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Environment & Energy

Federal Pipeline Agency Issues Warning Letter To Shell For Falcon Project

Reid R. Frazier
StateImpact Pennsylvania
A construction site of Shell's Falcon Pipeline in Beaver County as the line was being built in August 2019.

The federal agency in charge of pipeline safety issued a July 16 warning letter to Shell for safety problems on a pipeline that will feed its Beaver County ethane cracker.

In August 2020, inspectors from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) examined a section of the Falcon pipeline, which will carry natural gas liquids to the plant.

The agency alleged Shell committed two “probable violations” by failing to place pipeline sections at a construction site in Beaver County on protective padding.

The maximum penalty allowed under the law would have been $225,134 per violation, per day. However, the agency chose not to issue a fine. Instead, it ordered the company to correct the alleged deficiencies.

In a letter to PHMSA, Shell says the two infractions were isolated, and that it’s inspected the 97-mile pipeline, which goes through Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, multiple times. This included one final inspection, known as a “jeep,” before the entire length was lowered into the ground. It says it will perform a full safety check on the line in two years, ahead of the five years mandated by federal regulations.

The pipeline had previously been the subject of scrutiny from PHMSA in a separate case. A whistleblower complaint in 2019 alleged contractors working on the pipeline used defective corrosion coatings. But PHMSA ended that investigation — which was not related to the recent warning letter — without issuing any penalties against Shell.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.