JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., Aug. 8 (UPI) — Oil and natural gas pipelines along the Missouri River might be vulnerable to scouring by raging floodwaters, officials said.
Exxon Mobil in Montana is looking to reposition a ruptured section of its Silvertip oil pipeline more than 40 feet below the bed of the Yellowstone River. Flood waters there hampered cleanup efforts after a July spill dumped around 1,000 barrels of crude oil into the river.
Officials are warning pipeline operations along the Missouri River that scouring along the bottom of the river from floodwaters might be a danger, The Wall Street Journal reports.
State officials in North Dakota last month found scouring 30 feet deep. Federal law requires pipelines be buried 4 feet below the riverbed.
David Williams, a consultant on river dynamics, told the Journal that problems usually aren’t known until it’s too late.
“Some of the pipes might already be exposed,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in July called on pipeline operators to look into the potential effects of scouring.
The riverbed along some parts of the Yellowstone River is composed of gravel, making it less vulnerable to erosion. The Missouri River, however, is mostly sand.
Robert Jacobson, a river studies scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Missouri, told the Journal “it’s relatively easy to scour.”
There are 41 pipelines that cross the Missouri River from Bismarck, N.D., to St. Louis.