PG&E Explores Bankruptcy After Fatal Wildfires and Falsifying Pipeline Safety Records

Following fatal wildfires in 2018 and 2017, California utility company PG&E is exploring filing some or all its business for bankruptcy protection. The company faces billions of dollars in liabilities related to those fires and the California Public Utilities Commission opened proceedings to consider penalties against the company for falsifying pipeline safety records for over five years.

The bankruptcy filing is not certain, however amid all the potential lawsuits, the company is considering the move as a contingency to combat the significant financial charges it would be hit with.

There is a possibility that the company could receive financial help through legislation that would let it pass on to customer’s costs associated with fire liabilities, however bankruptcy preparations are still being made.


Chevron NatGas Pipe Threatened by Fire in California as 4,000 are Forced to Evacuate

Officials have closed an elementary school and evacuated more than 4,000 people after a grass fire threatened an underground natural gas pipeline in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The fire started on Wednesday in Bay Point. According to Chevron, a power line fell and sparked the fire. Chevron operates the pipeline threatened by the fire.

The company quickly cut supply to the gas line, and was working with firefighters to help evacuate the area in case the incident escalates.  

Fire officials said that an elementary school in the vicinity would be closed on Thursday in case something went wrong between the fire and the gas line.

1,400 homes were also evacuated in the area.

Evacuation centers were set up, according to officials.

Chevron indicated that the fire came close to a valve junction for their line, and immediately shut down the gas line and then sent a team to investigate the potential hazards.

Evacuations were issued at around 11pm on Wednesday, affecting a half mile radius around the fire. Officials hopes the issue would be resolved in a few hours and evacuees would be able to return home, although it is still unclear how long it will take to resolve the issue.


Plains All American Controls Fire and Resumes Operations of Wichita Falls Crude Storage Tank

Plains All American Pipeline said on Wednesday that the fire on a crude storage tank east of Wichita Falls, Texas was extinguished. Initially, the company did not specify if other operations were affected by the fire but the terminal and connecting pipelines have resumed operations.

Tuesday morning’s fire broke out on a roof seal of a crude oil storage tank at the Wichita Falls Station and was extinguished around midnight, the company said in a statement.

Wichita Falls is a crude injection point in north Texas along Plain’s Basin Pipeline. It runs from the Permian Basin to the oil storage hub at Cushing, Okla.

The pipeline was flowing at a rate of nearly 409,000 barrels per day at the time it was shut after decreasing in power consumption around 7:00 A.M. ET on Tuesday. It has a capacity of 450,000 bpd.


Flames Break Out at Plains All American Wichita Falls Station

A single crude storage tank at the Plains All American Pipeline Wichita Falls Station broke out into flames on Tuesday morning, the company said.

Personnel and contractors were accounted for, according to the company. It is unclear whether or not there have been any injuries despite first responders being on site.

The company did not specify if other operations were affected by the fire.

Wichita Falls is a crude injection point in north Texas along Plain’s Basin Pipeline. It runs from the Permian Basin to the oil storage hub at Cushing, Okla.

The pipeline was flowing at a rate of nearly 409,000 barrels per day at the time it was shut after decreasing in power consumption around 7:00 A.M. ET, market intelligence firm Genscape said in a notice.

The Basin pipeline has a capacity of 450,000 bpd, Genscape said.

“Plains really hasn’t said much to the shippers so unless it’s going to be shut for a while, I don’t think there’ll be much market impact,” said one trader who buys oil off the pipeline.

Plains did not respond to a request for comment on the Basin pipeline closure.


New Facts Released from Fatal Oklahoma Fire That Killed Five

After a January fire killed five in an eastern Oklahoma drilling rig, federal investigators said on Thursday that more than 100 barrels of drilling fluid poured out of a natural gas well prior to igniting.

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board's lead investigator explained that the volume of fluid should have triggered alarms at the site especially since the 107 barrels of oil is far above the five to 10 barrels of drilling mud outflow threshold that is used to trigger an alarm at oil and gas operations. The alarm would have indicated that natural gas had flooded the well at dangerous levels.

The drilling fluids started pouring from the blowout preventer, used to prevent well explosions, after being pushed out the well by natural gas.

It was unclear how long workers knew of the surge in drilling fluids prior to the actual explosion. The ignition source that led to the explosion is also unknown.

The investigation is still expected to continue for several more months. Interim executive director of the chemical safety board said that the goal was to complete the investigation within 12 to 18 months from the accident.

Houston Chronicle

HCU and FCCU Shut Down at Shell’s Convent Refinery After Sunday Fire

A Royal Dutch Shell 45,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) heavy oil hydrocracker (HCU) and a 92,000-bpd gasoline-producing fluidic catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) both remain shut after a Sunday fire, according to sources familiar with plant operations. The units are both apart of Shell's Convent, Louisiana refinery.

Although the HCU could resume operation after repairs, the FCCU could be shut for up to two weeks as it undergoes repairs to a malfunctioning compressor, the source added.

Shell spokesman Ray Fisher declined to comment on operations at the 209,787-bpd Convent refinery on Monday, although sources say that there have been attempts to restart the H-Oil Unit late on Sunday.

A planned overhaul had the FCCU completely shut since May 30th until last Thursday. Workers were attempting to get products from the unit back into specification. A compressor began malfunctioning leading to the planned overhaul which was intended to keep the unit in operation for an additional five years.



Five People Airlifted to Hospital After Series of Natural Gas Explosions in Midland

Five people have been airlifted to a Lubbock, Texas hospital with critical burn injuries after a series of natural gas pipelines exploded in Midland County, officials said. The cause of the explosion and fire was not immediately known.

Energy pipeline operations were interrupted in the area, which is home to the Permian Basin, and has many oil and gas pipelines intersecting each other.

Kinder Morgan said on Wednesday that it took precautions and isolated a part of its El Paso Natural Gas Pipeline (EPNG) after finding out that there was a fire near its line. One of its employees was taken to the hospital.

Kinder Morgan added that preliminary indications point to a third-party line failure occurring before the EPNG line failure.

After fire department personnel suppressed the initial fire, a second and third explosion followed an hour later. Another injured in the fire was a firefighter.

No further information was immediately available on the people injured.


Landslide Apparent Cause of Rupture and Explosion of West Virginia Pipeline

Columbia Gas Transmission told federal pipeline regulators that the cause of last month’s pipeline explosion in West Virginia was apparently due to a landslide.

The site of the break was at the bottom of a steep hill on Nixon Ridge, south of Moundsville, and exploded after the landslide caused a rupture in the new natural gas pipeline.

No one was injured, and no homes were in danger at the time of the incident that occurred Thursday morning around 4:15 AM, authorities told local news media.

The expected in-service date has been pushed back from early July to the middle of the month as TransCanada, the owner of the Columbia Gas Transmission system, works on repairing the pipeline.

A TransCanada spokesperson said that it could take months or years for federal regulators to complete their investigation of the incident, although “internal findings point to land subsidence as the cause of the rupture.”

The company added on their website that “the weather in the region has continued to create challenging conditions during the remediation process.”

A Reuters analysts said West Virginia was producing about 4.8 billion cubic feet per day of gas near the time of the explosion, which was the same amount as earlier in the week.

The pipeline was not operating above its maximum pressure at the time of the incident.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette