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Keystone Oil Spill Larger than Thought

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

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Last November’s spill on the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota was nearly twice as big as originally reported, according to pipeline operator TransCanada.

The company revealed last week that approximately 9,700 barrels of oil spilled on farmland in Marshall County on Nov. 16, considerably more than the 5,000 barrels the company originally estimated were lost. An investigation into the cause of the failure is said to be wrapping up, with a report due in the coming weeks from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Keystone spill
Images: TransCanada

Last November's spill on the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota totaled 9,700 barrels, nearly twice the early estimate.

Preliminary reports indicated that the leak may have come as a result of damage to either the pipeline itself or its protective coating, caused during construction 10 years ago.

The Aberdeen News notes that if the current estimate is correct, the spill is the seventh-largest in the U.S. since 2010.

Spill Details

The Corrective Action Order issued to TransCanada by the PHMSA 12 days after the spill was discovered said that excavation at the site of the release had revealed “a rupture originating at the 12:00 position.” The order said the failure “may have been caused by mechanical damage to the pipeline and coating associated with a weight installed on the pipeline in 2008.”

Weights, the order noted, are placed in areas where buoyancy due to groundwater is a concern.

Keystone spill remediation

TransCanada says it has since finished remediation in the area and is continuing to monitor the vicinity.

The area of the pipeline where the failure occurred is a 30-inch API 5L X70 steel pipe coated with fusion-bonded epoxy.

The volume of the spill was originally reported to be subject to a downward revision; the PHMSA’s order noted that after the initial 5,000-barrel estimate, there was an “unconfirmed lower spill estimate.”

The pipeline was placed back in service 12 days after the leak, and TransCanada says it has since finished remediation in the area and is continuing to monitor the vicinity. The company says testing revealed no impact on groundwater.

Keystone XL Status

The Keystone spill came just as TransCanada gained approval from Nebraska for its Keystone XL project, the long-delayed Keystone extension that would connect the Alberta oil sands with Steele City, Nebraska. TransCanada has since confirmed commercial interest in Keystone XL but has yet to officially announce whether it will move forward with the project, first proposed in 2008.

Keystone XL was rejected by the administration of former President Barack Obama in 2015 but was revived soon after President Donald J. Trump took office in 2017.

   

Tagged categories: Infrastructure; Oil and Gas; Pipelines

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (4/11/2018, 11:14 AM)

Wow...we certainly have improved in dealing with oil and gas releases if 9,700 bbl is the 7th largest spill in the US since 2010. I have a site where we are dealing with the fallout of a release in the order of 1.5-2 million bbl of oil (from 70 years ago).


Comment from Lou Lyras, (4/12/2018, 4:17 PM)

This is unacceptable! If this leak contaminated an underground aquifer - like the Ogallala Aquifer - it is impossible to clean.


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