LG&E: Coupling failure in Oldham County pipeline blast - WDRB 41 Louisville News

LG&E: Coupling failure in Oldham County pipeline blast

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – An LG&E natural gas pipeline that ruptured in Oldham County in September caused $1.3 million in property damage and other costs, according to the utility's report to federal safety regulators.

The Sept. 17 blast occurred when an excavated carbon steel pipeline “separated from the mechanical coupling,” injuring one worker, LG&E told the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in October.

The utility's report provides new details on the explosion, one of nine pipeline incidents in Kentucky tracked by federal regulators in 2014 because they caused injury or death; property damage greater than $50,000; or large releases of natural gas.

An analysis of the rupture should be complete early next year and, along with other inspections, will determine whether any “proactive” work is needed on the utility's system, spokeswoman Natasha Collins said in an email response to questions.

However, LG&E does not believe the excavation was a contributing factor, she said.

Asked whether there is any reason to believe any underground couplings pose a risk, Collins said, “While nothing is impossible, given the rare occurrence of this type of event, we would not expect to see this type of incident again.”

In all, 100 people were evacuated when the pipeline broke at U.S. 42 near the borders of Jefferson and Oldham counties. The utility's report said the line had been unearthed “so modifications could be made to allow passage of in line inspection tools."

LG&E inspects all 400 miles of its transmission lines annually using methods that include devices sent through pipelines to seek out defects, Collins said. Overall, the utility estimates, these “smart pigs” have traveled through 86 percent, or about 230 miles, of LG&E's dry gas transmission pipeline network.

The Oldham County blast interrupted service to about 2,400 customers, and it took five days to repair the broken line. That work cost the utility $950,000, according to the federal report.

Collins said LG&E'S operations and maintenance budget will cover those costs, which won't be passed on to ratepayers.

With less than a month left in 2014, Kentucky already has recorded its second-highest number of pipeline incidents in the last two decades, trailing only the 11 that happened in 2011, federal data shows.

Pipeline ruptures, leaks and other failures have resulted in $8.5 million in property damage across the state this year – the most since 2005. The costliest incident occurred in September, when a car struck a gas line at a Lexington motel, triggering a fire and explosion that caused more than $4.9 million in damages.

In Adair County, Ky., a gas line blast in February destroyed nearby homes and resulted in $1.8 million in damages. An analysis later found the line had pre-existing cracks where the pipe broke but found no evidence that the cracks grew over time.

A final report from federal regulators hasn't been released.

Documents filed as part of the federal investigation and obtained under public records laws show the line had failed eight times before but only once in the past two decades.

Columbia Gulf Transmission
documented five leaks or ruptures in the 254-mile line between Hartsville, Tenn., and Clementsville, Ky., from 1962 to 1970 caused by routine pressure testing; and three “in-service” failures, with the most recent occurring in Estill County in 2012.

Those findings were included in a report the operator submitted in July as part of the investigation into the failure about 100 miles south of Louisville.

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