By Brett Michael Dykes
Wed Nov 3, 12:01 pm ET
All eyes remain on BP's actions in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of this year's oil disaster. But a new report suggests the oil giant might be contending with another catastrophe soon enough, as its network of Alaska pipelines appears to be on the brink of failure.
According to ProPublica's Abrahm Lustgarten, a 4-week-old internal maintenance report obtained by the investigative news service reveals that at least 148 BP pipelines on Alaska's North Slope received an "F" grade on the company's own system of upkeep grading. Pipes receive an F when inspectors determine that at least 80 percent of their walls are corroded and at risk of rupture. These pipelines, in Lustgarten's telling, "carry toxic or flammable substances," and "many of the metal walls of the F-ranked pipes are worn to within a few thousandths of an inch of bursting," increasing the likelihood of future spills and/or explosions.
BP inspectors have concluded that "the company's fire and gas-warning systems are unreliable, that the giant turbines that pump oil and gas through the system are aging, and that some oil and waste holding tanks are on the verge of collapse," Lustgarten reports.
In 2006, busted BP pipelines in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, spilled more than 267,000 gallons of oil. Federal investigators fined BP $20 million for the incident, citing the company's failure to heed "many red flags and warning signs." …
"That equipment was designed to last until 1987," said Marc Kovac, a BP mechanic and welder, "and then it was supposed to be pulled out. ... They're going to run everything to failure, which means that everything here's going to be worn down completely by the time they decide they decide to leave." Kovac said he and many co-workers had repeatedly raised these issues with BP's upper management in London but had received no official response. (He explained that his union shielded him from any potential management retribution for speaking out.) …