Friday’s leak from the crude oil pipeline running through some of the congested localities of north Chennai has turned the focus again on its early replacement.

The pipeline has been moving the oil, received at Chennai port, since 1969 when the capacity of CPCL refinery in Manali was less than one-fourth of the present capacity of 10.5 million tonne.

Apart from the need for a bigger pipeline for improved efficiency, the company proposed a replacement over ten years ago also in view of the health of the existing 30 inch dia facility with passage of time.

Stating that regular health check-ups were done for the existing facility to ensure safe operation, the company said the new pipeline was necessitated “due to ageing of the pipeline and development of habitations along the route in some areas.”

Another factor was the Railways proposing another line along Chennai-Tiruvottiyur-Gumudipoondi route.

Describing it as one of the important projects for the refinery, CPCL officials had said that in view of the age and size of the pipeline, the rate of discharge from the existing pipeline was slow and translated into more demurrage charges for CPCL.

The project moved recently and in August and September, public hearings were conducted as part of the process to seek CRZ clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had issued consent to establish the 42 inch dia, 17 km-long pipeline and the company had obtained the right of way from the National Highways Authorities of India. Currently, the company is awaiting clearance from the MoEF

CPCL has also not closed the other option available for transporting crude – setting up a single buoy mooring (SBM) at the Ennore port.

Though relatively expensive, it would help the company bring in very large crude carriers and deliver cost advantages.The cost of the pipeline has escalated from Rs.65 crore in 2005 to Rs.126 crore now, whereas the SBM is estimated to cost in excess of Rs.1,200 crore.

“We are making a sincere effort for the SBM,” an official of IOC group company said.

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