Federal regulators began making oil and gas companies aware that cast-iron pipelines should be phased out and replaced because of their tendency to corrode and create leaks as far back as 1973. Fast forward almost 40 years to 2011 to a Texas family being critically injured when a natural gas-fed explosion destroyed their Oak Cliff home.
The culprit was an aging, cast-iron pipeline owned and operated by Atmos Energy. The company was cited by regulators after the pipeline explosion for not having a plan to remove and replace over 800 miles of cast-iron pipeline.
Dallas neighborhoods have seen the majority of the 2300 pipeline repairs logged by Atmos Engery with the Texas Railroad Commission in the last four years. The Oak Cliff explosion was tracked to a 19-inch fracture in a cast iron natural gas pipeline in the alley. The pipeline had probably been leaking for sometime before the dangerous explosion.
Cast-iron pipes are a ‘perfect storm’ for pipeline explosions, according to one expert interviewed by WFAA. The cast-iron pipes are likely to corrode, pit and generally break down, leaving the potential for fatal and serious pipeline explosions anywhere the cast-iron lines remain in place. In the Dallas explosion, the pipeline was found to have roots growing through the piping.
Atmos refuses to disclose the exact locations in which its pipelines are still cast iron. The only information that is available is where explosions, leaks and repairs have previously occurred that involve cast-iron natural gas pipelines.
Houston has been a cast-iron-pipeline-free city since the early 1990s. Former energy company Entex took the federal regulator’s warnings seriously and removed and replaced all any cast-iron pipelines.
Source: WFAA, “Hundreds of miles of gas lines corroding, experts warn,” February 19, 2013