A Free-Market Energy Blog

Keystone XL: Safe and Prepared (TransCanada)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- October 3, 2013

“For more than 60 years, TransCanada has been a leader in the safe and reliable operation of North American energy infrastructure, including a vast array of natural gas and oil pipelines, along with natural gas storage facilities and nuclear, wind, hydro and solar power-generation facilities”  (TransCanada).

“It’s our commitment to you that the Keystone XL pipeline will be the safest pipeline ever built.

It’s good to have reality on your side. The Keystone XL pipeline has a ready builder and ready customers. It employs state-of-the-art technology. It integrates North America. It transports a precious energy. It is modern transportation to make modern petroleum products for an energy hungry world.

Like the Shell commercial says, Let’s Go!

TransCanada in its series, Just the Facts, recently presented this analysis regarding three key issues: spill response, emergency response, and pipeline integrity.

Oil Spill Response

The fact of the matter is – pipelines are the safest, most reliable, economical and environmentally favorable way to transport oil, petroleum products and other energy liquids.  Nearly every gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel used in Nebraska is transported through pipelines. In addition to demands for petroleum for transportation, petroleum hydrocarbons are used by many other industries to produce valuable materials, including drugs and pharmaceuticals, plastics, chemicals and construction materials.

Underground pipelines are a vital part of our country’s infrastructure and have been quietly serving the nation for decades. As many Nebraskans know, the Platte Pipeline has been operating since the 1950s!

One question that many landowners have is if there is a spill, who is responsible for the cleanup and costs? The answer: TransCanada is responsible for the impact of its operations. In the unlikely event a spill takes place, we are responsible for responding, cleaning up, repairs, site remediation and ensuring that the landowner is held whole. This is our responsibility as a good company, and under law.

Emergency Response

While leaks from pipelines are rare  and tend to be small , people also want to understand why the Keystone XL pipeline is different and what TransCanada is doing to make sure that our newest oil pipeline will be as safe as possible. While it begins with our design features and construction methods, the Keystone XL pipeline also incorporates a state-of-art integrity management program.

This approach will help the Keystone XL pipeline operate as safely as possible in the area of the Ogallala Aquifer. And TransCanada is prepared to respond to quickly to minimize the impacts of any release from the pipeline .

Responding quickly is based upon the design of our leak detection systems, the advanced training of our Oil Control Centre specialists and operations staff, and the placement of equipment along the pipeline route.  Upon detection of a leak, pumps would be immediately secured from our Operations Control Center and valves would be closed to isolate the affected section of pipe and limit spill volumes.

TransCanada personnel would be mobilized to the spill site immediately to begin containment and begin clean-up. In addition to our own personnel, TransCanada retains the National Response Corporation (NRC) to augment our spill response with its network of over 117 environmental contractors located throughout the U.S., all under contract to respond on TransCanada’s behalf 24/7/365.

Additional actions would include the notification to landowners and appropriate public agencies of potential groundwater impacts. Even for a spill in the area of a shallow aquifer, prompt clean-up would limit the ability of crude-oil contaminants to contaminate the dissolve  water.

Clean-up of any release from the Keystone XL pipeline is required by state  and federal law. In addition to complying with state and federal law, responsible clean-up of a spill avoids jeopardizing our ability to operate the Keystone XL pipeline.

If a spill from the Keystone XL pipeline were to ever occur, TransCanada would initiate our Emergency Response Program and also work cooperatively with state and federal agencies to identify the appropriate, site-specific methods for cleanup, groundwater monitoring and remediation methods. The selection of clean-up and remediation methodologies is based on site-specific conditions, including weather conditions, presence of sensitive receptors, soil permeability, hydrogeology and aquifer characteristics.

Clean-up would be conducted to ensure the protection of human health and the environment and to meet state and federal standards. In the highly unlikely event that groundwater wells were adversely impacted, we would be responsible for providing an alternative water supply.

Pipeline Integrity

Currently, there are more than 2.5 million miles of underground pipelines in the U.S. Each day, more than 200,000 miles of pipelines move oil and other energy products safely to where they are needed – that’s enough pipe to circle the earth eight times. 

In March, the U.S. Department of State released the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The report found that the pipeline will operate with a degree of safety higher than any typically constructed domestic oil pipeline in operation. We have also voluntarily agreed to adopt 57 additional safety measures that exceed federal regulations. These measures include burying the pipeline deeper in the ground, installing more remote shut-off valves and conducting increased inspections.

A former acting administrator for The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and noted transportation safety expert, Brigham McCowan, endorses the Keystone XL pipeline by stating:

While pipelines are already by far, the safest, and most environmentally friendly method to transport crude oil, Keystone XL includes 57 special conditions, many of which go above and beyond what the federal government requires. The result is that the Keystone XL pipeline provides a greater safety margin than any other pipeline.

TransCanada has safely and reliably operated pipelines and other energy infrastructure across North America for more than 60 years. Our existing 2,154-mile Keystone pipeline from Alberta to Cushing, Oklahoma has delivered more than 280-million barrels of Canadian oil safely to U.S. markets since July 1, 2010. Our first priority is to ensure that our pipelines are built safely and reliably.

It’s our commitment to you that the Keystone XL pipeline will be the safest pipeline ever built.


Email: Keystone@TransCanada.com; Website: Keystone-XL.com; TransCanada Blog: Blog.TransCanada.com; Twitter: @TransCanada; YouTube: YouTube.com/TransCanada; Telephone: 1.866.717.7473

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