Federal documents show it took Exxon Mobil nearly twice as long as it publicly disclosed to fully seal a pipeline that spilled roughly 1,000 barrels of crude oil into the Yellowstone River.
Details about the company’s response to the Montana pipeline burst emerged late Tuesday as the Department of Transportation ordered the company bury the duct deeper beneath the riverbed, where it is buried 5 to 8 feet underground to deliver 40,000 barrels of oil a day to a refinery in Billings.
The federal agency’s records indicate the pipeline was not fully shut down for 56 minutes after the break occurred Friday near Laurel. That’s longer than the 30 minutes that company officials claimed Tuesday in a briefing with federal officials and Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
An Exxon Mobil spokesman said the longer time span was based on information provided to the agency by the company and the discrepancy might have come about because Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. President Gary Pruessing was speaking without any notes in front of him when he addressed Schweitzer.
"Clearly our communication with the regulator (DOT) is the one that we’ve got precision on," spokesman Alan Jeffers said.
It was not the first time the company offered clarification of its response and assessment of the spill.
The company also will have to submit a restart plan to the Department of Transportation before crude can again flow through the line.
Schweitzer also ordered a review of pipelines that cross major and minor rivers in the state. Officials will look at the pipes’ age, location of shut-off valves and whether they are similar to the ruptured pipe. He said the state has 88 such crossings.
Modern pipelines can be buried as much as 25 feet beneath bodies of water ; Exxon Mobil’s Silvertip line was 5 to 8 feet below the bottom of the Yellowstone.