Floods Responsible for NGL Leak into Missouri River?

Trucks abandoned in Iowa’s rural Missouri Valley on June 17th, 2011. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service employees must stay on call all summer in case levies need to be built. (image: ibtimes.com)

An Enterprise Products Partners pipeline carrying natural gas liquids leaked approximately 140,000 gallons of fuel into an Iowa section of the Missouri River on Saturday, according to a Reuters report.

Enterprise spokesman Rick Rainey said controllers detected a drop in pressure in the pipeline between Nebraska and Iowa early Saturday morning and immediately shut it down. The pipeline typically transports 33,600 barrels of NGLs every day. It’s part of Enterprise’s mid-America, 2,800-mile network serving propane markets, refineries, and the petrochemical industry throughout the Midwest.

Though the Environmental Protection Agency has yet to respond, a federal pipeline regulator was dispatched to Burt County, Nebraska to oversee the leak.

Enterprise still hasn’t determined exactly what caused the problem. Corrosion, scouring, and equipment malfunctions have all been speculated, but some officials believe debris and floating material carried by floodwaters may have damaged the pipeline. The Missouri River basin is prone to severe flooding during spring and summer months.

The cleanup process began shortly after the leak was discovered, but natural gas liquids are difficult to detect, even in huge amounts.

“So far, the company has recovered 3,000 gallons of product from the pipeline, and has started a vacuum process looking to recover more mix of gasoline and water,” said Kathy Lee, from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Because we have not seen it floating on the river, it’s possible that a lot of it has volatized or evaporated.”