The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has asked the UTC pipeline safety program to monitor the safe return of Olympic Pipe Line to normal operation. Last week, PHMSA granted the company's request to remove the operating pressure restrictions that have been in place on the pipeline since the Bellingham incident seven years ago.
In an Oct. 17 letter, PHMSA declared that Olympic Pipe Line had satisfied the requirements of the agency's corrective action order. In July, the pipeline company's president asked that PHMSA remove the 80 percent maximum operating pressure restriction that applies to Olympic's 400 mile pipeline system. This restriction has applied to Olympic ever since the pipeline returned to service in 2001. On June 10, 1999, the Olympic 16-inch pipeline in Bellingham ruptured and spilled 237,000 gallons of fuel into Whatcom Creek. Three people were killed. Following the incident, PHMSA issued a series of orders aimed at correcting all known design, operational, and maintenance factors that may have caused the accident or in any way contributed to the severity of the accident. (See PHMSA site on Bellingham incident)
The Olympic Pipe Line Company, operated by BP Pipelines of North America since July 1, 2000, is a 400-mile interstate pipeline system that includes 12-inch, 14-inch, 16-inch, and 20-inch pipelines. The pipeline runs along a 299-mile main corridor from Blaine, Washington to Portland, Oregon with laterals extending to suppliers and customers. The system transports gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. This fuel originates at four Puget Sound refineries, two in Whatcom County and two in Skagit County, and is delivered to Seattle's Harbor Island, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Tacoma, Olympia and Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon.