A stretch of pipeline in Kansas with an oil spill is back in service

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – A pipeline operator returned a damaged section in Kansas to service Thursday, just over three weeks after a spill dumped 14,000 tubs of crude oil into a rural creek.

Canada’s TC Energy said it had completed repairs, inspections and testing on its Keystone pipeline in northeast Kansas to allow for a « controlled restart » of the Steele City, Nebraska section near the Kansas line, at Cushing, in northern Oklahoma. The 2,700-mile (4,345-kilometre) Keystone system carries heavy crude oil extracted from the oil sands of western Canada to the Gulf Coast and central Illinois.

A Dec. 7 spill shut down the Keystone system after spilling 14,000 barrels of crude oil into a creek running through rural pastures in Washington County, about 150 miles northwest of Kansas City. Each barrel is 42 gallons, the size of a household bathtub.

The pipeline safety branch of the US Department of Transportation last week authorized TC Energy to restart the section of pipeline after telling the company it would have to operate it at a lower pressure than before. The company’s announcement revealed that it was still working to determine the cause of the spill.

“We recognize that incidents like this raise questions. We also have questions. We are committed to asking these tough questions, fully investigating and sharing our learnings and actions,” said Richard Prior, company president for liquids pipelines, in an online post.

The rupture happened on the land of local farmer Bill Pannbacker, and he said he was bothered by the company reopening the section of the pipeline when « they didn’t at least give a cause official » of the accident.

The company said last week it had recovered nearly 7,700 barrels of spilled crude oil, just over half. Company and government officials said drinking water supplies were not affected. No one was evacuated and most of the Keystone system was back in service within eight days.

“We will not rest until we recover and remediate the areas affected by this incident,” Prior said in his post. « No incident is ever acceptable to us. »

The spill was the largest on land in nine years and larger than the previous 22 spills on the Keystone system combined, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.

« If previous tests showed everything was fine and now the tests show everything is fine, but we have had breakdowns in the meantime, what assurance do we have that there is no further accident waiting to happen? » said Zack Pistora, who lobbies for the Sierra Club state chapter.

Fears that spills could pollute waterways have sparked opposition to TC Energy’s plans to build another crude oil pipeline in the same system, the 1,200-mile (1,900 kilometer) Keystone XL through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. President Joe Biden’s cancellation of a permit for the project led the company to terminate the project last year.


Associated Press staff writer Heather Hollingsworth also contributed from Mission, Kansas.


Follow John Hanna on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

John Hanna, The Associated Press


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