Spills & Spills For The Keystone Pipeline
We've Now Seen 23 Spills Along The Keystone System Since It Began Operating in 2010. Let's Look At What's Happening in Kansas.
Another week, another 14,000 barrels of oil spilled. That’s more than half a million gallons of sludge running wild into a rural Kansas creek.
It’s the biggest spill in the Keystone Pipeline system’s history, but probably not the last.
My heart goes out to all the farmers and residents nearby who have to deal with this mess. I can only imagine the smell!
The 2,687-mile hazardous liquid pipeline system run from Alberta, Canada down to the Texas Gulf Coast in Port Arthur.
The pipeline is operated by Canada-based TC Energy, which shut down a portion of the system last week.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has issued a Corrective Action Order requiring a shutdown of the affected segment, analysis of the cause, and other safety measures.
The leak put about as much oil as it would take to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool into Mill Creek in Washington County, Kansas, about 150 miles northwest of Kansas City.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 on-scene coordinators (OSCs) and an EPA public information officer (PIO) have been on-scene at the pipeline rupture and oil discharge, according to an EPA press release.
EPA OSCs are monitoring the cleanup activities being performed by TC Energy, and the EPA PIO is working with TC Energy PIOs to ensure that the public remains informed of all actions taking place at the scene.
Both TC Energy and the EPA said the spill has been contained, but as you look at the damage below, you can see they have their work cut out for them.
The type of oil that runs through that pipeline is sludgy and often sinks to the bottom of waterways, making it more difficult to clean than conventional crude oil.
Accidents Keep Happening
The problem with pipelines is, of course, the accidents. Keystone, alone, has had nearly two dozen accidents since it went into service in 2010, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The Keystone Pipeline has transported more than 3 billion barrels of crude oil from Canada to U.S. refineries since 2010.
Keystone's accident history is similar to other pipelines, but the severity of its spills has worsened with 2 large spills in 2017 and 2019, according to a 2021 GAO report.
The GAO report also mentions the 2017 incident spilled more than 6,500 barrels near Amherst, South Dakota, and in 2019, 4,515 barrels leaked near Edinburg, North Dakota.
The 2019 spill occurred while the South Dakota Water Management Board held hearing with engineers and experts to determine the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project. TC Energy officially abandoned the project in June 2021, which was seen by many as a major environmental victory.
Pipes for Days
Most of the world’s oil pipelines are located in the U.S. More than 200 oil pipelines run across the country, topping the number of pipelines in Russia, China and Canada combined.
Pipeline systems are touted as a cheaper and faster way to transport oil products than using trucks. But the accidents and spills can certainly outweigh the benefits, causing harm to the environment, including contaminating water sources.
The largest pipeline for refined petroleum products is Colonial Pipeline, which connects refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast to the markets in the South and East coasts. The pipeline delivers some 2.5 million barrels per day of oil. In 2021, the Colonial Pipeline suffered a major cyberattack that forced it to shut down, which led to fuel shortages in some parts of the country.
Enbridge operates the longest crude oil pipeline system in the U.S., traversing more than 8,600 miles across the country and accounting for 40 percent of the U.S. crude oil imports. In 2010, a 30-inch pipeline belonging to Enbridge ruptured near Marshall, Michigan, contaminating Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River with hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil.
In October 2022, Enbridge Energy was reportedly fined more than $11 million in water quality violations related to the Line 3 pipeline project in northern Minnesota, after the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources announced results from investigations of water quality violations and aquifer breaches related to the construction project.
Here’s a tweet from Kansas State Representative, Lindsay Vaughn. I’m with Lindsay, let’s get stronger pipeline regulations. It’s not a matter of if, but when….
You can learn more about gas pipelines and how the impact people, water and the planet here.
For example, the International Energy Agency has called for an immediate end to new investments in fossil fuel pipelines.
Add your voice to the conversation! Let us know in the comments below what you think about this oil disaster in Kansas.