Missouri Highway 15 will remain closed until further notice after a pipeline explosion cooked the oil out of the road early Sunday morning.
The road surface is pitted for about 600 feet, much like a golf ball, said Ron Calvin, Missouri Department of Transportation Maintenance superintendent, in a Tuesday announcement. Nearby residents still have access to their property, but the Audrain County Sheriff’s Department has received MoDOT complaints about vehicles traveling past the barricades. The sheriff’s department is issuing citations to those found past the barricades without MoDOT authorization.
The highway initially closed at about 3 a.m. Sunday morning after a section of the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline ruptured sending out bright jets of fire. The fire cooked out the oil from the 600-foot portion of the road from 50-75 yards away, according to MoDOT and sheriff’s department press releases.
The department is working to reapply asphalt oil and then overlay rock chips, said MoDOT Area Engineer Brian Haeffner. The chip and seal application finished Wednesday. MoDOT is waiting overnight to allow the oil to set up, Haeffner wrote in a text message. The department will inspect the road Thursday morning to see if it can be opened to traffic.
The depth of the damage is unknown at this time and the road surface remains unstable. Some of the pitted holes are 10 inches wide, Calvin noted. A core drilling test to determine the depth of the damage was postponed until Tuesday, Haeffner said.
Energy Transfer Partners L.P., the Dallas-based company which owns Panhandle Eastern, has been marred in recent years by multiple pipeline ruptures. A 2014 notice of proposed safety order from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration noted approximately 13 incidents of a pipeline leak or rupture since 2007. Energy Transfer/Panhandle Eastern entered into a consent agreement in April 2015 with the administration to address safety issues with the pipeline from 2013 and 2014 ruptures near Hughesville and Centerview, respectively.
The notice indicated in its preliminary findings that because of the age of the system, failures “could develop on other areas of the pipeline … (and) without corrective measures would pose a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property or the environment.”
Pipes within the Panhandle Eastern system are more than 30 years old, with some portions as old as 82 years, according to the notice. A majority of the ruptures or gas leaks were due to corrosion — internal or external — of the pipes. A few were due pipe couplings separating.
Emailed and phone inquiries to Energy Transfer regarding safety operations relating to ruptures and pipeline replacement were not immediately returned.
MoDOT inspectors also checked the condition of the nearby Davis Fork bridge, which passed an emergency inspection.
Debris had to be cleared before MoDOT could inspect the road surface. The department is working to obtain materials with which to temporarily fix the road, according to the release. The frigid winter temperatures and potential rain or snow Thursday make repair scheduling uncertain.
“We are hopeful the material will work, but it’s going to be at least another day or so before we will know for sure,” Calvin stated.
Permanent repairs will be made when weather permits. MoDOT is working with Energy Transfer Partners and a contractor to effect permanent repairs.