Keystone XL Pipeline to Resume Construction
Canadian pipeline company TC Energy Corp. announced in a status report filing at the U.S. District Court in Montana earlier this month that its long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline would begin pre-construction efforts as early as next month.
According to Reuters, TC Energy plans to mobilize heavy construction equipment in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.
Keystone XL Pipeline History
In 2011, the $5.2 billion pipeline began flowing crude oil through seven U.S. states, where it will eventually work in tandem with the $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline. The Keystone Pipeline as a whole is reported to handle up to 23 million gallons of crude oil daily.
In 2017, President Donald J. Trump’s administration reversed his predecessor’s decision on the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, allowing the 1,179-mile oil pipeline to move forward again. Keystone XL, a project of TransCanada, is part of the larger Keystone system and plans to transport oil from Hardisty, Alberta, in the western Canadian oil sands, to Steele City, Nebraska.
In April 2018, TransCanada revealed that approximately 9,700 barrels of oil spilled on farmland in Marshall County, South Dakota, on Nov. 16, 2017—considerably more than the 5,000 barrels the company originally estimated were lost.
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 noted that if the current estimate is correct, that spill is the seventh largest in the U.S. since 2010.
By July, officials confirmed at least one section of the pipeline north of Britton, South Dakota, was being dug up for inspection. A year later, a federal report indicated that improper coatings were likely used on the pipeline. The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration issued a notice of probable violation to pipeline owner TC Oil Operations, also known as TC Energy, in mid-June.
Another incident occurred this past November, causing over 380,000 gallons of oil to leak from the Keystone Pipeline, a total amounting to 9,120 barrels of crude oil. Sections of Keystone pipeline were shut down in response to the leak, which impacted a wetland area and, at the time, an estimated 2,500 square yards of land. TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, said that air quality, wildlife and environment monitoring was being conducted.
While the cause of the leak underwent investigation, North Dakota regulators also noted that drinking water supplies went unaffected, and TC Energy reported that the spill had been contained, and that it was using backhoes and vacuum trucks to recover the spilled oil.
The pipeline officially returned to service on Nov. 10, after receiving approval for a repair and restart plan by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
However, at the end of the same month, North Dakota environmental scientist Bill Suess, the estimated amount of land affected by the oil spill has risen nearly 10 times the original estimate, although the amount of oil leaked remained the same.
During collection, the contaminated soil was stockpiled and taken to a landfill in Sawyer, North Dakota.
What’s Happening Now
In the filing, TC Energy reports that it plans to set up construction equipment at worker camps and pipeline storage yards in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska next month.
“This is very good news for Canada as a country,” said Tristan Goodman, President of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, which represents small- to mid-sized oil and gas producers. “It’s extremely good for Alberta and Saskatchewan, where a lot of the oil for this is coming from.”
By March, the company hopes to begin site clearing operations and in April, start moving pipes by train and trucks to various storage yards so that full construction can commence in Montana and South Dakota.
TC Energy adds that although work on the border-crossing segment is subject to receive federal approvals, by June the company expects to start construction on the pipeline’s pumping stations. Other construction work is expected to continue into 2021.
Once the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline is complete, it will transport 830,000 barrels of oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada to the U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast per day.
In a statement, Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said, “Keystone XL is crucial in building market access for Alberta, ensuring high-quality Canadian oil that can be relied upon throughout North America.”