TransCanada has long contended that Keystone XL will be the safest pipeline ever built. But in East Texas, landowners are growing increasingly alarmed by what they’ve seen first-hand: multiple repairs on pipeline sections with dents, faulty welds and other anomalies. The Oklahoma-to-Texas segment of Keystone XL is 90 percent complete, according to the company, and is expected to come online later this year.
Vokes says TransCanada prioritizes staying on schedule over quality. In a 28-page complaint filed last year with the Canadian government’s pipeline regulator, he describes rampant code violations on other TransCanada projects. He claims that the repair work in Texas proves the company is still ignoring the engineering codes and regulations that guide pipeline construction and warns that Keystone XL will likely leak.
“Now if they were actually following this,” he says, holding up a section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ code governing liquid hydrocarbon pipelines, “they wouldn’t have this,” he says, pointing to an array of photos documenting problems with the pipeline….
Vokes says these problems suggest a qualified inspector wasn’t present during construction, as required by code. He and Najafi agree that a qualified inspector would have ensured there was adequate padding between the pipe and rock and wouldn’t have allowed improper backfilling. Asked how many inspectors it hired on Keystone XL, TransCanada gave no reply but said it hired hundreds of inspectors on Keystone I.
Landowners in Texas are worried that the frequency of repairs on Keystone XL suggests there are more problems in the pipeline that haven’t been detected. They also worry about new welds; each time a piece of pipe is replaced, two new welds are needed to attach the new section to the pipeline. Because hydrotesting is required only once, these welds are never pressure-tested like the rest of the welds on the line. “I’m a little bit concerned about a leak or something now that they have cut into it and repaired it so many places,” Whitley says.
Many remain skeptical about the future safety of a pipeline that’s slated to transport diluted bitumen (“dilbit”). When the tar-like bitumen is extracted from Canada’s oil sands region, it has to be diluted using natural gas liquids that include benzene (a known carcinogen) and other chemicals. Environmentalists warn of the fuel’s carbon footprint, but fear of another dilbit spill has been more of a factor in mobilizing conservative landowners against the pipeline. The oil industry insists that dilbit is comparable to conventional crude, but watchdog groups disagree and recent spills have helped discredit that claim….
Keystone XL opponents say the Bison explosion and the 12 leaks on Keystone I during its first year of operation prove that TransCanada has a poor safety record and routinely underestimates risks. TransCanada predicted Keystone would leak just once in seven years and that Bison wouldn’t need to be repaired for decades after it was built.
A spill on Keystone XL could be devastating. In July 2010, a pipeline owned by Canadian energy company Enbridge leaked 843,000 gallons of dilbit into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The exterior coating of the pipe corroded, which eventually led to a crack and rupture. Three years later, cleanup crews still haven’t extracted all the fuel from the river because unlike oil, which floats on top of water, the dense bitumen sinks after the natural gas liquids evaporate, making it harder to clean up.
(Read more at Texas Observer)
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