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I am from Guadalupe, CA and I was wondering how we can fix pipes from leaking to prevent the disaster that happened to my hometown.
Question Date: 1999-01-25
Answer 1:

Several things have already been done to prevent pipes from leaking. Some pipes have two walls, an inner wall that the oil moves through and an outer wall that prevents the oil from escaping if the inner wall breaks. This pipe is mostly used at gas stations. I'm not sure if it is used in oil productions fields. Another thing that has been done is that oil companies keep track of the pressure on the pipes. If a pipe leaks, the
pressure drops and the operators know that something is wrong so that they can stop the flow of oil in the line and keep a lot of oil from escaping. This doesn't stop pipeline breaks, but it does prevent the break from creating an environmental disaster.

Answer 2:

I am not familiar with the specifics of how that leak occurred in Guadalupe.However, general considerations that should be taken into account are location of pipes relative to storm runoff and sites of erosion, and wave action. You wouldn't want to have your pipes in an area that is not stable, for example in areas where there is a lot of erosion occurring due to runoff from rainstorms. Also, there should have probably been tighter controls on pipe leakage. For example, if the pipes were physically checked often then a little leak would be noticed before it turned into a big leak.

Answer 3:

I will suggest several things that can be done. Keep in mind that the problem is not just that pipes leak but that pipes GO ON LEAKING FOR A LONG TIME. Sometimes this happens because no one knows about it. Sometimes it happens because people in the oil company DO know about it but they ignore it. This is what happened in Guadalupe. So here is what we can do:

1) Make laws that require oil companies to use very good quality pipe
2) Make laws requiring that oil companies have monitoring systems in
place so that they can detect leaks when they occur
3) Impose heavy fines or lawsuits on companies that ignore leaking pipes
to encourage them to pay attention to their leaks.
I don't know if these are really good ideas or not, but they make sense to
me, and I have a geology degree and know a little bit about the Guadalupe
leak. Maybe you would have even better ideas!

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