Olympic Oil Products Pipeline

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.

Olympic Oil Products Pipeline is an oil products pipeline in the United States.[1]


The pipeline runs from Blaine, Washington, to Portland, Oregon.

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Project Details

  • Operator: Enbridge (85%), BP (15%)
  • Current capacity: 325,000 barrels per day
  • Proposed capacity:
  • Length: 645 kilometers (400 miles)
  • Status: Operating
  • Start Year: 1965[2]


Olympic Pipeline is a 400-mile interstate pipeline system that includes 12-inch, 14-inch, 16-inch, and 20-inch pipelines. The pipeline runs along a 299-mile corridor from Blaine, Washington to Portland, Oregon. The system transports gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. This fuel originates at four Puget Sound refineries, two in Whatcom County and two in Skagit County, and is delivered to Seattle's Harbor Island, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Renton, Tacoma, Vancouver Washington, and Portland Oregon.[3]

The pipeline has a capacity of approximately 325,000 barrels per day. In January of 2006, BP sold majority ownership in Olympic to Enbridge.[4]

In January 2022, the Washington Department of Ecology fined BP $100,000 for two spills that occurred near Woodinville, Washington in February 2020. Ecology stated that the spills were a result of inadequately tightened fittings and failure by BP to perform leak checks on the pipeline at normal operating pressure; BP also did not complete a safety assessment after the spill and failed to provide timely notification of the spill.[5]

Olympic Pipeline explosion

On June 10, 1999, a gasoline pipeline operated by Olympic Pipeline Company exploded in Bellingham, Washington's Whatcom Falls Park. The disaster started at 3:25 that afternoon when a gasoline pipeline ruptured due to various errors and malfunctions on the part of Olympic Pipeline and others. The gasoline vapors exploded at 5:02, sending a fireball down Whatcom Creek. Three people died in the accident, and eight were injured.[6]


The disaster began as Olympic Pipeline was transporting gasoline from Cherry Point Refinery to terminals in Seattle and Portland, Oregon. A pressure relief valve that was not configured properly failed to open in the 16 inches (410 mm) pipeline, which resulted in a surge of pressure after an automatic valve shut for reasons unknown. This resulted in the line rupturing at 3:25 that afternoon, and gasoline began spilling into adjacent Hanna and Whatcom Creeks. As the gasoline continued to spill, many people in the area called 911 to report the leak, and an Olympic Pipeline employee who was in the area called the company to report it.[7]

When the Bellingham Fire Department arrived, massive amounts of gasoline had turned the creek pink, and the fumes were overwhelming. The fire department notified Olympic Pipeline of the leak and evacuated the area around the creek.[7]

The gasoline exploded at 5:02 PM.[4][5] The black smoke plume extended to an altitude of 30,000 feet (9,100 m)and the smoke from the explosion was visible from Vancouver to Anacortes. Whatcom Creek was turned into a river of fire, which exceeded 2,000 °F (1,090 °C). Local businesses were evacuated, Interstate 5 was closed to traffic, and the Coast Guard stopped maritime traffic in Bellingham Bay in anticipation of the fire travelling the entire length of the creek. However, the fire never extended past Interstate 5.[7]


Three people died in the incident. The first was Liam Wood, 18, who was fly fishing in the creek. He succumbed to the fumes, fell unconscious into the creek and drowned, dying before the explosion. Two children, Wade King and Stephen Tsiorvas, both 10, were playing near the creek confluence during the explosion. Both survived the blast, but sustained severe burns, dying the next day at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. There were eight related injuries.[6][7][8]

Property damage was estimated at $58,455,927, most of it caused by the explosion. Many nearby buildings had broken windows. One house was completely destroyed. The city's water treatment plant was near the explosion site, and while the building itself survived, everything inside was destroyed. The rupture allowed 277,000 US gallons (1,050,000 L) of gasoline to escape into the creek bed. Bellingham water treatment personnel were forced to manually add water treatment chemicals to keep the water supply safe until the plant could be rebuilt. The cause of ignition was determined by Bellingham Fire Dept to be a butane lighter in the possession of King and Tsiorvas.[6][7][8]


After a three-year investigation, investigators pointed to a series of failures, and not just a single error, most of which were the fault of Olympic Pipeline. Olympic Pipeline had failed to properly train employees, and had to contend with a faulty computer system and pressure relief valve. In 1994, five years before the accident, an IMCO construction crew, working on behalf of the City of Bellingham damaged the pipeline while constructing the city's water treatment plant, and Olympic Pipeline had failed to find or repair the damage.[9]

Olympic, Equilon and several employees faced a seven count indictment after the investigation in 2002. The companies pleaded guilty to several of the charges, leading to a $112 million settlement, a record at the time. This was the first conviction against a pipeline company under the 1979 Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Act.[6][7][8]

Articles and resources


  1. Olympic Oil Products Pipeline, Wikipedia, accessed September 2017
  2. Cross Cascade Pipeline Draft EIA, USDA, Sep 1998
  3. "Olympic Pipeline," BP, accessed Sep 2017
  4. "Olympic Pipe Line: Operations Fact Sheet," BP, accessed Sep 2017
  5. "BP Fined $100K for Washington Pipeline Gasoline Spills". Insurance Journal. 31 January 2022. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 McClary, Daryl C. McClary (June 11, 2003). "Olympic Pipe Line accident in Bellingham kills three youths on June 10, 1999". historylink.org. Retrieved March 24, 2013. {{cite web}}: Invalid |ref=harv (help)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Millage, Kira (June 7, 2009). "Timeline of Bellingham pipeline explosion". The Bellingham Herald. Retrieved March 24, 2013. {{cite web}}: Invalid |ref=harv (help)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Gaard, Greta Claire (2007). The Nature of Home: Taking Root in a Place (2007 ed.). University of Arizona Press. ISBN 9780816525768. {{cite book}}: Invalid |ref=harv (help)
  9. Washington Military Department - Emergency Management Division (2013). "Local Hazard - Pipeline". Washington Military Department - Emergency Management Division. Retrieved March 24, 2013. {{cite web}}: Invalid |ref=harv (help)

Related GEM.wiki articles

External resources

External articles

Wikipedia also has an article on Olympic Oil Products Pipeline. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.