Q&A with ExxonMobil Pipeline Company executive Karen Tyrone

ExxonMobil Pipeline Vice President and Operations Manager Karen Tyrone (photo by the Log Cabin Democrat)

Communications from Exxon company officials close to the Pegasus Pipeline rupture that resulted in a large crude oil spill in residential Mayflower's Northwoods subdivision have typically been through media release, city and county officials, and the Mayflower Incident Unified Command.

Three months after the initial spill response, ExxonMobil Pipeline executive Karen Tyrone answered questions posed by the Log Cabin Democrat on the company's role in the spill and its work to recover the community of Mayflower, including the status of Northwoods residences showing signs of oil beneath their foundations. Tyrone, the company's vice president and operations manager, returned to the area Wednesday to review cleanup work and to meet with government officials on the subject of the spill, she said. While some areas of Mayflower are in what Tyrone calls "remediation," the actual neighborhood where the pipeline spilled thousands of barrels of oil is still in the "recovery" phase. Tyrone explains remediation means there is no free standing oil left to clean. Recovery is ongoing in the Northwoods neighborhood, she said, because some residences haven't been cleared for reentry. Tyrone said a couple of the 22 families evacuated have returned home, and many are in the first steps of the process of selling their homes to Exxon.

Log Cabin Democrat: Where is Exxon in their part of handling the spill?

Karen Tyrone: We're into the phase that is past free oil cleanup. As a unified command we've moved from response to remediation in the cove and the drainage channels that lead through Northwoods and into the cove. That's officially in remediation. And for the (Northwoods) neighborhood we're in response mode and under the unified command process because we still have some people out of their homes and impacted homes requiring further remediation and decisions to be made.

LCD: What are the plans for the pipeline that ruptured? Will you move or repair it?

KT: The site that was the source of the release has been repaired and we've excavated and replaced it with a new piece of pipe. The piece that was removed was sent to Hurst, Tex. for metallurgical evaluation, and until we get those results back we won't know what the final restart plan would be. We won't restart it until it's safe to do so and PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) says it's O.K. to do so.

LCD: Is there a retirement age for this pipeline?

KT: There is not a retirement age. Age alone does not determine the integrity of a pipeline.

Tyrone said the company has a piece of inspection equipment, sometimes referred to as a smart pig, that ran through the rupture site in February.

The smart pig devise goes inside the pipe and can do a lot of things. It can clean the pipe for you, help you change products if needed, but it can also be a sophisticated electronic device to collect a lot of data in the pipelines. The smart pigs can be in-line inspection toolsto detect if the life of the pipeline is in jeopardyif it is starting to have a problemor if there is something you need to address.

Click here for the entire interview from the Log Cabin Democrat.