A natural gas pipeline running through Washington state was closed Wednesday for inspection after two ruptures last weekend caused explosions and fires.
After briefly reopening the line following repairs, Northwest Pipeline Corp. shut down the 26-inch-diameter pipeline from Sumas, at the Canadian border, 260 miles south to Washougal at the border with Oregon, spokesman John Nicksich said late Wednesday.
The pipeline is expected to be closed at least two days, and utilities and major businesses in Washington and Oregon that rely on it for natural gas - from Washington Water Power to Boeing Co. - will be affected, said Susan Flaim, Northwest Pipeline communications and community relations manager.
“We are working very closely with our customers to minimize the impacts,” Flaim said. “What the exact impact is, we just don’t know.”
Some of Northwest Pipeline’s customers have alternate natural gas sources, she said. She did not know how many had such resources.
Ground and helicopter crews were to begin checking for land movements along the line today, Nicksich said. The survey will take two to three days.
The Salt Lake City-based company voluntarily agreed to the shutdown after discussions with officials of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Pipeline Safety, Nicksich said.
The company and office “have concurred that a key factor in both pipe ruptures was stress on the pipeline created by land movement,” Nicksich said.
“We believe the unusual land movement we have been experiencing is the direct result of the record rainfall we’ve had in the Northwest,” Flaim said.
A state investigator earlier said a decades-old faulty weld may also have contributed to one of the ruptures.
A rupture Saturday night near Everson, five miles from the Canadian border, exploded into flames that were visible for miles. On Sunday night, a breakage in the same line near Kalama, 10 miles south of Longview, caused a similar explosion and fire. Nobody was hurt in either break.
The lines were then repaired and restarted. The Everson section was operational Wednesday morning but was kept at a lower pressure to relieve possible stress on the line. The Kalama section was returned to service Tuesday night.
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