Plastic Pipe Facts™

Exxon Joliet Refinery - Joliet, Illinois:

On March 5th 2004, a piping contractor, Amex submitted a proposal to install above ground temporary piping which would be in service for three or four months as a means to provide critical cooling water from the Des Plaines River.  On September 30, 2004, Exxon accepted the Amex proposal.  ISCO provided training to Amex for the butt fusion process used to join the HDPE pipe prior to work commencing on the project.   After four to five days of training, ISCO provided certificates of training to several Amex pipefitters.   On June 2, 2005 the project was completed after hydro-test and Exxon put the pipe into service. 



On the evening of July 30, 2005, eight weeks after the line was put into service a 36” fusion weld failed with a 6-8 inch section of the joint “..spraying out” water.  Within minutes the leak grew and the entire pipe decoupled.  The following court summary explains the events that ensued to prevent a catastrophic refinery failure:

Once the pipe decoupled, the water pushed its ends apart at least 2 to 3 feet and there was a significant amount of water on the ground, so McCollum radioed the general cooling tower and said "prepare for-start shutting down, emergency shutdown." (AM 56.1 Resp. Exxon¶ 15; EX 56.1 Exhibit N 61: 18 -- 24; 62: 1 -- 2; EX, AM 56.1 Resp. ISCO ¶ 17.). Exxon performed an emergency shut-down of the Refinery within the next twenty to thirty minutes. (EX, AM 56.1 Resp. ISCO ¶ 19.) McCollum ordered the shutdown to prevent unit equipment from overheating and for safety reasons because the cooling water system had become inoperative. (AM 56.1 Resp. Exxon ¶ 16.) Exxon employee Steven Penteris ("Penteris"), the mechanical engineering group leader responsible for supervising mechanical engineers, testified that without cooling water, vapor pressure rises, risking explosion or atmospheric release. (AM 56.1 Resp. Exxon ¶ 16; EX, AM 56.1 Resp. ISCO ¶ 22.) In order to prevent this type of "catastrophic failure," the Refinery burned all of the hydrocarbon it had in production at the time. (AM 56.1 Resp. to Exxon ¶ 16.) Once Exxon shut down the water pipes, there was some residual water flowing from the pipe. (EX, AM 56.1 Resp. ISCO ¶ 20.) Maintenance attempted to clamp the broken section of HDPE pipe or push it together with a fork lift, but could not fix it. (EX, AM 56.1 Resp. ISCO ¶ 21.)1

As of March 19, 2010, Exxon claims a total of $14,913,656 in losses due to the emergency shutdown and costs of start-up.



  1. Exxonmobil Oil Corp. v. Amex Construction Co."United States Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division", March 19, 2010.