Company Tests Oil Pipeline That Ruptured in Arkansas

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LITTLE ROCK — A company tested the integrity of a segment of pipeline that has been idle since it ruptured in 2013, spilling 5,000 barrels of crude oil in a Arkansas neighborhood and causing more than $57 million in damage.

The tests that were conducted on the Permian Express pipeline from Wednesday through Friday suggest that pipeline operator Energy Transfer Partners LLC is considering reopening it for the first time since the spill in the Mayflower. But company officials declined to tell the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record when or if it planned to do so.

“We are performing integrity tests to ascertain the status of the pipeline as it has been inactive since 2013,” company spokeswoman Amanda Gorgueiro said in an email. “As with all of our pipelines, these tests are performed per PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazard Materials Safety Administration) regulations.”

The Dallas-based company, which acquired the pipeline in 2016 through a joint venture with Exxon Mobil, notified Central Arkansas Water of the inspection, utility CEO Tad Bohannon said Thursday.

Energy Transfer is not legally obligated to tell the water utility or the public if it tests or reopens the pipeline, but Bohannon said he has been in constant contact with the company and hopes the process will remain transparent.

Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker said the spill greatly affected the Mayflower community, but he believed the pipeline would be regulated enough to ensure safety.

“You always have that concern,” Baker said. “I don’t think it would open without it being serviceable and sound.”

The pipeline, formerly known as the Pegasus Pipeline, stretches from south Texas to Illinois. It runs through 13 miles (21 kilometers) of the Lake Maumelle watershed, which is the largest drinking water reservoir in Arkansas and provides drinking water to about half a million people. It also runs through 20 smaller watersheds in communities across Arkansas.

Exxon owned the pipeline during the spill and is still a minority owner. 

State and federal officials asked Exxon in 2018 to pay more than $1.8 million in compensation for the oil spill.

Exxon settled a lawsuit in 2017 with dozens of families whose properties were damaged.

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