The operator of the Keystone Pipeline System, which carries one type of crude oil from Canada to multiple provinces for refining, said over the weekend that its biggest breach ever was under control for now.
A pipeline failure three miles east of Washington, Kansas on Wednesday caused an estimated 14,000 barrels of crude, or 588,000 gallons of crude oil, known as tar sands oil, to spill into a natural watercourse, Mill Creek, according to the U.S. Department of State. Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration.
The administration has ordered that the affected section of the pipeline, about 160 miles north of Wichita, be closed until corrective action is completed.
The Canadian parent company of daily pipeline operator TC Oil, TC Energy, said on Saturday that the leak is no longer moving downstream. The company said it has mobilized 250 crews to handle the cleanup and deployed booms and vacuum trucks to stop the oil.
“The discharge has been contained and no drinking water has been affected,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Saturday.
Failure on a 96-mile segment in parts of Washington County, Kansas, Clay County, Kansas and Jefferson County, Nebraska is again raising concern over pipeline safety following the conclusion of the contentious Keystone XL pipeline project.
This proposed pipeline, which would transport the Canadian oil sands to Nebraska, has often polarized US political leaders, who are lining up to either kill it or make way. It was blocked by the administration of President Barack Obama, renewed by President Donald Trump, and corrupted by President Joe Biden. TC Energy withdrew its plans last year.
According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Substances Safety Administration, at least three significant leaks have occurred throughout the original Keystone Pipeline System in the past five years, with the most voluminous one on Wednesday.
Pipeline regulators also recorded accidents and breaches in the Keystone system in 2011, 2016 and 2020. The affected section is part of the 288-mile Cushing Extension that was completed in 2011 and carries crude oil from Steele City, Nebraska to Cushing, Oklahoma. , said the regulators.
Environmentalists argued that these events came through such a pipeline and that in a world largely reckoned with global warming from fuel burning, the convenience of more direct transportation for fossil fuel was not worth it.
The Sierra Club said the pipeline, which it calls Keystone 1, has been the site of a leak, breach or accident for the 22nd time.
“There is no such thing as a safe tar sand pipeline, and this is another disaster that continues to prove that we need to put our climate and communities first,” Catherine Collentine of the Sierra Club said in a statement.
Many environmental organizations want Biden to ban new oil and gas infrastructure on public lands.
Alan K. Mayberry, associate director at the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, said in a letter to a TC Oil executive last week that the company had been ordered to keep the affected segment offline.
According to Thursday’s letter, Mayberry is asking TC Oil to identify the root cause of the breach and identify any decision makers who may have contributed to the leak. He also said the company should repair or replace damaged or cracked sections and assess whether there are similar conditions or structural problems in other parts of the pipeline.
Federal pipeline regulators said before any restart, TC must lower the pressure to 80 percent of what it was just before the breach.
According to Mayberry’s letter, the leak Wednesday night came while the company was analyzing the nearby vehicle using an “in-line inspection tool.”
“The ILI tool is currently below the fault location,” he wrote. “Defendant had bypassed the Hope, Kansas, pumping station, the next downstream station, in preparation for the device to pass when the malfunction occurred.”
Any possible cause and effect here was unclear. The letter also indicates that the malfunction included “failed pipe connections”.
TC Energy said on Friday that the pipeline is operating according to the rules. “It was working within pipeline design and regulatory approval requirements at the time of the incident,” the company said.
During President George W. Bush’s tenure, TC Oil was given special permission to use higher-than-standard pressure along the Cushing Extension to mobilize thick crude from Canada.
Bill Caram, executive director of the nonprofit Pipeline Safety Trust, told the Associated Press that the number of Keystone leaks, breaches and accidents that have occurred since then should warrant a reassessment of allowing higher pressure.
“I think it’s time to question that,” he said.