Remember the breakdown in the Olympic Pipe Line Co. computer system in July? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Remember the following article in the SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER on July 9, 1999 regarding the deadly accident in Bellingham? My brother sent a letter to the newspaper inquiring about the possibility of an investigation... and received a response ---.see following:.

Sent: Thursday, August 26, 1999 7:45 PM


Subject: Olympic Pipeline Computer Failure article dated 7-9-99

-----Original Message-----

Scott Sunde Seattle Post Seattle, Washington

Dear Mr. Sunde,

I read your newspaper article concerning the computer software failure in the Olympic Pipeline dated July 9, 1999. I am attaching a copy to this email.

I was wondering if there are any new developments on this story. Has there been an investigation? If you can share any further information on this event, I would be grateful.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely, EJT Grove City, Ohio 43123


National alert from pipeline accident Regulators urge review of computer systems

Friday, July 9, 1999


Breakdowns in the Olympic Pipe Line Co. computer system just before and during last month's deadly accident in Bellingham have so alarmed federal regulators that they have issued a nationwide warning.

The federal Office of Pipeline Safety issued the warning this week to the 2,000 operators of liquid and natural-gas pipelines in the United States. It urged them to make sure that computer systems used to operate and monitor pipelines are working properly.

The advisory details a series of computer failures on June 10 around the time Olympic's 16-inch line leaked up to 277,000 gallons of gasoline into Bellingham creeks. Gasoline vapor later exploded in flames, and two 10-year-old boys and a teenager were killed.

After the accident, Olympic acknowledged that its computer system crashed on the afternoon of the accident. The computer problems may have kept Olympic personnel from reacting quickly to the leak, regulators said.

The computer system is known as SCADA -- supervisory control and data acquisition. Such systems are common in the industry, though they may have been built at different times by different manufacturers.

All such systems go under the generic name of SCADA.

Some companies, including Olympic, add to their computer systems leak-detection equipment. Olympic's uses such information as temperature and pressure to detect leaks.

But investigators with the Office of Pipeline Safety have determined that Olympic's computer system broke down on the day of the accident. "Immediately prior to and during the incident, the SCADA system exhibited poor performance that inhibited the pipeline controllers from seeing and reacting to the development of an abnormal pipeline operation," regulators said in their advisory.

The Office of Pipeline Safety is part of the U.S. Transportation Department. Regulators did not name Olympic in the advisory. But Patricia Klinger, a spokeswoman for the Office of Pipeline Safety, acknowledged that the incident mentioned in the advisory and prompting the warning was Olympic's Bellingham accident.

The message to other pipeline operators, she said, is to "take extreme caution." "We don't want to see this repeated."

Gerald Baron, an Olympic spokesman, said the company believes federal regulators are being prudent in sending out the advisory to pipeline operators.

Baron could not discuss the details of the computer problems and cautioned against focusing on computer difficulties or any other single factor as a cause of the accident.

Regulators believe Olympic's computer system typically operated at 65 percent to 70 percent of capacity.

But on June 10, the system had an internal database error. That error, plus the demands put on the computer by the leak, "hampered controller operations," the advisory said.

"The combination of the database error, the inadequate reserve capacity of the SCADA processor and the unusually dynamic changes that occurred during the upset condition appear to have combined and temporarily overburdened the SCADA computer system," regulators said.

"This may have prevented the pipeline controllers from reacting and controlling the upset condition on their pipeline as promptly as would have been expected."

Regulators also said that modifications made to the computer system after it was installed may have caused it to malfunction.

The Office of Pipeline Safety ordered Olympic on June 18 to find out what went wrong with its computer system and correct it. It also ordered the company to make a comprehensive review of its SCADA system.

Those demands came as part of a corrective order that closed the upper 37 miles of the 400-mile pipeline. Regulators also ordered the company to undertake several safety modifications and reviews.

The Office of Pipeline Safety may soon issue additional orders regarding Olympic's pipeline , Klinger said.

------------------------------------------------------------------------ P-I reporter Scott Sunde can be reached at 206-448-8331 or



From: "Sunde, Scott" Subject: RE: Olympic Pipeline Computer Failure article dated 7-9-99 Date: Sun, 29 Aug 1999 10:55:10 -0700

Message-ID: <>

Yes. In its amended corrective action order, the Office of Pipeline Safety criticized the company for having people operating the SCADA system who didn't know how to maintain it and required it to give the workers additional training. You can see this at the OPS web site: WWW.OPS.Dot.Gov Look under "what's new." The company also had pledged to make computer improvements, including increasing CPU power by several hundred percent. The company's explanation is that there was a software error and the computer kept demanding more and more data, consuming and monopolizing the computer. The company ought to have an explanation of its view on its web site: WWW.OLYPIPE.COM


-- mmmm (, August 29, 1999



-- R (, August 30, 1999.

The company's explanation is that there was a software error and the computer kept demanding more and more data, consuming and monopolizing the computer.

Here we go loop de loo, here we go loop de la.

More input,,, must have inputtt...inputtttttttttttttttttttttt

Lmao, The 'puter monopolized itself! ROTF... will it go blind?

Stay tuned for next weeks memo.

The management,

-- CT (ct@no.yr), August 30, 1999.

Swell. Gas pipeline a mile to the east. Two non-yet-ready nukes ten miles to the south. SCADA systems at risk. I feel like this computer, wanting more and more and more data. But unlike it, I can choose not to let it break me down. Amazing how we manage to function so well despite the increasing tension, isn't it? Off to work at the hospital (See fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=001JWm for a glimse of that world.)

Incidentally, Gary North had a link last Thursday to an EPA site that lists by zip code all establishments that handle hazardous waste. Check out your area, stop by a few places and see what their contingency plans are.

-- Faith Weaver (, August 30, 1999.

The remaining, operational, part of the pipeline had another spill today. Very small [ie. a few hundred gallons] but will not improve the PR position of the company.


-- Z1X4Y7 (, August 30, 1999.

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