Federal data: Kansas oil spill largest in Keystone history

Federal data: Kansas oil spill largest in Keystone history

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – An oil spill in a creek in northeastern Kansas this week is the largest for an onshore crude oil pipeline in more than nine years and by far the largest in Keystone Pipeline history, according to federal data.

Canadian company TC Energy estimated the spill on the Keystone system on Thursday at around 14,000 barrels, or 588,000 gallons. He said the affected pipeline segment had been “isolated”, the oil had been contained on site with dams or barriers, and environmental monitoring had been put in place, including 24-hour monitoring. 24 air quality. He did not say how the spill happened.

After a drop in pressure on the pipeline that carries oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas, the company said it shut down its Keystone system Wednesday night. Oil spilled into a creek in Washington County, Kansas, about 240 kilometers northwest of Kansas City.

Zack Pistora, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club of Kansas, noted that the spill in his state was larger than the previous 22 spills combined on the Keystone Pipeline, which began operations in 2010.

“It’s going to be months, maybe even years before we fully understand this disaster and know the extent of the damage and have everything cleaned up,” he said.

In September 2013, a Tesoro Corp. in North Dakota ruptured and spilled 20,600 barrels, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.

A more costly spill occurred in July 2010, when an Enbridge Inc. pipeline in Michigan ruptured and spilled over 20,000 barrels into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. Hundreds of homes and businesses were evacuated.

The Keystone Pipeline’s previous largest spill occurred in 2017, when more than 6,500 barrels spilled near Amherst, South Dakota, according to a US Government Accountability Office report released last year. The second largest, 4,515 barrels, was in 2019 near Edinburgh, North Dakota.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said drinking water wells were unaffected by this week’s spill and oil did not move from the creek to larger waterways. water. The spill occurred in pastures about 8 miles northeast of Washington, the county seat of about 1,100 residents and no evacuations have been ordered.

Pipelines are often considered safer than transporting oil by railcar or truck, but large spills can create significant environmental damage.

The nearly 2,700-mile Keystone Pipeline carries thick oil from Canadian tar sands to refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas. A branch of the Department of Transportation that oversees pipeline safety has allowed operator TC Energy to operate the pipeline at a higher pressure than is generally allowed if the company used pipes made from better steel.

In a report to Congress last year, the Government Accountability Office said Keystone’s accident history was similar to other pipelines, but spills have increased in recent years. Investigations ordered by regulators found the four worst spills were caused by design or manufacturing flaws in pipes during construction.

TC Energy’s license included more than 50 special conditions, including on its design, construction and operation, according to the GAO report. Bill Caram, executive director of the nonprofit Pipeline Safety Trust, said on Friday he would have thought the extra safety measures would have been enough to offset the higher pipeline pressure.

“When we see multiple failures like this on such a scale and in a relatively short period of time after this pressure has increased, I think it’s time to question that,” Caram said, noting the 2017 and 2019 spills.

Fears that the spills could pollute waterways have sparked opposition to TC Energy’s plans to build another crude oil pipeline in the Keystone System, which would have passed through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. Critics have also argued that using crude oil from the tar sands in western Canada will make climate change worse, and President Joe Biden’s cancellation of a US permit for the project has led the company unplugged last year.

The spill caused a brief spike in crude prices on Thursday. Benchmark US oil rose more modestly – around 1% – on Friday morning as fears of a supply disruption were overshadowed by greater worries about an economic slowdown in the United States and other major country that would reduce the demand for oil.

Tom Kloza, an analyst with the Oil Price Information Service, said oil is now seen as plentiful, “and this incident will have no appreciable impact on gasoline or diesel prices.” Prices at the pump will continue to fall by pennies a day or more, and that between Canadian imports and the strategic petroleum reserve, the United States has enough crude to last more than three years at current demand, did he declare.

Patrick De Haan, analyst for GasBuddy, which operates a price-tracking app, said there was pressure to fix the pipeline quickly and keep refineries supplied, adding that “if it lasts more than a few days, it could to cause problems”.

Previous Keystone spills have resulted in outages that lasted about two weeks, but this outage could be longer because it involves a body of water, RBC Capital Markets analysts said in a note to investors. Although it is possible that part of the pipeline could restart sooner, they said.

The spill happened 8 miles northeast of Washington, the county seat of about 1,100 residents.

The pipeline crosses the family farm of Chris and Bill Pannbacker. The hill where the breach occurred was a landmark for locals and was once a popular destination for wagon rides, said Bill Pannbacker, a farmer and rancher. He disagreed with the company’s decision to build the pipeline up that 80ft hill rather than cross it, now questioning himself for giving in.

“I would have liked to hold on tighter. And I bet now they would have liked me to hold on tighter too because I guess the flow against that bend in the pipe is possibly what caused part of the problem.


Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas and Foley reported from Iowa City, Iowa. David Koenig contributed reporting from Dallas.


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