On Monday, July 4, at approximately 9:30 p.m. ET, Colonial Pipeline Company responded to a report of a petroleum odor in the area of Sugarlimb Road in Loudon, Tenn., near Colonial’s Sugarlimb Trap Site. Upon inspection, Colonial resources identified a gasoline release within the facility due to a valve failure.
How did it happen?
At this time, Colonial and its partners are focused on response efforts. The safety of our employees and our community and the protection of the environment are our top priorities.
We have replaced the valve and will conduct a full investigation, working with our regulators as needed, to determine the cause of the release. We will learn more as we continue to work through this incident.
Has the leak been stopped?
Colonial safely shut down Line 18 and removed the valve, stopping the release. Repairs were completed within 24 hours and the affected pipeline safely resumed normal operation at 8 p.m. on July 5 to transport petroleum products from Atlanta to Knoxville, Tennessee. Colonial and our response partners are monitoring conditions. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.
How much fuel leaked?
Colonial estimates that the amount of approximately 591 barrels (24,822 gallons) were released from the pipe. This is an initial procedural estimate based on assumed factors like the size of the pipe and flow rate at the time of the release; however, there are other factors that could have affected the amount as well.
What are you doing to protect people and the environment?
Protecting the community and the environment are Colonial’s top priorities. We are deploying all necessary resources to minimize any potential impacts. Since we were notified of the release, Colonial has been monitoring water and air quality around the site to ensure the safety of the public and response personnel.
Colonial has successfully implemented proactive measures to protect the closest surface waters, Hubbard Branch and the Tennessee River. Product has not been detected in water to date.
As of July 7, 2022, Colonial has installed several underflow dams, multiple boom deployments in Hubbard Branch and is monitoring the Tennessee River specifically as part of the response process.
Surface and well water sampling is underway and will continue after any qualifying storm events.
These are precautionary measures, and we continue to monitor the situation closely as we work with local and state resources.
Was anyone injured?
Employees, contractors and the public are safe. Colonial currently has more than 100 employees and contractors responding to the event. Heat and storms continue to be a factor in response. Colonial has implemented a heat injury and illness prevention program, brought in cooling trailers and fans, and additional team members to allow for appropriate rest.
What will Colonial do to prevent this from occurring in the future?
Colonial will work with our regulators and industry partners to study this incident and determine the cause. We will take learnings from our investigations and implement measures in the future to help prevent an incident of this nature from happening again.
As part of our System Integrity Management Program, Colonial regularly inspects its pipeline system using the latest technology and completes repairs when we have data indicating it’s necessary. A thorough analysis will be conducted and the appropriate actions will be taken.
Can you be more specific on what improvements you have made or lessons learned from your incident?
We are continuously evaluating opportunities to improve. Colonial Pipeline functions under the guidance of a “Safety Management System.” As part of this system, we employ a process known as “Plan, Do, Check, Adjust.” Below are a few examples of improvements we’ve made:
- Operational Controls – Management of Change: Colonial has developed a process that ensures everyone is aligned, procedures are complete, and everyone has been trained before making a change to the system.
- Competence, Awareness, and Training: Our team has implemented an integrated approach to training new employees that includes on-the-job training, skill checks, and hands-on operator qualification, including performance verification requirements.
- Incident Evaluation, Investigation, and Lessons Learned: We have focused on increased reporting of potential risks by employees and contractors. This information allows us to be more proactive by identifying trends and risks early so we can implement a solution before an incident occurs.
- Safety Assurance: We implemented a behavior-based safety observation program to make process improvements system-wide. We also use this information to develop timely content for safety communications.
Additionally, Colonial Pipeline invests substantial resources in maintaining and monitoring the pipeline system. From precise design and construction standards to sophisticated computer monitoring and other leading-edge technologies, maintaining the safety of Colonial’s pipelines is an area of constant focus for the company.
Using technology similar to ultrasounds and MRIs found in doctors’ offices and hospitals, our “smart pig” data and analytics keep our pipelines in top operating condition. We run comparative analysis of the data, and, if necessary, schedule proactive maintenance.
Safety remains our number one priority in this event– and in everything we do at Colonial Pipeline.
Who is Colonial Pipeline?
Colonial Pipeline Company, founded in 1962, connects refineries – primarily located in the Gulf Coast – with customers and markets throughout the Southern and Eastern United States through a pipeline system that spans more than 5,500 miles. The company delivers refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, home heating oil, and fuel for the U.S. Military. Colonial is committed to safety and environmental stewardship across its operations. More information about Colonial is available at www.colpipe.com.