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Just days before Nebraska regulators gather to announce their decision on Keystone XL, its older namesake, Keystone, leaked a reported 5,000 barrels of crude oil into agricultural lands in South Dakota. Voice of America cited state officials as saying they did not believe the leak had caused any damage to water bodies or drinking water systems.
TransCanada, the operator of the 600,000-bpd Keystone, and initiator of the other more controversial Keystone XL project, said the pipeline has been shut down and will remain so until it is fixed. TransCanada did not estimate the time it would need for that.
The timing of the leak is certainly unfortunate for the Canadian company, already embattled by months of opposition from environmentalists and regulators both at home and in the United States. Last month, TransCanada scrapped a pipeline project to ship oil to the Canadian East Coast.
The existing Keystone pipeline transports crude oil from Canada to refineries in Oklahoma and Illinois, and passes through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. The Keystone XL is planned to pass through Montana and South Dakota, ending in Nebraska, where it would connect to the existing pipeline network going on to the Gulf Coast.
After President Obama vetoed the project on the grounds that it did not represent an economic necessity for the time being, his successor Donald Trump signed the go-ahead for the pipeline almost the moment he entered the Oval Office. Yet, opposition abounds.
For Nebraska, the problem is that the pipeline’s route is designed to pass through a fragile ecosystem in the Sandhills region, and also that there is a risk of groundwater pollution—a typical and persistent risk with pipelines. The decision of the state regulators is the last obstacle for the Keystone XL project, and the Keystone leak could become a blessing in disguise for opponents.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.