Industry News

USDOT RESPONDS to Colonial Pipeline Disruption

As part of the Biden Administration’s continuing assessment of the impacts of the May 7 ransomware cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline system, which resulted in fuel supply shortages for the East Coast and parts of the Southeast, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) released a statement on May 11 highlighting the response.

• The Federal Railroad Administration canvassed rail operators to determine their capacity to help transport fuel from ports inland.

• USDA started the work needed to enable consideration of a “temporary and targeted waiver of the Jones Act.” The Jones Act, a section of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, requires merchandise being transported by water between U.S. points be shipped aboard vessels that are U.S built, U.S. citizen owned, and registered in the U.S. The Maritime Administration initiated a survey of Jones Actqualified vessels to begin the process of evaluating what assets are available to carry petroleum within the Gulf and from the Gulf up the Eastern Seaboard.

• The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is taking steps to create more flexibility for motor carriers and drivers, issuing a temporary hours-of-service exemption for those carrying gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined petroleum to the District of Columbia and 18 affected states.

• The Federal Highways Administration tracked states that have issued emergency declarations to include weight waivers for trucks on state roadways.

• The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration assisted in Colonial Pipeline’s efforts to get Line 4 up and running “on a manual basis and is continuing to support efforts to ensure safe movement of fuels manually while efforts were being made to restore the system’s operation.”

Texas Company Receives $1 Million Fine

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company of Texas pleaded guilty in June to a federal Clean Water Act violation and agreed to pay a $1 million fine for damaging a pipeline that leaked more than 5,000 gallons of oil in a Louisiana bay in 2016.

Prosecutors said in a document accompanying the plea agreement that an employee of a subcontractor for Great Lakes struck a pipeline while operating a “marsh buggy” excavator vehicle during work on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration project to restore a barrier island. The oil spilled into Bay Long, south of New Orleans

PAPA Announces New Executive Director

The Pipeline Association for Public Awareness announced in May that Kesley Tweed has assumed the role of Executive Director. Tweed has more than 10 years of experience in the pipeline industry managing various large scale public awareness programs. Her experience also includes: public awareness consulting, community relations, media relations, social media strategy, crisis communications, external communications, and has held leadership positions on several industry committees.

Samuel Ariaratnam Earns ASCE Pipeline Engineering Award

Samuel Ariaratnam, a professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, was recently named this year’s winner of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Stephen D. Bechtel Pipeline Engineering Award. Ariaratnam is only the sixth academic to receive the accolade in the 50 years it has been presented.

Ariaratnam, who serves as chair of the Fulton Schools construction engineering program, is among the leading experts in the development of trenchless construction methods and technologies used in underground construction. He is particularly prominent in the area of horizontal directional drilling, which enables subterranean building and installation to be done with minimal disturbance to the surface.

For years, Ariaratnam has been working with contractors, public agencies and construction manufacturers on how to best engineer ways to do underground installation of oil, gas and electrical lines, water infrastructure and other public utility systems without eroding fragile landscapes, digging up or shutting down roadways or disrupting busy urban core areas.

Ariaratnam is past chairman of both the International Society for Trenchless Technology (ISTT) and the ASCE Pipelines Division. He is a recipient of the ASCE John O. Bickel Award, Pipeline Division Award of Excellence and 2012 Trenchless Technology Person of the Year.


(Las Cruces Sun News) – Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) was recently recognized for their commitment to safety by the American Public Gas Association (APGA). LCU was given the prestigious APGA System Operational Achievement Recognition Silver Award for excellence in operating its natural gas system. The company received the Bronze Award last year.

“LCU consistently demonstrates a commitment to providing natural gas safely and efficiently to all those in their community and as such, serves as a model for all other natural gas utilities in the country,” said APGA President and CEO Dave Schryver.

LCU’s safety protocol includes daily 10- to 15-minute tailgate sessions for all field workers and quarterly meetings that review training in fire extinguishers, excavations, respiratory, traffic control and pipeline purging. In addition, every staff member must complete 30 hours of OSHA training every other year.

Norfield Development Partners Names Christopher LeBlanc as new CEO

Norfield Development Partners, a leading provider of software and services to the damage prevention industry, announced in June that Christopher LeBlanc has been named Chief Executive Officer (CEO). With more than 20 years of C-level operational and strategic leadership experience, LeBlanc has spearheaded and launched multiple organizations and technologies throughout Europe and Silicon Valley.

“Chris is the right leader for Norfield and the Board of Managers, and I am delighted to have him join the team,” said Jim Schwilk, Norfield’s Chairman of the Board. “Chris’ extensive background in technology and global experience coupled with his outstanding interpersonal and communication skills will ensure that Norfield continues to thrive and develop innovative solutions.”


A unique “ocean fire” made international news in July. Part of the Gulf of Mexico burst into flames with the surface of the sea burning for more than five hours before being extinguished.

The ocean fire was caused by a gas leak from an underwater pipeline that was connected to a platform at Ku Maloob Zaap oil development, operated by Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex. An electrical storm and heavy rains also affected the production facilities.

The fire was likely caused by methane and other wet gas components (ethane, propane) igniting at the ocean surface after leaking from the pipeline. A continuous stream of natural gas in one place sustained the fire and kept it churning. No injuries were reported and workers controlled the fire with nitrogen.

Midwest Energy Receives APGA Award

The American Public Gas Association (APGA) honored Midwest Energy with the System Operational Achievement Recognition (SOAR) for excellence in operating its natural gas utility.

Out of approximately 750 APGA members, Midwest Energy was selected by its peers on the APGA Operations and Safety Committee. The company was one of 15 SOAR recipients recognized in 2021.The selection was based on demonstrated excellence in the four areas of system integrity, system improvement, employee safety, and workforce development.

System integrity refers to the natural gas distribution system performing its overall intended function safely and efficiently. System improvement refers to keeping the natural gas system well maintained and up-to-date through a self-improvement program that includes an eye on the future. Employee safety refers to a program that includes policies and procedures for education involvement and accountability for all employees, as well as tracking safety performance. Workforce Development focuses on creative recruitment, training, education and development practices that provide a return on investment through increased employee loyalty, motivation, safety and productivity.

Midwest Energy is a customer-owned electric and natural gas cooperative, serving more than 93,000 customers in Kansas.

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