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You are here: Home> News >July 2001 News


Foot-and-Mouth Hits Aircraft - Disinfectant Corrosive to Landing Gear

NKK Weathering Steel 1st Choice for Bridges

PPG Supports Coatings Development: New e-coat Center On-stream

Corrosion Clogs Fire Defense - Sprinkler Fails & Causes Death

Salamander Protected, But Residents Exposed - Longhorn to Restart 51 Year-old Pipeline

$4.5billion Dollars Later, Scientists Turn to Titanium & Steel

PUR Coating - the Cat's Whiskers for Bridges

Sulfuric Acid Incident - Man Missing - Fears for Corrosion

OPS "Definition" Saves Industry $3billion

"Golden Boy" in Need of Rust Repair

Ageing Pipelines Subject to Replacement Program in Wildlife Area

Koch Pays $100m's in Pipeline Corrosion Lawsuits (and $10k's for Pipeline Safety Research)

Florida Bridge Decay Costs Approach $39m and Trigger National Bridge Code Reform

One Inspection in 50 Years & No Corrosion Monitoring - Pipeline Explosion Kills 12

Paying for Pipeline Leaks and Fires Cheaper Than Investing in Prevention

O-rings Cost Manufacturer Up to $300million - Corrosion Causes Safety Systems to Fail

Penn State Announces Superior Thermal Barrier Coating Technology

Subaru recalls 180,000 cars in 'salt belt'

$13 million Cleanup Costs - Lawsuit Pending

Prudhoe Bay in News Again - Corrosion May be Cause of 200 Gallon Oil Spill

Idaho to Protect Drinking Water Supplies - Spent Fuel Pool Clean-up Underway

World War II Legacy has Ecological Consequences - Corrosion Could Destroy Baltic Sea Fishing Industry

New Anti-Corrosion Coatings Anticipate Vast Market

Corrosion's the Limit for "Skygate"

Corrosion-free Materials Contribute to Economic Viability of Marginal Fields

China Releases Five Year Development Plan for Metallurgical Industry

CSIRO Puts Corrosion on the Map

Contaminated Water Result of Corroded Pipes - is Council to Blame?

Weld Defect May Have Caused Greenville Pipeline Rupture

Alaska Oil Safety Questioned - Can Ageing Infrastructure Meet Demands of New Energy Boom?

Treasure Island - Corrosion Causing Weakness to Bridge

Quantum Demonstrates 10,000 PSI Hydrogen Storage Technology for Fuel Cell Vehicles

Applied Materials Announces New 300mm Tungsten Deposition System

14 Foreign Ships Under Detention in the UK During June

Ohio Company's Titanium Goes Golfing

Titanium Facelift for Bilbao Museum

50-year Old Pipeline to be Rejuvenated - but Explosions and Spills Make Environment Study Mandatory

FAA Wants Airlines to Fix Lap-joint Cracks on Hundreds of Older 737s


HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- Select landing gear on military aircraft are still being sprayed with corrosive disinfectants used to kill the foot-and-mouth virus, but Air Force researchers now believe the corrosive effect on the landing gear isn't as serious a problem as once thought. While commercial aircraft are no longer being sprayed, five more U.S. military planes were sprayed recently, pushing the total number of affected military aircraft near 100, according to engineers at Utah's Hill Air Force Base. Corrosion is paramount at Hill, which serves as the Air Force's center of excellence for landing gear and provides landing-gear maintenance for 80 percent of Department of Defense aircraft. While the problem has significantly declined since engineers became aware of it earlier this year, the practice continues to cause headaches for Hill engineers, even though new research shows the problem can be managed without causing catastrophic landing-gear failure. Aviano military base, in Italy, is the lone holdout as other airports, both commercial and military, have shied from using corrosive disinfectants to sterilize against foot-and-mouth. Also, mitigation measures, including painting and washing landing gear, are being taken. The Air Force is studying how the disinfectants might lead to stress corrosion and hydrogen embrittlement, which can lead to sudden or gradual landing-gear destruction. The final report, under preparation, is expected to conclude that: "No failures in Air Force systems have been attributed to the decontamination process."
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a flight-standards information bulletin outlining the problem for U.S. aviation-safety inspectors.


Weathering steel developed by NKK Corporation is to be used to build road bridges. Some 2200 t of this special steel, which was developed for coastal use, will be used exclusively to construct five road bridges in the Mie Prefecture in western Japan. The bridges are scheduled for completion in late October.

Built near Ise Bay, the road bridges will be exposed to salt-laden air, which accelerates the corrosion of steel girders. Because conventional weathering steels are not really suitable for use in such corrosive environments, the bridges were originally designed as corrosion-protective coated steel structures. However, because of empirical evidence as to the way NKK's weathering steel had performed in other bridge projects, the prefecture decided to use the steel, which has excellent anti-corrosion and welding properties, for the whole structure. Since developing the weathering steel in 1998, NKK has been marketing it widely for structural use in airborne-salt-rich environments. By optimizing alloying elements, the company succeeded in forming protective rust layers on the steel surface which effectively prevent the progression of corrosion and eliminate the need for coatings, even in coastal zones. Since it is not necessary to apply heavy anti-corrosion initial coatings or periodic recoating, NKK's weathering steel can substantially cut total life-cycle costs, including long-time maintenance costs. For this reason, the company will be looking to develop new applications for the product, such as using it in bridges, towers and other coastal structures.

For further information, contact: NKK Corporation, 1-1-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8202, Japan; tel: +81-3-3212-7111; fax: +81-3-3214-8401; Internet:


PPG Industries has begun operations at its new $6 million electrodeposition coating (e-coat) application center, which was recently added to the company's automotive Application Development Center in Michigan. The only one of its kind, the e-coat application facility contains two full-size dip tanks, which allow PPG and its customers to test and evaluate various vehicle primer products and processes. PPG is the only global automotive coatings supplier that has two e-coat tanks and the ability to dip full vehicle bodies up to 8 feet wide by 8 feet tall by 25 feet long. To provide corrosion protection and a smooth surface for paints, the e-coat process dips negatively charged vehicle bodies into baths of positively charged primer. This method is proven to be less costly, more efficient and more environmentally friendly than traditional spray booth technologies. With the addition of the new lab, the Flint Application Development Center has the unique capability to simulate the entire coating process -- from e- coat to clear coat -- using a wide range of technologies, including powder and waterborne coatings. Its mission is to assist in the development of new coatings processes, technologies and applications; reduce launch time of technologies and applications in automaker assembly plants; and conduct coatings training courses.


Clogged pipes -- caused by corrosion from bacteria in the water supply -- were cited as the reason for a sprinkler failure in February 2000 in a nursing home outside Philadelphia. An 80-year-old woman died, and her sister was injured after the sprinkler closest to the fire failed. The system's pipes were so clogged that the full force of water couldn't reach the sprinkler heads. For the past 30 years, sprinklers have come to be regarded as the best defense in case of a fire -- the next best thing to hiring a private fire department to provide on-site, round-the-clock protection. Sprinklers are now commonly found in new office buildings, hospitals, hotels and apartment complexes, yet a small but growing number of safety officials are concerned there might be an overreliance on sprinklers. The recent recall of 35 million potentially faulty sprinkler heads by the manufacturer has added weight to the debate. There's no question that sprinklers save lives and property. The National Fire Protection Association said that when they are present, they cut the risk of death and property damage by at least half and often by two-thirds. However, when a sprinkler doesn't work, whether because of human error, improper maintenance or some other reason, the damage can be surprising -- and devastating. New sprinkler systems also have electronic monitors to let people know that the system is working but industry officials say the monitors would not detect whether the sprinkler heads are faulty, or if the pipes are so clogged with corrosion that water could not get through. The sprinkler trade group believes the corrosion and other reported failures are simply isolated incidents, due largely to the tremendous growth of the number of installed sprinklers and to newer sprinkler technology.


Longhorn, a partnership of ExxonMobil Pipeline, BP Pipelines and other companies, plans to move gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel through a 700 mile pipeline from Houston to El Paso. The 18-inch-diameter pipeline has been dormant since 1995, but the federal government has given its blessing to the plan. The route goes through densely populated areas of Houston and Austin, and a primary habitat for an endangered salamander. Longhorn has agreed to 40 requirements to reduce environmental and safety hazards. They include testing the 51-year-old pipe to ensure structural soundness, installing new, thicker-walled pipe near some endangered-species habitats and carrying no fuels containing the additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, which is difficult to remove when spilled into water supplies. The harshest criticism has been that replacement pipe is required for the salamander habitat and some drinking-water supplies, but not for many residential neighborhoods.

OPS, the Office of Pipeline Safety, has issued a finding intended to ensure that it will never have to study a pipeline's environmental implications again. Its study of the Longhorn proposal prompted many of the mitigation measures, and it has been acknowledged that Longhorn's $60million safety steps exceed what's required. The OPS argued in court papers that it had a limited inspection and oversight role, with no responsibility regarding modification or routing of the pipeline. Furthermore, the agency said, it had no authority or duty to conduct an environmental review. In fact, it had never done an environmental study of a proposed pipeline project.

A smart-pig inspection in 1995, before Longhorn acquired the line, raised concerns about the pipeline's structural soundness. The inspection revealed more than 4,000 anomalies -- areas where it appeared that corrosion had partially penetrated the pipe wall. The vast majority, including all anomalies penetrating less than 30 percent of the wall, were deemed to have been caused by minor corrosion and therefore were not repaired. Deeper penetrations, including all that went more than halfway through the wall, were excavated and fixed.


After spending 14 years and $4.5 billion to figure out whether Yucca Mountain is dry and stable enough to entomb highly radioactive waste for 10,000 years, the Department of Energy is shifting its focus from geology to the protective powers of titanium and steel. What began as an exercise to find dry rock with predictable characteristics in an ancient desert ridge has evolved into a debate about whether the engineers can create materials that will survive the natural environment at Yucca. If this is achievable, then the geographical location of the waste storage can be argued to be somewhat irrelevant, say critics. The wastes will be dangerously radioactive for many millenniums, although the Energy Department need show only that releases will be small for the first 10,000 years. But water is more of a consideration than initially thought. Water flows through the mountain are about 10 times as large as first thought, largely because the rock turns out to be liberally laced with small fractures that were created as the volcanic ash cooled, and those fractures conduct water quickly. A recent innovation is to perch the waste containers on metal rather than concrete, since concrete can turn the water acidic, encouraging corrosion. Corrosion is very much at issue.


Bayer is offering a quick drying two coat PUR coating aimed at expediting the refurbishment of anti-corrosion coatings on steel bridges. The steel coatings are made from Bayer's Besmodur and Desmophen raw materials. A new application process is claimed to cut the refurbishment time by up to two thirds.

The coating features improved colourfastness and gloss retention as well as anti-corrosion properties.


Motiva Enterprises was again unable to drain sulfuric acid Sunday (July 29) from tanks that survived a collapse and fire because of a pipe blockage, a company spokesman said. It was the fourth consecutive day that crews were unable to remove the acid from the tanks and the 12th day that workers have been unable to enter the tank farm. The July 17 accident injured eight workers and left one man missing. The inability to work on foot is hindering their efforts to identify the drain blockage and search for the remains of Jeffrey Davis of Fairless Hills, Pa.. The four-foot containment wall around the area is holding acid-laced sludge, making it unsafe for workers to enter the area on foot. Crews have been using a basket hanging from a crane to see the containment area. Once they find the blockage, they will try to reroute the acid. Workers are continuing efforts to neutralize the sludge, lessening company officials' concerns that the tanks might weaken because of corrosion. One tank of spent sulfuric acid collapsed and burned in the fire and another tank leaked its entire contents afterward. The cause of the fire remained under investigation Sunday night.


A rule the petroleum industry negotiated with federal regulators will allow pipeline operators to avoid spending billions of dollars to protect certain environmentally sensitive areas and historical sites from spills.

The Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) and the industry agreed last year on the wording of a unique federal regulation that applies solely to pipelines. Its effect will be to exclude hundreds of sensitive areas from pollution protection. Under the rule, pipeline operators must apply pollution prevention measures in unusually sensitive areas -- under the definition approved by the OPS -- as well as in highly populated areas and commercially navigable waterways. The agreement centers on the legal definition of the term "unusually sensitive areas." For pipeline operators the narrow definition is important because it greatly reduces their costs for managing pipelines in sensitive areas.

The language Congress used left some pipeline company officials shaken. What did an area "unusually sensitive to environmental damage" mean? How many of them were there in the United States? How many were crossed by pipelines? And what would it cost pipeline companies to install equipment to guard against leaks, such as cutoff valves to shut down pipelines after ruptures happen? The American Petroleum Institute hired the Arthur D. Little Corp. of Cambridge, Mass., to do a study to determine the financial implications of the ruling. The firm concluded that installing automatic cutoff valves, pressure-testing lines and requiring internal examinations with devices called "smart pigs" in environmentally sensitive areas could cost the industry as much as $4 billion. A representative of the consulting firm presented the results of the study at the June 15, 1995, meeting. The key, consultants said, would be how the OPS defined the phrase "unusually sensitive areas." If the agency chose traditional environmental definitions used by the EPA, the Coast Guard and other agencies, as much as 80 percent of the 157,000 miles of pipelines carrying oil, gasoline and other hazardous liquids could be in environmental resources that would require expensive protection, the consultants said. However, by applying "filters" to determine whether environmental resources warrant protection, instead of 80 percent of hazardous-liquid pipeline miles, the new regulation means about 25 percent will be covered by the testing and spill control requirements. The change stands to save pipeline owners up to $3 billion under the Arthur D. Little cost estimates - a move which ahs been criticized by the EPA, the Interior Department and several state and local governments.


Manitoba's favourite nude has balanced on one foot, 75 metres above the ground, for more than 80 years, battling wind, lightning and Winnipeg's coldest winters. But now the Golden Boy, perched above the Manitoba legislature since 1919, needs serious fixing or he may topple. The 4.9-metre, 4,500-kilogram statue is attached to the dome above the legislature by a clamp and a central steel post extending from the inside of his base into the mid-chest cavity. The steel post is severely rusted, mostly from moisture damage, and there is concern that it can no longer support the statue. The severity of the corrosion was detected only after a recent restoration project had begun. Workers are putting together a computer model of the statue, which will be turned into a plastic life-size model for wind-tunnel testing to determine the statue's actual weight-bearing load.


A group toured the Swanson River Oil Field in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to learn more about oil and gas extraction in wilderness areas. Facilities included Swanson River, operated by Unocal, and the nearby Beaver Creek Gas Field, operated by Marathon. Since 1996, Unocal has been replacing old metal pipelines with heavy-duty metal, fiberglass and sometimes plastic piping. But concerns have been expressed at the company's plans to open new wells in the area. Most product flow at the field still is checked by hand, with operators comparing inflows and outflows to make sure they match. If the numbers don't add up, valves are shut down and leaks pinpointed. The system for collecting liquids has been redone throughout the field. For the main flow lines, the company is working down its priority list, beginning with damaged lines and those closest to the Swanson River itself. It is estimated that the entire renovation will be complete in about two years. One complication is that natural gas can pass through the sleeves and build up between the liner and the outer pipe. If too much gas pressure accumulates in the space, it can collapse the liner, which impedes oil flow, or crack it, which can cause leaks. According to records from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, 14 spills were reported at the field in 1995 and 1996 involving crude oil, antifreeze, drilling muds and process waters. Line ruptures and corrosion were commonly listed as causes. But neither has been reported since January 2000. The Swanson River field now produces about 1,700 barrels of oil (down from 40,000 at its peak in 1969) and 49 million cubic feet of gas per day. Some of the gas was imported from elsewhere years ago and injected to pressurize oil wells. That gas is being recycled and sold now.


Court records and depositions in lawsuits against Koch Industries Inc. point to a troubled history involving corrosion in pipelines near Lively (1996) and Corpus Christi (1984). Ruptures that led to two deaths in Lively and environmental damage near Corpus Christi were the result, in part, of corrosion. Court records show that underground devices designed to counteract corrosion were inadequate, and that Wichita, Kan.-based Koch knew about problems with the pipeline that ran through the Lively area but continued to operate it. Senior Koch officials insisted that the pipeline ruptured without warning. Corrosion was found at 583 spots just in sections of a pipeline in Kaufman County - a safety consultant testified at court "In the industry, that would be called Swiss cheese, which means essentially the pipeline is gone". In the Corpus Christi incident, an underground pipeline ruptured and spilled more than 90,000 gallons of crude oil into Gum Hollow Creek. A lightning strike shut a valve, trigging a pressure buildup that ripped a 50-square-inch hole in a section of pipe weakened by corrosion. Two years before that, workers for Koch warned the company of trouble, saying that parts of the steel pipeline, which was constructed in the late 1940s, needed to be replaced. They also recommended examining the interior of the 16-mile pipeline with a device that could detect corrosion. According to public records, Koch not only increased pressure in the line after being warned about corrosion and weaknesses in the steel, but also underestimated for nine days the amount of oil spilled - a miscalculation of some 70,000 gallons that might have hindered cleanup efforts. Koch's decision to increase the line's operating pressure was defended on the grounds of " leak history, no history of leaks on this line segment not an uncommon thing to do in the industry."

Koch was ordered to pay damages for the Lively & Corpus Christi cases to the tune of $100m's, although final settlement figures after appeal hearings remain undisclosed. Prompted by the Gum Hollow spill and the explosion of the Koch butane line in Lively, the Texas Railroad Commission launched a special investigation of the company's Texas pipelines in 1997. That review found 15 violations, nine of them corrosion-related, on lines that begin and end in Texas and thus fall under the commission's jurisdiction. Koch, while not admitting any violations, agreed to pay a $22,500 fine, to contribute $50,000 for pipeline safety research at Texas Tech University and to undertake a risk assessment program for its pipelines.


Ten months ago, state bridge engineers knew they had a decay problem with the Sunshine Skyway. They didn't realize then that similar trouble would affect scores of bridges, cost millions of dollars to repair and trigger reform of the national bridge code. In Florida, the first inkling of a corrosion problem in post-tensioned bridges like the Sunshine Skyway came in June 1999. That's when inspectors spotted trouble inside the Niles Channel Bridge, about 25 miles from Key West. Since the discovery, state inspectors have documented 41 corroded bridges across the state, including 20 near a highway interchange in Fort Lauderdale. The consensus of experts places most of the blame on concrete grout used to provide corrosion protection to tendons in post-tensioned bridges - the problem lies in its chemistry and the way workers applied it. Voids left in the grout have enabled water and salt to corrode the tendons. It is expected to cost an estimated $39 million to fix the bridges, which could delay replacement bridges. National reforms have called for improved grout, although concerns have been raised at its 10 times higher cost. The new code requires better construction methods for applying the grout to prevent "bleed water," air pockets and settling during the curing process.


In the worst U.S. gas explosion since a leaking propane line killed 33 people in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1996, 12 campers from the Carlsbad, NM area were killed last August when a natural gas pipeline exploded and caught fire. And as far as the government knew, the New Mexico pipeline was in fine condition, right up until the moment it ruptured. Lawsuits filed against the line's owner, El Paso Natural Gas Co., by family members of the victims have been settled on confidential terms. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is still under way. But several NTSB officials have said pieces of the pipeline gathered from the explosion site showed evidence of corrosion on the inside. And in its own report to the Office of Pipeline Safety, El Paso Natural Gas attributed the event to corrosion. The pipeline had been given a clean bill of health less than a month prior to the incident, and there is no evidence to indicate that this inspection of the pipeline failed to comply with OPS procedures. Company officials are trying to learn how to prevent similar catastrophes. Described as "not typical", the natural gas explosion sent seismic vibrations rolling through the desert countryside of southern New Mexico and West Texas. Analyzing seismograms, experts concluded that the first shock wave was caused by the natural gas tearing open the pipeline, like a bursting balloon. Further explosions were caused by the ignition of the escaping gas. Tragically, one reason for the disaster is that the system intended to protect Americans from pipeline disasters has flaws. Because of the presence of valves and sharp turns, the section of El Paso Pipeline 1103 that exploded could not be examined by "smart pigs," inspection devices that move along the inside of pipelines using magnetic fields to detect metal flaws. That left two known methods for detecting internal corrosion: hydrostatic pressure testing -- exercises in which water is pumped through pipelines at high pressure to expose weaknesses -- and distribution and periodic examination of coupons inside the pipeline. Under Office of Pipeline Safety regulations, El Paso Natural Gas was not required to use any of these inspection methods. Records show the pipeline had gone through hydrostatic pressure tests only one time -- in 1950, when it was installed.

Coupons are required only for pipelines that carry corrosive gases, usually those that contain high levels of hydrogen sulfide. Records show that previous pipeline inspectors always checked "not applicable" next to the question about whether El Paso uses coupons. The question was removed from the form altogether before the inspection last year. The inspection report noted that the pipeline had "experienced an unscheduled shutdown due to high hydrogen sulfide levels" but said nothing about what questions, if any, were asked about the presence of this highly corrosive gas. The report did not say when the unscheduled shutdown occurred. Federal pipeline safety records contain scores of cases in which local gas companies and interstate transporters such as El Paso Natural Gas have reported temporarily shutting down pipelines because of corrosion. It is reported that OPS intends to fine the company $2.52 million for safety violations centering on its alleged failure to control internal corrosion. El Paso, which has been repairing the pipeline and this month was given permission to restart it, can appeal the penalty. In May, the president of the company whose pipeline ruptured lobbied the U.S. Senate to reject bills to increase safety fines against pipeline operators.


Shoddy regulation of the 2.2 million-mile network of pipes moving oil, petroleum products and natural gas across the US has proved toxic to the environment and deadly to hundreds of people. Weaknesses in the inspection system and inaccuracies by the operators in reporting spills cost the pipeline industry many hundreds of millions of dollars - yet there is a reluctance to spend money on corrosion prevention and adequate maintenance that would help to avoid such disasters. It is reported that America's sprawling oil and natural gas pipelines are leaking on the scale of a ruptured supertanker. They are fouling the environment and causing fires and explosions that have killed more than 200 people and injured more than 1,000 in the past decade. And the numbers are increasing steadily -- from 161 serious incidents in 1989 to 222 in 1999. Yet the federal government relies on a small, underfunded and understaffed agency to police a powerful and wealthy industry. Together, the largest pipeline companies in America each year earn more than enough to run the agency that regulates them for a century. The Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) has 55 inspectors and is budgeted for 107 full-time employees - one of the smallest units within the U.S. Department of Transportation, OPS has an operating budget of about $23 million. The agency has jurisdiction over more than 2 million miles of interstate, intrastate and local pipelines - enough to reach around the Earth 88 times - but it delegates inspection and regulation to state and local authorities for much of that infrastructure. OPS rarely imposes fines, even when a pipeline explosion leads to death. For decades, the agency hasn't known the precise whereabouts of thousands of miles of pipelines under its jurisdiction. The lack of oversight comes at a critical juncture: The Bush administration's call for increased energy production promises to put additional pressure on an aging pipeline infrastructure and an overwhelmed regulatory agency.


A Pennsylvania company is recalling 35 million fire sprinklers after concluding they could fail to work in a fire. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which will officially announce the recall today (July 19), said it knew of 13 incidents where the sprinklers failed to operate in a fire, including one in a Bowie apartment complex. The agency did not attribute any injuries or deaths directly to the failures. This is the second major recall for Central Sprinkler Co. In 1998, the CPSC sued Central before the company agreed to recall 8.4 million Omega sprinklers, which had a higher failure rate than the ones now being recalled. Central also agreed to pay a $ 1.3 million fine in the Omega recall after the safety agency alleged that the company was tardy in disclosing the problems. There was a common problem in both recalls: corrosion of the O-rings that are designed to keep the sprinkler heads from leaking. Safety officials found that the rubber or polymer rings reacted to chemicals and minerals in the sprinkler systems, resulting in debris that could cause the sprinkler head to fail to open when activated. The voluntary recall follows a decision earlier this month by Underwriters Laboratories Inc., the nation's largest independent testing and certification organization, that it would no longer approve any sprinklers that use O-rings after January 2003. The ban had been considered for two years, and many manufacturers have already started to phase out sprinklers with O-rings. Officials at National Fire Sprinkler Association estimate there are between 700 million and 900 million sprinklers installed in the United States and Canada. As many as 100 million may contain O-rings. Central has agreed to pay all costs of the recall, including labor, which building owners had to bear in the Omega recall. Company officials declined to say how much the recall would cost, but industry sources it could range from $200 million to $300 million, depending on how many sprinklers are replaced.


A new thermal barrier coating technique announced in May by researchers at Penn State University (University Park, PA) will extend the life and efficiency of coated components critical to automotive, aerospace, and other applications by as much as 12%. A variety of industrial thermal barrier coating techniques exist, each with specific advantages and disadvantages. Many of the shortcomings of these techniques can be overcome by using electron-beam physical vapor deposition (EB-PVD), where an electron beam bombards and vaporizes metallic or ceramic coating material and precisely controls the means by which the coating is deposited and adheres. Using EB-PVD does not change the basic chemistry of the coating material - instead, the way the coating is applied reduces its thermal conductivity and enhances its ability to resist corrosion and high-temperature oxidation. An industrial pilot EB-PVD line has been installed at Penn State. The process is being patented by Penn State and was supported by US Navy and NASA grants.


Subaru of America Inc. voluntarily recalled about 180,000 model years 1995-1998 and early 1999 Legacy sedans, wagons and Outback models that may suffer from a corrosion problem. Improperly applied paint may not protect supplier-sourced front springs on the vehicles in states where road salt is used. Subaru said that continued exposure to salt may cause the springs to corrode and eventually break. Further, if the broken spring is not contained by the spring seat, it comes into contact with the tire; possibly severe tire damage could result. Subaru received no reports of accidents or injuries related to the problem before announcing the voluntary recall on Thursday July 19.


About 564,000 gallons of MTBE-laced gasoline that spilled last year - some of it contaminating Lake Tawakoni - can be linked to a faulty weld along the seam of a 30-year-old pipeline, according to a government report released Monday July 16. The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates pipeline accidents, found that the March 2000 spill near Greenville was traced to a crack measuring 50 inches long by 6 inches wide. The report indicates that the break occurred late March 9, not early March 10 as originally reported. Gasoline poured into Caddo Creek, which feeds Lake Tawakoni. A thunderstorm exacerbated the problem when it flushed the contamination 24 miles downstream into the lake. The city of Dallas uses water from Lake Tawakoni, and the spill threatened 25 percent of the area's water supply. Initially, high levels of methyl tertiary butyl ether - or MTBE - were found at Lake Tawakoni, forcing city water officials to turn off pumps at the lake. Five months later, after most of the chemical had evaporated, the pumps were switched back on. City officials said late last year that costs related to the cleanup were about $ 13 million. The city has filed a lawsuit against Explorer Pipeline Co., the Tulsa, Okla., owner of the pipeline, in which unspecified damages are sought. The suit has yet to go to trial.


An estimated 200 gallons of crude oil spurt out of a ruptured flowline from a Prudhoe Bay well over the weekend of 7 July. Officials with BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. said the rupture might have been caused by a flaw or corrosion in the line. The spill occurred about 8:40 p.m. Saturday at Drill Site 1 in the eastern operating area, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Tom DeRuyter, a DEC environmental specialist, said the flowline burst over a reserve pit, which caught most of the oil. Wind spread a mist of oil over about 5 1/2 acres of tundra and ponds, DeRuyter said. Cleanup crews were using sorbent boom to collect the oil from the water and had started to burn a small section of the affected tundra but had to stop because of increasing winds, DeRuyter said. BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said the line burst after workers shut down a well in response to a request by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. to temporarily reduce production to 50 percent. The shutdown increased pressure in the line leading to a manifold building, where the well valve was shut off, Chappell said. The affected well remained closed Monday, he said. Alyeska spokesman Tim Woolston said Alyeska asked for the production slowdown when the pipeline was shut down as a precaution against a malfunction of communication equipment for remote gate valves. That problem has been fixed, Woolston said.


The INEEL is weighing how to demolish 1950s-era, contaminated spent-fuel pools that have been high on the state's cleanup list. But first it has to remove 286,000 pounds of polluted and radioactive sludge - desert sand, dust, corrosion products and metals - that have accumulated underwater. The debris that has sunk to bottom of the CPP-603 basins weighs as much as about 143 old Volkswagen Beetles. The site plans to remove about 90 percent, mix it with cement and dispose of it, according to a draft environmental study. The three concrete basins at the former Chem Plant, which hold 1.5 million gallons of water, don't have liners or detection systems that would catch leaks into the aquifer below. Getting highly radioactive fuel rods out of those pools and emptying them has been a priority for the state of Idaho for nearly a decade because of potential risks to drinking-water supplies. The old basins, which stored spent fuel in hanging buckets and have had corrosion problems, were emptied of fuel in April 2000. To comply with the 1995 settlement agreement with the state, the fuel was moved to more modern storage facilities. Now the INEEL is proposing to remove the radioactive sludge from the bottom of the basins, said Jack Depperschmidt, deputy NEPA compliance officer for the DOE. It contains more than 40 different radioactive and hazardous contaminants such as cobalt-60, plutonium-238, mercury, arsenic and lead.

"That's probably the highest risk of anything we've got out there," he said. "We're looking at at least getting out there and managing that." The environmental study outlines three different scenarios for decommissioning the buildings and basins themselves, although that decision won't be made until later, he said. In the first, workers would let the water evaporate naturally, which would take eight years, and then gradually fill the bottom of the basins with grout. That would maintain an even water level at the surface, preventing radioactivity on the walls of the basins from being exposed, flaking off and becoming airborne. In the second alternative, water would be removed all at once and treated at the INEEL. Contaminated piping, equipment and building rubble would be put in the basins and covered over with grout. In the third alternative - estimated to cost four times as much at $200 million - everything would be dug up or removed with no contamination remaining. While that would leave a perfectly clean site behind, the radioactive emissions generated during the cleanup would be higher, according to the draft study. The state is concerned about how the 1.5 million gallons of water will be handled, said Kathleen Trever, director of the state INEEL oversight program. Environmental regulators are still reviewing the proposal, she said. Processing that much wastewater onsite could generate even more waste to be stored in the INEEL's underground tank farm, making it difficult to empty tanks that the state is most concerned about. "In some ways it's a balance of trying to solve one problem without creating another," she said.


According to reports from Russian television, the Baltic Sea is facing a potential ecological catastrophe. The results of a three-week expedition of Russian scientists confirm that entire vessels with tonnes of World War II chemical weapons were sunk there in 1945. Today the scientists are saying that the consequences of such a catastrophe could be far more serious than any previous such disaster. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of chemical weapons lie on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Entire barge loads were sunk as leftovers of the Third Reich in 1945 immediately after the end of World War II. The research vessel Professor Shtokman has been examining the area where the chemical weapons were sunk near the island of Bornholm. It was thought that the shells had been thrown over board one by one, but the scientists discovered three sunken barges, the holds of which are assumed to contain aviation bombs and shells with chemicals. Samples from the sea bed showed that the rusty ammunition has started emitting toxins such as sarin, yperite, soman and lewisite. The scientists fear most of all the likelihood of a so-called spurt emission of toxins, which could cause an ecological catastrophe with even worse consequences than those of Chernobyl. This is possible only in places were entire vessels loaded with chemical weapons have been sunk. As a result of corrosion, the covering of the rusty outer casings of the shells could become incapable of supporting their own weight and collapse. Large amounts of toxins will be emitted into the sea. Mikhail Spiridonov, captioned as head of the department of marine ecology of the All-Russian Geological Institute - "The likelihood is very high that there are chemical weapons that were not only thrown over board near Bornholm but were also sunk together with the vessels carrying them." This is a sensational fact that has been established for the first time this year.

The sinking in the Baltic Sea of more than 300,000 tonnes of chemical weapons became declassified information only in the beginning of the 1990s. Until then, industrial-scale fishing was carried out in the danger area, and is still going on in spite of the fact that the areas are indicated as danger zones and fishing in them is prohibited. Andrey Grigoriyev, captioned as staff member of the All-Russian Geological Institute - "There were many cases when the nets were pulled up with bombs and entire crews were poisoned." The scientists say that all three major resting places of chemical weapons in the Baltic Sea - the area around the Skagerrak Strait, Bornholm, and the port of Liapaja - need to be closely monitored. But they say that not all the countries of the Baltic region appear to be enthusiastic about their research. Spiridonov - "We have the impression that this issue is being covered up in the Scandinavian countries lest a situation like the one with English beef and mad cow disease evolve. You know that fishing is a huge part of the economies of countries on the coast of the Baltic Sea." The results of the last expedition of the Professor Shtokman research vessel will be made public by Russian scientists on 5 July in Belgium at an international conference on chemical weapons.


A good market is expected for six coating materials including squama paint, electric conductive paint, anticorrosive paint, powder paint, paint rich in zinc and paint containing fluorine. Squama paint is highly corrosion-resistant and permeation-preventive and always mixed with vinyl materials to filter sulfur in flue gas. It can also be used as an encapsulant. Electric conductive paint is usually used in equipment which is required to be both anticorrosive and static electricity free. Japanese companies are major suppliers of electric conductive paint. Anticorrosive paint is widely used in buildings, equipment for chemical production, oil tanks and pipelines. Organic chemical primer, primer rich in zinc and epoxy paint are popular products under this category. Powder paint is a new product which contains no impregnant and fused with powder. Epoxy powder paint is often used in anticorrosive projects. The six coating materials represent the developing trend of the paint industry.


St. PAUL, Minn. _ Whether St. Paul residents and visitors love or hate the spidery steel sculpture at Fifth and Wabasha streets, there's no denying that rust and stains are growing like fungus. Citing a two-year warranty on the 51-foot-tall artwork titled "Skygate," the city's parks and recreation department has asked New York artist R.M. Fischer to either restore and permanently protect the piece from corrosion or remove and replace it. Fischer has proposed two cosmetic options the city deems unacceptable. "Skygate's" condition and fate are big concerns in a downtown pinning much of its continuing revitalization on aesthetic appeal. The $225,000 sculpture, installed in May 2000, is a high-profile piece of public art in one of downtown St. Paul's most trafficked intersections. It's designed as a visual and walking gateway to the brick-lined plaza in front of the Ecolab building. "The way it stands now, we didn't get what we ordered," says John Wirka, principal designer with the city's Parks and Recreation Department, which maintains the plaza. "Those of us who know what it's supposed to look like, you walk by and know it's not getting any better." From across the street, the sculpture seems to be in need of a cleaning. Up close, it's clear the problems won't simply wash away. Rings of rust, dark gray blotches and lines of pitted scratches climb the sculpture's legs. Rust coats the surfaces of perforated steel panels near the top. City officials first noticed the problems in December and contacted Fischer. The artist has offered to clean the piece, Wirka says, and then either treat it with lacquer or paint it. Neither is a viable option, says Wirka, citing appearance and maintenance issues. Nitric acid can remove the rust and stains and restore the steel's protective properties, but there's concern about using such an acid in an area with a lot of foot and motor traffic. Fischer didn't answer recent calls to his studio or return messages. St. Paul, which maintains public art throughout the city and steered the effort to bring art to the Ecolab plaza, consulted an art conservator and two metallurgical engineers to assess what happened to the piece and how to repair it. The consensus: To achieve a matted, brushed look desired by the artist, the sculpture's fabricators sanded off the chromium oxide film that naturally coats and protects this grade of stainless steel. Salt and other pollutants have heightened the tarnish on surfaces facing the street. Whether the sculpture is repaired or replaced, city officials say it's Fischer's contractual responsibility to fix it. They had hoped Fischer would act one way or the other by this past spring. In June, Wirka sent a letter to Fischer requesting the sculpture's removal and replacement. Though he hasn't said as much to the city, Fischer is unlikely to replace the piece because of the associated cost. "This is my nightmare, because there are so few opportunities to do things this major in this city," says Christine Podas-Larson, president of Public Art St. Paul. "The city's not happy, Ecolab's not happy, we're not happy, the artist isn't happy. It's fixable, but no one wants to go through this."


United States petroleum giant Exxon Mobil Corporation, via its Malaysian subsidiary Esso Production Malaysia Inc (EPMI), will soon commission two new facilities at its acreage in the South China Sea, one of which embraces a concept that makes the exploration of smaller fields economically viable. These facilities are the Larut Project (Larut) which will cost approximately RM1.4 billion, and the Satellite Fields Development Project (SFDP) costing RM836 million. Larut is a full-scale oil and gas platform while the SFDP consists of five small, remotely-operated platforms that are connected to the existing infrastructure. The SFDP's innovative concept was developed by Exxon that is being used for the first time by Esso in this part of the world. In line with its move over the decades to gradually amplify local content in its projects, Larut and the SFDP are designed and fabricated in Malaysia. These two projects will boost Malaysia's reserves, which presently stand at 4.3 billion barrels of oil and 82 trillion cubic feet of gas, by tapping new EPMI reserves. EPMI, formed in 1965 to conduct upstream activities for petroleum exploration and production, is an operator for Petronas, and works via a production sharing contract scheme with Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd. Presently, it operates 25 oil and five gas platforms, with more than 600 wells in 11 producing fields in offshore Terengganu, some 240km from Kerteh. EPMI's production rates stand at 270,000 barrels of crude oil, 15,000 barrels of condensate, and 1.3 billion cubic feet of gas a day. Discovered in 1990, Larut, a 50:50 joint venture between EPMI and Carigali, is an integrated production drilling and quarters platform. The entire structure, with a height of over 100 metres, consists of a topside, divided into four modules, weighing 8,900 tonnes, with oil/gas/water separation facilities, living quarters for 50 people and 36 wells, supported by an eight-legged 3,500-tonne steel piled jacket, and 199km of pipeline connecting it to production flow structures. The topside was constructed at Malaysia Shipyard and Engineering Sdn Bhd in Pasir Gudang, while the jacket was constructed by Sime Sembawang Engineering Sdn Bhd in Teluk Ramunia. According to Larut project manager Ray Steinmetz, work on the project was initiated in June 1998, and is 92 per cent complete. Loadout will start in mid-July, with the first oil to be extracted in January 2002. "Larut's peak production will be 33,000 barrels of oil and 35 million cubic feet of gas a day. "The oil and gas will be carried to the existing Guntong D platform and then to the Tapis system onshore in Kerteh. "As per our feasibility studies, Larut's recoverable reserves stand at 70 million barrels of oil and 120 billion cubic feet of gas," he said during a visit to MSE's office in Pasir Gudang recently. The SFDP's concept is innovative because it maximises oil production by crafting smaller platforms that make it economical to tap marginalised fields, thereby adding to existing natural resources or off-setting the depletion of mature fields. Before the creation of the SFDP (which was fabricated at MSE) EPMI concentrated on large oil fields using 31 to 36 well platforms. Now each of the SFDP's five small platforms, with an average height of 95 metres, will feature between six and 12 wells only. According to the SFDP manager Lee Yow Yeen, the peak production for these platforms will be about 40,000 barrels of oil and 50 million cubic feet of gas a day. These have a total reserve of 90 million barrels of oil, to be extracted over a 15-year period. "Corrosion free materials are being used, and the platforms will be powered by solar and gas energy to ensure low maintenance cost. "A generic design will provide economies-of-scale, saving money throughout the life of the project by purchasing supplies in bulk for these five platforms. "This concept will be shared with other industry players in Malaysia, and will pave the way for exploring economically marginal fields in the future to maximise productivity," said Lee. With the initiation of the new projects, the number of EPMI's production fields will rise to 14 with the entry of Larut, Serudon and Lawang, while the number of platforms will increase to 36 (one for Larut and five for the SFDP).


The following are the highlights of the 2001-2005 development plans for the Chinese metallurgical industry as released by the State Economic and Trade Commission:

1. Market demand:

-- Apparent consumption of steel products: more than 140 million tons by 2005 thanks to rapid and sustainable economic growth.

-- Steel plates and strips consumption: to increase from 40 per cent to 44 per cent.

2. Development objectives

-- To bring the product quality, technology, equipment and labor productivity of Baosteel, Anshan Steel, Wuhan Steel and Shougang up to the world's advanced level and enable them to clinch a certain share of the international market.

3. Priorities in development

-- To speed up development of raw materials needed in the production of quality CR sheet.

-- To mainly construct two stainless steel smelting and hot rolling centers in Taiyuan Iron and Steel Co., Ltd and in Shanghai Baoshan Iron and Steel Group Company.

-- To speed up constructing new CR silicon sheet production lines and eliminating backward HR silicon steel production techniques.

-- To strictly control the output of small sections and wire rods, eliminate backward section rolling mills and develop new products such as 400MPaIII HR ribbed threaded steel, with small section continuous casting ratio to reach 90 per cent, and some 25 million tons of backward production capacities to be eliminated annually.

-- To enable existing production capacity of seamless steel tube to basically meet the market demand and to develop high-strength, pressure-resistant and corrosion-resistant oil pipes and high-pressure boiler tubes.

-- To renovate the Panzhihua Iron and Steel Company and Baotou Iron and Steel Co., Ltd, improve the quality of their products and increase the production capacity of quenching steel rails.

-- To standardize and industrialize the production of medium plates and construct a 5-meter-wide plate rolling mill.

-- To enable special steel firms to improve production technology and equipment and develop their respective ace products.

-- To improve the quality of steel products and further explore H-shape steel market, to strictly control the construction of new welded tube units and speed up the pace of eliminating backward high-frequency welded tube units.

-- To renovate several special ferroalloy production bases for the purpose of energy efficiency, environmental protection and comprehensive utilization of resources, and to strengthen the development of new products.

4. Situation in resources:

-- To view stable iron ore supply in a global perspective. Coastal areas, areas in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and other areas short of ore supply should use more imported iron ore.

-- To encourage iron and steel firms to launch joint ventures or cooperation in production and development of high value added products, support key energy-efficient and environment-friendly technical renovation projects and grants preferential policies to the comprehensive utilization of resources and treatment of waste slag, waste water and waste gas, and encourage qualified steel firms to explore mines abroad.


Australian scientists have produced a new map of Australia to help battle the corrosion that attacks everything from motor vehicles, to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, garden sheds and even farmers' fences. "The cost of the battle against corrosion in Australia is significant. It is a battle that is wearing away the infrastructure of our economy," says Mr Stephen Pahos, Business Development Manager for CSIRO Infrastructure Systems Engineering (CISE) "The new Corrosion map of Australia can estimate the corrosion rate in every locality of the country, including all 14,700 towns and suburbs," he says. "The map incorporates a corrosion model based on climatic conditions such as moisture, prevailing winds, salinity and pollution developed though several years of research by CSIRO," he says. "In the first of what we hope will be a number of industry applications, the corrosion map is now being incorporated into an Internet-based Corrosion Mapping System (CMS) in a new partnership between CSIRO and Industrial Galvanizers Corporation (IGC) of Australia. "Galvanized coatings have been around for 150 years and there is a very large database of performance information,supplemented by ongoing field and laboratory testing by CSIRO and others. "CMS will incorporate this with the corrosion map of to provide an exciting new tool for predicting the corrosion rates of steel and galvanized products used in Australia. "Applying this type of technology to help reduce the effects of corrosion will significantly boost Australia's competitiveness in the world," Mr Pahos says. IGC's Group Development manager, Mr John Robinson says, "The expanding demand for performance guarantees on our products means CSIRO's CMS is very attractive because it will help IGC manage its own coating guarantee projects, and provide design professionals with real-time corrosion data". "This is becoming more important as demand intensifies for reliable, long-term durability for steel construction products, and designers become more accountable for material durability performance," he says. "The CMS for IGC will be made available through the company's web site and will allow customers (for example designers and specifiers) to obtain accurate information in real time, on material durability, specifically steel and galvanized (zinc) coatings. "Many professional designers find access to durability information difficult. Few construction products have durability certification and simply looking at a coated steel product is not enough to determine its durability," Mr Robinson says. "CSIRO's CMS will also provide valuable additional certainty to IGC durability guarantees on its coatings and products for specific projects. These were first introduced in 1999 and in most cases, these coating guarantees range from 15-50 years, depending on the project environment and client requirements. "In addition to the durability information, additional modules will provide information about in-ground corrosion of steel and environmental sustainability data for a range of construction materials. "As environmental sustainability is featuring more in the decision making process a bonus arising from CMS will be its potential to predict the service life of galvanized steel compared to other coatings and construction materials." "We believe this will underline the environmental sustainability of galvanized steel products." IGC is Australia's largest galvanizing company, with 10 galvanizing plants located throughout Australia. In addition to its galvanizing facilities, the company has two manufacturing divisions; Ingal Civil Products and Industrial Galvanizers Pole Division, each of which manufacture galvanized steel construction, infrastructure, lighting and power distribution products. CONTACT: John Robinson, Group Development Manager, IGC, Tel: +61 02 49679089 e-mail: Stephen Pahos, Business Development Manager, CSIRO Building Construction and Engineering Tel: +61 03 92526426


Greymouth industries are considering billing the Grey District Council for plumbing damage caused by seawater contamination of the Greymouth water supply. The council last night said it would not accept liability. The town supply, drawn from a tidal area of the Grey River, has been contaminated for about two years during periods of low river flow, with the high salt content corroding pipes and causing hundreds of hot water cylinder elements to blow. The crisis peaked in March when school children fell sick after drinking the salty water. A new $ 2.4 million fresh-water supply is close to being commissioned but Westland Laundry says if the council had acted as soon as the problem was identified, it could have saved thousands of dollars in repairs by domestic and industrial users. The laundry has spent more than $ 4000 on repairs, Westfleet at least $ 10,000, and Grey Base Hospital $ 7000 in extra laboratory costs. Monteith's Brewery has also been affected but has received freight-free brewing water from the council. Westland Laundry asked the council at its meeting last night for compensation by waiving the water rates "before other avenues are investigated". Westfleet also said it would consider a claim for damages caused to its Greymouth fish factory, and the firm DB Breweries said it had not yet considered compensation. The council has so far denied liability and advised complainants to lodge a claim with their own insurers.

A stock response worked out earlier this year between the council and its liability insurer says the New Zealand standard by-law for water supply absolves the council of liability for loss, damage, or inconvenience "as a result of deficiencies in or interruptions to the water supply". Westfleet engineer Ray Burrell said the onus should be on the council. "The power board are contracted to supply us with a certain voltage guaranteed and I think the borough should provide us with water within certain parameters," he said. "I don't see why we should be responsible for the problem." The fish factory had to shut down the cold store for two days because of damaged compressors, and pipes had been corroded by salt water or clogged up by calcification. "It's cost us well over $ 10,000 but that's only the tip of the iceberg. "It's been causing hot water elements to blow so imagine what it's doing to your cylinders and copper pipes because it attacks the surface fairly rapidly," Mr Burrell said. Westland Laundry first sought compensation last September.

"We are still, and will be for some time, experiencing damage to our plant and equipment from inadequate water quality," manager Derek Malkin told the council. The laundry water rates totalled $ 1200 for five months and he repeated the request for a refund as some compensation for the damage caused. He asked the council also to consider lowering the water rates for industrial users until it could prove consistency in water quality. Council support services manager Kevin Beams said the council would have been remiss if it had not adopted the standard by- law for water supply. "Given the present situation, it provides council and the entire rating base with protection from claims."


A pre-existing defect, corrosion on a pipeline seam and a flawed protective coating probably caused a break that spilled 564,000 gallons of gasoline into a Lake Tawakoni tributary last year, according to a report released Monday. The spilled gasoline from the March 9, 2000, pipeline break prompted the cities of Dallas and Greenville to briefly halt pumping water from Lake Tawakoni. Tests at the time found the gasoline additive MTBE, a suspected carcinogen, in East Caddo Creek, which feeds into Lake Tawakoni.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in its report that cracks found on the pipeline after the rupture were typical of a weld defect, possibly indicating the pipe was not completely fused. The defect was on a lengthwise pipeline weld. "I think what the NTSB is saying is an accurate probable cause statement," said Rod Sands, Explorer Pipeline vice president and chief operating officer. Tulsa, Okla.-based Explorer owns the pipeline. The NTSB examination also found wrinkling, tearing and meandering cracks in the pipeline coating - some up to 2 1/2 inches wide - that exposed the pipeline surface. "Once the coating is damaged, the pipe is not protected properly against corrosion," said NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz. The coating is made of hot tar and asbestos, he said. Sands said, "It may have been a manufacturing defect; it may have been a defect caused by transportation and storage. We don't know the origin of the defect. The pre-existing defect influenced over time by corrosion and fatigue caused the rupture." The NTSB is not a regulatory agency but makes safety recommendations. No safety recommendations were in the report. The pipeline rupture occurred near Greenville, about 45 miles northeast of Dallas. The released gasoline flowed into a dry creek bed that is a tributary to East Caddo Lake and then downstream into East Caddo Creek, the report said. Explorer erected three dams in East Caddo Creek to stop the gasoline but heavy rains raised creek waters to about 12 feet the next day, destroying the dams and allowing gasoline to move downstream.

The NTSB said the gasoline appeared to have been stopped about 15 miles from the rupture site, about 7 miles upstream from Lake Tawakoni. The 28-inch diameter pipe was built in 1970 by Steel Co. of Canada and installed that same year. The coating was applied during construction. The NTSB said in its report that Explorer officials told the agency that the pipe may have been buried in the ground before the coating had cooled sufficiently. "This could have caused extensive wrinkling in the coating, as well as pulling and tearing the coating materials," the report said. The pipeline had a 50 1/2-inch long and 6 3/4-inch wide crack at the break. The ends of the crack were located off the edge of the seam weld. "Once the coating is damaged, the pipe is not protected properly against corrosion," Lopatkiewicz said. The report said Explorer had examined the section of the pipeline that ruptured in 1997 using an inline inspection tool, often called a "smart pig." Although repairs were made, Explorer's examination did not show any problems at the area of the rupture so that part was not visually inspected. After the break, Explorer ran another probe through the remaining 212 miles of pipeline in May 2000. The pipeline, made of high tensile strength steel and slightly more than a quarter of an inch thick, runs between Greenville and Glenpool, Okla., which is near Tulsa. The probe found no other defects in the pipeline, Sands said. "We feel like this is a very isolated incident," he said. Explorer Pipeline has not been fined by any agency for the spill and "there's no indication of any fines at this point. There's been no indication of a violation of a regulatory requirements," Sands said.


DEADHORSE, Alaska -- As Congress begins debate this week on President Bush's proposal for expanded oil drilling on Alaska's North Slope, concerns about safety are intensifying. On April 15, a corroded pipeline in a Phillips Petroleum Co. field spilled roughly 100,000 gallons of crude oil and saltwater onto the delicate tundra. Crews working in below-zero conditions plugged the leak in 12 minutes -- but that was long enough to poison vegetation across an area the size of two football fields. Alaska's 25-year-old oil infrastructure is showing its age, just as a new energy boom is poised to hit the state. The problem stems from a combination of industry and government behavior: As North Slope wells have been steadily depleted in recent years, oil production has declined, and energy companies eager to cut costs have held back on much-needed investments in replacement parts and equipment. Alaska's legislature, meanwhile, eager to please the industry, has gutted the state agencies responsible for regulating oil-field safety. Indiana, which takes a full year to produce the amount of crude oil that Alaska pumps in three days, employs nine oil-field safety inspectors. Alaska has five. "By and large, we are distrustful of big government up here," explains State Rep. Eldon Mulder, the Republican co-chairman of Alaska's House Finance Committee and a key hand in the killing of proposals for more-stringent regulation. Slumping production has hurt the state economy and should be cured by more drilling, he says. And, he adds, "the industry has done a good job regulating itself." Others are more skeptical. Although the state hasn't had a catastrophic oil spill since the Exxon Valdez incident in 1989, critics of the industry, including some who work in it, say danger signs abound. The 100,000-gallon spill in April, at a field called Kuparuk in which Bartlesville-based Phillips was operating, was just one of 50 modest-size and small spills attributed to pipeline corrosion and other wear and tear in the past five years, Alaska regulators say. Yet the industry consortium that runs the vast oil field beneath the North Slope and Prudhoe Bay -- North America's largest -- says it has slashed maintenance spending by 10 percent this year, to about $100 million, after years of holding the level roughly even. A Wall Street Journal article in April reported that oil-rig technology touted by Bush as environmentally friendly and central to his expanded drilling plans has malfunctioned at rising rates in the past five years on rigs in western Prudhoe Bay. These technological problems, such as failures in spot checks of emergency shut-off valves, are all the more worrisome because of the state's relatively light regulation and reduced maintenance by the industry. Federal authorities in Alaska delegate most responsibility for the oil industry to the state. If the safety valves on some rigs fail in a real emergency, as much as 3.5 gallons per second of crude oil could gush into the ecosystem. "These valves are meant to protect against catastrophic failure," says Lou Grimaldi, one of the five state oil-safety inspectors. "They're absolutely crucial." Industry officials acknowledge they have had maintenance problems in recent years but say the troubles are being addressed and pose no safety risk. "This place is safe and getting safer," says George Blankenship, Prudhoe Bay manager for London-based BP Amoco PLC, which operates the field for the consortium. Other BP officials said this year's maintenance-spending cut reflects expected consolidation after BP's 1998 acquisition of Amoco Corp., which had operated part of the Prudhoe Bay field. The Bush administration's call for more drilling responds to a projected shortfall of 7.5 million barrels of oil per day in the United States over the next 20 years. Environmentalists counter that stepped-up conservation could cover any shortfall. But the White House maintains that more fuel is needed and singles out Alaska as a particularly rich source of reserves. The administration's most controversial proposal -- to allow drilling in the North Slope's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- was probably doomed by the Democrats' recent takeover of the Senate. But with White House encouragement, industry is gearing up for expanded exploration and production in other parts of Alaska where congressional permission isn't required. A unit of Phillips, for example, recently struck oil in three large fields in the National Petroleum Reserve, a 23 million-acre area west of Prudhoe Bay in which the White House directly controls drilling. Wells are being drilled in the Beaufort Sea, as well as Cook Inlet near Anchorage. State officials also want to build an 1,800-mile pipeline to transport natural gas from the Arctic, through Canada, to the lower 48 states -- a plan that would raise concerns about potential pipeline explosions and fires. Some Alaskans wonder whether the state's creaking pumps and pipelines, and the skeletal staff of regulators who oversee them, can handle a fresh oil boom. "The people doing the job now are stretched far too thin," says Democratic State Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, minority leader of the Alaska House.

The Legislature's parsimony during the past decade has left Alaska's oil industry with less safety oversight than many states that produce a fraction of Alaska's output. Indiana, for one, pumps 2.5 million barrels of oil a year, compared with Alaska's current level of 400 million annual barrels, which amounts to 20 percent of the nation's domestic oil supply. Alaska spends about $3 million a year to monitor oil-field safety. Indiana spends $1.4 million, deploying its nine inspectors mostly across a 480-square-mile oil patch. The five inspectors employed by Alaska's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, by contrast, oversee wells spread across 1,000 square miles of icy emptiness. California, which produces about 300 million barrels of oil a year, has 40 oil-field safety inspectors. Canada's Alberta province, which produces 700 million barrels a year, has 110. But the stakes are much higher on Alaska's North Slope, where the typical well gushes 750 barrels a day, far more than wells in these other places. Overwhelmed by its task, Alaska's tiny inspection cadre has abandoned the technique used by its counterparts in some other states of making surprise visits. The Alaskan inspectors schedule their arrival at drill sites ahead of time. "There is no question that the legislature has done a very myopic job in terms of environmental responsibility," says Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, who is a Democrat but generally a strong industry backer. Alaska's Republican-controlled Legislature, the governor says, has mounted a dangerous budgetary "attack" on the state's safety agencies. Take the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the state's pollution watchdog. Its budget has been reduced by 55 percent since 1991 -- more than triple the 15 percent decline in Alaska's overall state spending during that period due to lower oil revenue. In December, the department's staff, worried that aging gear on the North Slope and elsewhere could cause a major spill, petitioned lawmakers for a $500,000 grant to monitor pipeline corrosion and study spill-prevention techniques. As it happened, the Legislature was considering the request in April when the Phillips pipeline burst at the Kuparuk field. Although the level of damage is still being studied, scientists with environmental groups say that sludge and seawater killed surface plants and thawed underlying permafrost, making it unlikely the vegetation will ever fully recover. "Migratory birds also suffer, because even a drop of crude on their eggs can cause them not to hatch," says Pamela Miller, an environmental consultant in Anchorage. Still, the Legislature rejected the department's request, siding with industry lobbyists who argued that oil companies were capable of monitoring pipeline corrosion themselves. "There appeared to be a certain amount of duplication" between the industry's efforts and the department's request, Republican State Rep. Loren Leman, majority leader of the Alaska Senate, says in an interview. Lawmakers did appropriate $3.6 million to help fund an industry lobbying campaign on behalf of Bush's proposal to drill in the Arctic wildlife refuge. "There's nothing to oversee if there's nothing coming out of the ground," says State Rep. Mulder, explaining lawmakers' preference for lobbying over safety spending. The oil industry generates two-thirds of Alaska's revenue and provides annual royalty payments of thousands of dollars for each of the state's roughly 500,000 citizens. The drop in oil revenue in the early 1990s hit Alaska hard, forging strong political will to boost production. Michele Brown, commissioner of the state's Department of Environmental Conservation, says, "The Legislature doesn't care for our mission." The paucity of resources makes it hard for Alaska's oil-safety inspectors to do their job. The five inspectors say they schedule their field tests -- losing the element of surprise -- with the oil companies to ensure that inspectors don't travel hundreds of miles only to discover that necessary personnel or equipment aren't around.


In a report from 16 July, Treasure Island is strengthening the approach after state inspectors found corrosion. Work should be done Monday. A sagging area in the eastern approach bridge to the Treasure Island Causeway had to be repaired last week. Since July 9, traffic along Central Avenue just west of Park Street has been reduced from four to two lanes while workers replace the steel under the bridge. The approach bridge is part of the Treasure Island drawbridge system and is on a right of way within the city of St. Petersburg. Hal Bruce, Treasure Island's transportation director, said the state inspectors found corrosion in a 3-foot by 3-foot area "that was causing weakness in the bridge." The city immediately cut an 8-foot by 16-foot area in the bridge to repair the steel and concrete. Most of the work is expected to be completed by Monday. Bruce said the repairs will cost about $ 18,000, which the city has in its Causeway Bridge fund that is supported by tolls. "The state does an inspection underneath the spans every year, and every two years they do an underwater inspection of the piers," Bruce said. "The stuff underwater is in great shape." The city is in the middle of a two-year study to consider replacing the entire causeway bridge system. Treasure Island officials hope to replace the 64-year-old structure by 2005 at an estimated cost of $ 40-million to $ 50-million.


Quantum Technologies WorldWide, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Impco Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: IMCO) based in Irvine, California, says that it is the first to demonstrate an all-composite hydrogen storage tank that stores hydrogen at 10,000 psi (700 Bar). At 10,000 psi, 80% more hydrogen fuel can be stored in a given space than at 5,000 psi -- dramatically increasing the range of fuel cell mobile applications. Last week, Quantum announced a 20% investment by General Motors in the company, to help support this technology development for fuel cell powered cars. According to Syed Hussain, president and CEO of Quantum, "This breakthrough in advanced hydrogen storage technology will have a positive impact on compressed hydrogen fuel cell mobile applications. A vital issue in bringing fuel cell vehicles to the marketplace is extending the vehicle range." Dr. Neel Sirosh, Quantum's director of Advanced Fuel Storage said, "The extended range requires volumetric efficiency in the storage of compressed hydrogen at a high pressure without compromising the light-weight nature of the tank. This is a principal advantage of our TriShield(TM) tank and the significance of Quantum's 10,000 psi proof-of-concept demonstration." The 10,000 psi hydrogen storage capability of Quantum's unique all-composite TriShield tank was confirmed through a hydrostatic burst test that achieved 23,500 psi burst pressure -- a 2.35 factor of safety required by the European Integrated Hydrogen Project (EIHP) specifications. EIHP is at the forefront of developing global regulatory standards for hydrogen storage testing and certification. This achievement establishes the design direction of the Quantum TriShield tank. To supplement the inherent safety features designed into the new 10,000 psi storage tank, Quantum's patented 10,000 psi in-tank regulator provides additional safety by containing the high pressure in the tank and allowing a maximum delivery pressure of only 150 psi (10 Bar). In breaking new ground for compressed hydrogen containment, Quantum is designing and developing new technologies to achieve weight and volume advantages, while addressing the challenges of the effects of compressed hydrogen on high strength design materials. Quantum is optimizing the material composition of the tanks -- utilizing a proprietary metal alloy end boss that is hydrogen corrosion resistant and a proprietary polymer tank liner that is not affected by the potential of hydrogen embrittlement and stress corrosion cracking. Quantum is a Tier-One supplier to automotive OEMs. Quantum's state-of-the-art compressed hydrogen storage cylinders, fuel metering systems, electronic computer control modules, and fuel system integration capabilities have been successfully demonstrated in the transportation market - from passenger cars and trucks, to buses and sub-cars.


Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) Technology Integrated with High Pressure (300Torr) Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) Overcomes 100nm Generation and Beyond Contact Fill Challenges - Applied Materials, Inc. (Nasdaq:AMAT) announces an industry-first tungsten deposition system, the Sprint Plus, enabling high productivity, advanced plug fill technology for 100nm and beyond device generations. The Sprint Plus combines Applied Materials' new Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) technology with its unique high-pressure (300 Torr) bulk fill CVD process on the company's Endura(R) SL platform to deliver void-free tungsten plugs in extremely small contact structures. "This new system is designed to continue Applied Materials' metal deposition leadership into the 300mm era, with the advanced technology and high productivity our customers need to ensure their competitiveness for several device generations," said Dr. Moris Kori, vice president and general manager of Applied Materials' CVD and ALD Metal Interconnect Systems (CMI) Product Business Group. The Sprint Plus system's ALD chamber deposits a very thin nucleation layer, which provides a smooth, defect-free surface to enable uniform film growth during the subsequent CVD bulk fill. While conventional CVD nucleation has limited conformality, the proprietary ALD nucleation process offers virtually 100 percent step coverage and enables excellent filling of extremely small contact holes for extendibility well beyond the 100nm generation. In addition, the ALD layer's low process temperature, very low fluorine content and nano-crystalline structure eliminate fluorine attack on the underlying barrier for superior reliability and high yield.

Bulk deposition is carried out at very high deposition rates using Applied Materials' production-proven high-pressure (300 Torr), low temperature tungsten CVD process. Introduced in 2000, the process provides improved contact resistance performance and superior post-deposition (CMP or etch) process integration. Both the ALD tungsten and CVD tungsten chambers feature a new, all-ceramic wafer pedestal-heater and a second generation, onboard remote plasma clean unit, to virtually eliminate particles added during processing. The ceramic material is resistant to WF6, F2 and atomic fluorine corrosion and there is no direct exposure of the process kit to the remote plasma. The ceramic heater's removable purge ring simplifies wet cleans and is easily configured for either full wafer coverage or 1mm edge exclusion. For the first time, Applied Materials is offering its tungsten deposition technologies on the high-speed Endura SL platform, delivering a throughput of 70 wafers per hour when two ALD tungsten nucleation chambers are paired with two CVD bulk deposition chambers. According to market research firm VLSI Research, the market for tungsten equipment is forecast to be $130 million in 2001 and grow to$325 million by the year 2004. Applied Materials (Nasdaq:AMAT), the largest supplier of products and services to the global semiconductor industry, is one of the world's leading information infrastructure providers. Applied Materials enables Information for Everyone(TM) by helping semiconductor manufacturers produce more powerful, portable and affordable chips. Applied Materials' Web site is


Fourteen foreign ships were under detention in UK ports during June 2001 after failing port state control safety inspection, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) announced today. Latest monthly figures show that 9 foreign ships were detained in UK ports during June 2001 along with 5 other ships still under detention from previous months. The overall rate of detentions is 6.2% compared with inspections carried out over the last 12 months. This is a decrease of 0.3% from the 12 month rate to May. The ships detained included: - A ro-ro passenger ferry detained for the second time in 3 months for lack of emergency preparedness and poor control of passengers on the car deck. Improvements to drills witnessed after the last detention in March had not been sustained. The owners have now demonstrated significant changes in their safety management regime to both the auditors, Lloyds Register, and MCA who will continue to closely monitor the vessel. - A Malta flagged bulk carrier detained at Newcastle. Small holes, through which daylight could be seen, were found between the forecastle space and No. 1 hold. Any water entering the focsle space would have gone straight in to No. 1 hold. Similarly explosive gasses from a cargo such as coal would have been free to enter working spaces. - A tanker loaded with petrol detained for poor emergency preparedness. A fire drill called for by MCA surveyors lacked any realism. For example a CO2 extinguisher was used to tackle a simulated oil fire; the crew in attendance wore loose facemasks with the air supply switched off; and no first aid treatment was given to a fire casualty. Similarly senior engine room staff did not take any active role in the drill in the early stages even though it was set in the engine room. A number of serious hardware defects including deck corrosion between hatches were further evidence of a safety management system which was failing. Following its own re-audit Lloyds Register uncovered a number of major non-conformities and following a review of the company's performance withdrew its support for the Document of Compliance and declined to issue a safety Management Certificate to the ship under its new Panama register. A list of foreign-flag ships detained following inspections by surveyors from the MCA is published monthly and is also placed on the Internet at The list details the name, flag state, owner or operator and classification society of each detained ship together with the summary of the main grounds for detention.


RMI Titanium of Weathersfield, Ohio produces a new grade of titanium that's being used in a top-selling golf club made by TaylorMade Golf of Carlsbad, California. The TaylorMade 300 Series drivers and fairway woods are the first clubs made by a U.S. manufacturer to use a new titanium alloy, SP-700, which was introduced a few years ago. The clubs, which cost $ 400 each, were launched earlier in 2001. RMI's plant is the exclusive producer of SP-700 titanium (Ti). The success of the clubs is significant for RMI because it could create demand from other golf manufacturers, said Richard Leone, an RMI spokesman. While all titanium is lightweight, SP-700 is better than the traditional alloy used for golf clubs because it has improved shaping, strength, and heat-treatment properties, according to Leone. That makes it highly durable, flexible and resistant to corrosion. TaylorMade is boasting that the titanium faceplate on the clubs has a spring effect (not approved by the PGA), giving the ball extra distance when hit with the new club by the amateur player. SP-700 was developed by NKK, a Japanese company which has a partnership with RTI International Metals, RMI's parent company. Spurring demand among golf club makers is important because they have been using considerably less titanium in recent years, Leone said. The titanium clubs that were introduced in 1995 were so revolutionary that many golfers rushed to buy them the first few years, but that business has slowed drastically, he said. Titanium demand from the golf industry for club heads peaked at 10 million pounds a year, but it now is less than 2 million pounds a year. Titanium makers are trying to create more demand by adding more grades of titanium, says Leone. Total use of titanium has fallen in parallel to demand from the golf club manufacturing industry. Total titanium shipments peaked at 62 million pounds in 1997 during the peak of the titanium demand, but now have dropped to about 50 million pounds annually. SP-700 Ti also is being used in wristwatches, race car engines, and mountaineering tools.

RTI won a quality award from Boeing last October. Website:


The roof of the spectacular Guggenheim museum designed by Frank Gehry in Bilbao, Spain, is made of sheets of titanium. The material was chosen for its good looks and low maintenance requirements. The metal is light and resists corrosion from salt water and wind. But to the dismay of architects, stains began to appear on the roof following the opening of the building in October 1997 and Spanish scientists have been at pains to find a way to restore the roof to its pristine beauty.

The standard way to clean the roof of stains, which appear to have been caused by excessive oxidation of the titanium and a build-up of silicates, would have been to use electrolysis. But this would have taken a long time and been very expensive. Now scientists from Spain's Inasmet Foundation have found an alternative method. After trying various combinations of vinegar, steam, alkaline products and water under pressure, the scientists have chosen a new type of foam. The foam contains an acid, the active agent, as well as a polymer that dissolves in water as a thickener. It also has a stabiliser, an indicator and a liquid gas. The active agent cleans the stains while the stabiliser stops the reaction going too far. The other agents hold the foam in place and when the cleaning is complete the foam can be removed and the surface washed.


Environmental Work To Precede Project A memorandum of understanding has been signed by the Bureau of Land Management and Equilon Pipeline Co. LLC, triggering environmental studies on the proposed refurbishing of a petroleum pipeline running through the Estancia Valley and the East Mountains. Equilon Pipeline LLC, a partnership between Texaco and Shell, owns the almost 50-year-old pipeline that was taken out of commission about three years ago. The line runs diagonally across Torrance County from southeast to northwest, crossing Interstate 40 a couple of miles east of Edgewood. The line continues through Santa Fe County and crosses over the Sandia Mountains into Placitas. The 406-mile existing pipeline once carried crude oil from Bloomfield to Jal. Equilon officials say the company plans to refurbish the line and run refined products such as diesel, gasoline and jet fuel from Odessa, Texas, to terminals at Moriarty and Bloomfield. Two new segments will be built at the southern and northern ends of the existing line. The memorandum of understanding, signed in June by the BLM and Equilon, outlines the issues to be considered as part of the environmental impact statement, or EIS, process. Equilon officials said the process normally takes about a year, and construction will require about 18 months. "Specific recommendations are not included in the memorandum," Chuck Moseman, the project director for Equilon who oversees the New Mexico Products Pipeline, said Tuesday. "Rather, they will become part of the environmental impact statement, which by design provides an opportunity for the public to comment on the project." In the EIS process, an independent contractor is selected by the BLM to evaluate environmental impacts. The contractor's responsibility will be to evaluate the entire proposed pipeline, including the existing pipeline and a proposed new tank farm off N.M. 41 at Walker Road, south of Moriarty. Environmental impact studies are not generally required on existing pipelines. "To my knowledge, this is the first time an EIS has been done on a pipeline conversion of product," Moseman said. "The BLM and their EIS contractor will be charting new territory as they go forward with the process. Part of that process is gathering information from the public regarding their concerns, and that input will shape the scope of the EIS."

When Equilon first proposed putting the line back into operation last year, the BLM said it would need only an environmental assessment, a less-detailed study requiring only BLM approval. After the explosion of an El Paso Natural Gas pipeline near Carlsbad killed 12 people in August, the BLM changed its requirement and said Equilon must do an environmental impact statement a detailed study requiring approval from several government agencies before the line can be refurbished and go into operation. Equilon officials have said the more intensive study will probably mean a delay in the construction of the tank farm and distribution terminal planned south of Moriarty. "The EIS contractor will determine what potential environmental impacts the Moriarty terminal could have," Moseman said. He said Moriarty's terminal design includes extensive environmental precautions including:

* Cathodic protection on the tanks to prevent corrosion; * Installing level alarms on the tanks; * Placing an impermeable clay liner under the tanks so a leak cannot reach the underlying soil; * Putting leak-detection devices under the tanks; * Digging dikes around the tanks; and * Drilling monitoring wells around the terminal.

Moseman said the Moriarty terminal site was purchased after approval of a zoning change by the Torrance County Commission in October 1999. The zoning approval included requirements related to the design and operation of the terminal, including safety and environmental protection measures. "Equilon also agreed to fund improvements to N.M. 41, such as possible widening and installation of a turning lane," Moseman said. Equilon has been under fire recently following two incidents involving pipelines in which the company has ownership interest. Earlier this year the National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report on the June 1999 Olympic pipeline explosion in Bellingham, Wash., that killed three youths. In that accident, 250,000 gallons of gasoline spilled into a creek flowing through a city park and erupted in a fireball that ran along the creek for 1 1/2 miles. The Office of Pipeline Safety, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has said Olympic was managed by Equilon at the time of explosion. The office also determined that required inspections uncovered "anomalies" that may have led to the explosion but the problems were never repaired. It leveled a $3.05 million fine against Equilon, the largest civil fine in the office's history. Equilon is appealing the decision and disputing its role as operator of Olympic. "Equilon owns 37 1/2 percent of the stock in Olympic, but contrary to widespread belief, Equilon was not the 'managing partner' or 'operator' of Olympic when the incident occurred in Bellingham," said Gail Schutz, an Equilon official. "Equilon acknowledges that this point of fact conflicts with statements on record, but to the question 'Was Equilon in charge at Olympic when the accident occurred?' the answer is 'No.'" 1/4 1/4' " Last month, the Washington State Department of Ecology levied an additional $7.86 million fine against Olympic Pipeline Co., Equilon and a construction company that may have caused damage to the pipeline during nearby construction. In March 2000 the Explorer Pipeline, in which Equilon has an interest, leaked 600,000 gallons of fuel into a creek feeding Lake Tawakoni, which provides one-third of Dallas' drinking water. The city could not draw water from the lake for almost six months. Lawsuits have been filed by the city of Dallas in that incident against Equilon and the other companies involved.


The Federal Aviation Administration is calling for extensive checks and fixes on older Boeing 737s that could cost U.S. operators as much as a quarter of a billion dollars and keep each plane out of service for as long as three weeks. The problem is what is known as a "lap joint," which is where the fuselage skin panels overlap and are attached by fasteners. In 1997, the federal agency issued an airworthiness directive that required inspections and repairs of the lap joints in older 737s after some operators reported finding cracks in the bottom of the skin panels. Now, the agency wants to add to the earlier directive. In a notice of proposed rule making, the FAA wants lap-joint checks and fixes made to all U.S.-registered 737s through plane No. 2565 off the Renton factory line. The proposed rules are being issued after lap-joint cracks were found on planes with as few as 57,000 cycles (a cycle is one flight) that had undergone repairs as part of the 1997 directive. In some cases, new cracks were discovered near the corners of windows. "Based on these findings, the FAA has determined that the current inspection procedures ... are not adequate for detection of cracks in these locations, and that the preventive change that was required by that (1997) AD does not guarantee crack removal," the FAA said.

The planes involved are the older, or "classic," 737s, not the next-generation models. About 905 U.S.-registered 737s would need to be checked and possibly fixed, the FAA said. There are 1,300 more of the jets flying in other countries. The modifications could cost about $275,000 per aircraft. It is not clear how operators would make the modifications, because that will require the jets to be out of service for so long. The FAA is asking operators to submit a detailed plan on how they will comply. After a final rule goes into effect, operators would have a specific time in which to accomplish the modifications based on the age of the plane. In May, Boeing issued a service bulletin recommending the checks and repairs. Cracking on older planes can be serious. In 1988, a 15-foot section of the top part of the fuselage of an Aloha Airlines 737 peeled away during a flight, killing a flight attendant. Investigators found significant cracking and corrosion.

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