In a major PR mess, TransCanada declared it had to shut part of its Keystone pipeline just four days before the state of Nebraska was due to decide on an expansion of the system. According to the company, some 800,000 liters of crude oil had leaked into Marshall County, South Dakota.
The leak (which happened some 25 miles south of its Ludden pump station on a right-of-way) couldn’t have come at a worse time, just as Nebraska Public Service Commission is set to vote on the Keystone XL project, the last major regulatory hurdle which needs to be cleared for the $8 billion project to go ahead.
If accepted, it would mean an 830,000-barrel expansion could run through the state of Nebraska.
TransCanada explained that they had discovered the leaking as early as 6 am on Thursday when their check systems have detected a drop in pressure on the pipe.
Mr. Warren Mabee, Director of the Institute of Energy and Environmental Policy, employed by Queens University, stated that the size of the spill is "bigger than the averagely sized spill in most years in Canada, but when it happens four days before they go into a review that becomes a real problem,"
Of course, one spill doesn't really affect a company's safety track record, but the timing is quite problematic.
Opponents of the expansion, like Greenpeace, were quick to point out the obvious failure in the system. Local campaigner Mr. Mike Hudema said: "Just days before the Nebraska Public Service Commissions decides on whether to approve Keystone XL we get a painful reminder of why no one wants a pipeline over their water supply."
If the extension gets accepted, the Keystone XL pipeline would then be transporting oilsands oil from Alberta all the way through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska to finally connect with the existing pipeline system that feeds all the Texas Gulf Coast refineries.