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"Airlines asked not to refuel at Sea-Tac after pipeline closes"
Monday, May 24, 2004
Airlines asked not to refuel at Sea-Tac after pipeline closes
By Tim Booth
The Associated Press
RENTON - Officials are asking airlines not to refuel their planes at
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, after a weekend explosion shut down
the 400-mile pipeline system that delivers the airport's jet fuel.
"We've asked the airlines to, when possible, fly in here with enough fuel on
board to get to their next destination," airport spokesman Bob Parker said
today. "We think we have enough fuel on site to get us through late
afternoon or early evening on Wednesday."
Workers at Olympic Pipe Line Co.'s pumping station in the south Seattle
suburb of Renton heard an explosion Sunday morning and saw 20-foot flames
leaping from a small stainless-steel test line that runs off the main
pipeline. The fire was put out in about three hours, and two leaks were
contained later in the day.
No one was injured, though three firefighters were checked at a hospital
after fuel splashed on them.
Between 3,300 and 10,000 gallons of fuel leaked from the three-quarter-inch
line, with much of it burning, Olympic President Bobby Talley said today.
The cause of the explosion was under investigation.
Olympic's pipeline system moves 12 million gallons of gasoline, diesel fuel
and jet fuel through Western Washington every day - from refineries at
Cherry Point, north of Bellingham, and March Point, near Anacortes, to as
far south as Portland, Ore. A rupture of the main pipeline in 1999 killed
As a precaution, company officials shut down the entire system following
Sunday's explosion. Talley said today that his best estimate was that it
would remain shut down for days.
"This is an isolated incident. ... It's not an integrity issue with the main
line," Talley said. "We're taking every safety precaution necessary to
ensure we understand what the problem is."
While major fuel delivery spots in Portland and at Seattle's Harbor Island
can be reached by barge or truck, the primary way to deliver fuel to Sea-Tac
is through the pipeline, Parker said. The airport had 2.9 million gallons on
hand and typically uses 1.2 million gallons per day.
The airport won't have to close if Olympic takes longer than Wednesday to
restart the pipeline, but airlines will have to be certain that their planes
arrive with enough fuel to reach their next destinations, Parker said.
Environmental officials were trying to determine how much fuel seeped into
the ground, but Talley said a layer of clay underneath the facility should
help contain the spill.
Carl Andersen, with the state Ecology Department, said clean up workers
expected to be able to keep any fuel from reaching nearby Spring Brook
Creek, which has a threatened population of chinook salmon.
Olympic was losing $10,000 in business every hour the pipeline was shut
down, Talley said.
Three people died in June 1999 when a section of the main Olympic pipeline
ruptured in Bellingham, releasing nearly 237,000 gallons of gasoline that
exploded into a fireball along Whatcom Creek.
Shell Oil Co., one of the pipeline owners, agreed to pay $250,000 of a $3
million fine proposed by the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety and the rest of
the fine is being negotiated with Olympic. A wrongful death suit filed by
two families was settled for $75 million. Last year Olympic filed for
reorganization in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding.
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