Local News

Ruptured Propane Pipe Has Tankers Flocking to Apex

Posted November 7, 2007 5:26 p.m. EST
Updated November 8, 2007 12:10 a.m. EST

— Tanker trucks seeking propane backed up traffic on N.C. Highway 55 Wednesday afternoon, and officials said the situation might repeat itself for several days because of a pipeline break in Mississippi.

A 12-inch Dixie Pipeline Co. propane line ruptured Nov. 1 near Carmichael, Miss. At least two people were killed in the resulting gas explosion and fire, and dozens of nearby home were evacuated. Firefighters extinguished the fire Saturday.

The pipeline, which runs from Texas to a terminal in Apex and supplies propane to seven states along the way, has been shut down since the rupture. A 10-mile section of the pipeline has been replaced, but Dixie Pipeline spokesman Rick Rainey said it needs to be tested before the flow of propane is restarted.

The shutdown left the Apex terminal as the primary source of propane in the Southeast, and more than 20 tankers jockeyed for position Wednesday to be filled up.

Rainey said officials hope to return the pipeline to service by the middle of next week, which would head off a propane shortage. But trucks are expected to continue heading to Apex in the coming days to keep distributors supplied, he said.

"We're going to go where ever we need to go to get the gas. I have to go to Ohio tomorrow and pull a load back to Winston Salem,” truck driver Sam Powell said.

Most propane customers fill up before the winter. Since it hasn't been that cold, many tanks are still full.

"It could be real bad if it was January. It would be real bad, Powell said.

The limited supply and hauling costs were expected to likely drive up propane prices.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the cause of the propane line rupture.