiple pipeline safety violations in connection with a 2009 accident at the company’s Perth Amboy, New Jersey facility that resulted in a spill of approximately 6,800 gallons of fuel oil.

PHMSA is seeking $425,000 in fines as a result of the accident. The case is considered open according to PHMSA documents.

Kinder Morgan also has a lengthy record of OSHA violations.

According to documents obtained by NaturalGasWatch.org, Kinder Morgan and its subsidiaries have been cited for 45 violations of workplace safety regulations since 2006, including 35 “serious” violations, which OSHA characterizes as a violation that is “likely to cause death or serious harm” to the employee.

Kinder Morgan and its subsidiaries have paid nearly $55,000 in fines in connection with these violations.

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3 Comments to “Kinder Morgan, Owner of Illinois Natural Gas Pipeline Co. Where Explosion Occurred, Has Lengthy Record of Pipeline, Workplace Safety Violations”

  1. [...] to a pipeline failure, it’s worth noting that the company’s owner, Kinder Morgan, has a lengthy record of pipeline and workplace safety violations. Investigators from both the Occupational Safety and [...]

  2. Mike H. says:

    Take a look at this site:

    http://kindermorganwatch.org/

    KM has had many issues before.

  3. [...] Since then, they have had a number of unfortunate incidents including the Burnaby oil spill in 2007, two oil spills at their Sumas Mountain pump station in Abbotsford and a fire at the Cherry Point refinery in Washington state. In fact, in the short lifetime of the company Kinder Morgan has acquired what has been described as “a lengthy record of pipeline and workplace safety violations.” [...]

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