Pipeline under Oologah Lake being inspected


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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 6/18/2013 5:22 pm Published: 6/18/2013 3:49 pm


An oil pipeline that runs through the middle of Oologah Lake is being inspected for repairs.

Oologah Lake happens to be where Tulsa and much of the surrounding area gets the majority of its drinking water, so an oil leak in the pipeline would be disastrous.

The company that owns the pipe, Enbridge, is working on the repairs and told FOX23 there is nothing to worry about.

The pipeline was laid back in 1949, before Oologah Lake was built.

"That was back 50, 60 years ago, so when they're planning for the future I'm sure they really didn't have that in mind: 'how are we going to maintain thispipeline?'" said Corey Dahlin, who works at Enbridge.

It's up to Dahlin to figure out how to do that without destroying the water source. That is no small task on a line that runs 450 miles from Cushing to a refinery in southern Illinois.

"On a typical day we pump about 160 to 200,000 barrels through this line," said Dahlin.

But for the next 10 days,"That line out there is actually isolated with nitrogen and there's no oil flowing whatsoever, so the oil is actually out of this section of the pipe," he said.

During routine yearly testing, last year Dahlin's equipment found an anomaly in a 40-foot section of the pipe under the lake.

Now, he has divers down there trying to figure out what it could be and fix it before it becomes a problem.

"There are no integrity risks or issues currently. So, right now we've been planning this specific job for about, since last fall," he said.

But Enbridge wants to avoid this kind of delicate and complicated procedure again in the future, he told FOX23.

"Plans for future expansion or rerouting are being explored at this moment in time."

Officials did say inspecting and repairing the oil pipeline without causing problems is no small task.

They told FOX23 the hardest part is zero visibility due to the muddy bottom of the lake.

The process began a year ago when testing equipment found an anomaly in the pipe, but they still don't know what the problem is.

“We've gone through all the risks and risk mitigation, and just job safety and planning, and you know, how we're actually gonna tackle this job itself," said Dahlin.

First, they shut the pipe off so zero oil is flowing through.

“We have a working platform, or barge, that's put together and held in place by spud anchors. so that doesn't move during whitecaps or windy weather," he said.

Then, they send divers down to pinpoint where the problem is.

“We'll do a non-destructive testing using ultrasonics underwater," he said.

Then, they have to figure out how to fix the problem.

“A lot of the work that they're doing down there is by feel. And with them being about 25, 30 feet below the surface of the water, it does present some challenges," he said.

These divers have done this before and know these pipes inside and out.

“These guys are experienced, and they know what they're doing down there," Dahlin explained.

They even have a silt curtain surrounding the site to avoid debris from their work spreading to other parts of the lake.

As for the risk to drinking water?

“None… none at this moment in time. Everything’s been planned from the start, and everything's been going very well."

When they started planning this project last September that part of the lake was about 20 feet deep, with recent rains it's now around 30 feet.

Officials plan to have this project wrapped up by the end of July.

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