Update: SD Keystone Leaks 'Not Going Well'

November 28, 2017

While TransCanada may be celebrating its recent OK to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline in Nebraska, going so far as to say the XL extension is expected to have just one leak event of more than 1,000 barrels of oil in 100 years, Reuters reports that the existing Keystone pipeline between Canada and Texas has leaked more oil more often in the U.S. than TransCanada's risk assessments estimated before the line began operating in 2010.

The spill risk analysis required by regulators was done by DMV GL, a global risk management company, concluded the estimated chance of an oil leak of more than 50 barrels would be “not more than once every seven to 11 years over the entire length of the pipeline in the United States,” according to the company's South Dakota operating permit. For South Dakota alone the estimate given regulators said the line should have a “spill no more than once every 41 years.”

The Keystone system that links Hardisty, Alberta to the Texas Gulf coast - about 2,147 miles - has already had three leaks in the past seven years, two in South Dakota spilling more than 5,000 barrels, and one in North Dakota in 2011.

Gary Hanson, a member of South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commission, told Reuters, "They testified that this is going to be a state-of-the-art pipeline. We want to know the pipeline is going to operate in a fashion that is safe and reliable. So far, it’s not going well.”

The Keystone's poor safety record could cause state commissioners to withdraw TransCanada's operating permit until the reasons for the leaks are identified and corrected.

Earlier this month, TransCanada got the go-ahead from Nebraska for the XL expansion which will cross Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

TransCanada’s spill analysis for the Keystone XL pipeline estimates 2.2 leaks per decade with 50 percent of those leaks totaling 3 barrels or less.

TransCanada estimated that spills exceeding 1,000 barrels would occur at a rate of once per century.

TransCanada has said it will make a final decision regarding the XL project later this year.