Spectra Energy said it is preparing to recover a 400-foot section of its Texas Eastern natural gas pipeline system from the Arkansas River near Little Rock. The pipeline ruptured on May 31.

On Sunday, the company said it had started the process of recovering the section of 24-inch diameter auxiliary pipeline from the river, staging equipment near the incident site. Spectra said the recovery process would begin as soon as floodwaters receded and river conditions "improved enough to safely put recovery divers in the water." The recovery process could begin Tuesday.

"Once the recovery process begins, the pipe will be cut into sections for safe removal and transport from the area," Spectra said. "Some of the cuts will be made underwater, and further cuts will take place once the pipe is raised onto a barge. The recovered pipe will be inspected to aid in the investigation."

Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) closed off a two-mile stretch of the Arkansas River to commercial traffic as inspectors with Spectra and the USCG tried to determine the cause of the rupture (see Daily GPI, June 4). The USCG reopened the section of the river on Friday.

In a separate statement Friday, Spectra said sonar surveys indicated that a 400-foot section of the pipeline had traveled downstream from its original location and was lying along the north bank of the river. "The nearest end of the pipe segment appears to be approximately 100 feet downstream from the original pipeline crossing," the company said.

The surveys also showed that 450 feet of the Texas Eastern mainline are partially uncovered at the riverbed. Spectra spokesman Creighton Welch told NGI on Monday that the mainline remains shut down as a precaution.

"Spectra Energy is taking steps to verify the integrity of the mainline prior to placing it back into operation," the company said Friday.