WASHINGTON COUNTY (KSNT) – The massive Keystone pipeline has been shut down after oil was found to be leaking into a Kansas creek.
TC Energy said it shut down the pipeline at 8 p.m. Wednesday after a pressure drop in the system. Crews are responding to “contain and recover the oil,” the company said in a news release.
“Our primary focus right now is the health and safety of onsite staff and personnel, the surrounding community, and mitigating risk to the environment through the deployment of booms downstream as we work to contain and prevent further migration of the release,” the company said. It didn’t say how much oil was spilled or what caused the spill.
The oil release is 20 miles south of Steele City, Neb., on the Kansas/Nebraska border, a major junction for the 2,687-mile pipeline system. The pipeline carries oil from Canada down through South Dakota to Steele City, where it splits. One arm runs east through Missouri, the other heads through Kansas and to the Texas Gulf Coast. More than three billion barrels of crude oil have been transported on the pipeline since it began operation in 2010.
Concerns that spills could pollute waterways spurred opposition to plans by TC Energy to build another crude oil pipeline in the Keystone system, the 1,200-mile Keystone XL, which would have cut across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. Critics also argued that using crude from western Canada’s oil sands would make climate change worse, and President Joe Biden’s cancelation of a U.S. permit for the project led the company to pull the plug last year.
In 2019, the Keystone pipeline leaked an estimated 383,000 gallons (1.4 million liters) of oil in eastern North Dakota, damaging about five acres.
There was a brief surge in oil prices midday Thursday as word of the spill began to spread, with the cost for a barrel of oil for near-term contracts rising by nearly 5%, and above the cost of oil contracts further into the future. That typically suggests there is anxiety in the market over immediate supply.
“It’s something to keep an eye on, but not necessarily an immediate impact for now,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, which tracks gasoline prices. “It could eventually impact oil supplies to refiners, which could be severe if it lasts more than a few days.”
Past Keystone spills have led to outages that lasted about two weeks, but this outage could possibly be longer because it involves a body of water, said analysts at RBC Capital Markets in a note to investors. Depending on the spill’s location, it’s possible that a portion of the pipeline could restart sooner, they said.
“Much of the oil through Keystone gets exported, so we expect little to no impact on domestic gasoline prices,” said Andrew Gross, spokesman for AAA. “Any spike in reaction will likely subside quickly as other news takes over.”
Randy Hubbard, the Washington County Emergency Management coordinator, said there had been no evacuations because the break happened in a rural area in the middle of a pasture. He didn’t know the name of the creek or what body of water it flows into.
He said the pipeline operator hasn’t disclosed how much oil was discharged and that it could take a day and a half to get that data.
He said he hadn’t been to the site but is supporting investigators with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and and Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
The Kansas department’s spokesman, Matt Lara, said it was sending a team to the site but had no information. The EPA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment and officials with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration didn’t immediately respond to questions about the oil spill Thursday.
“Everyone is in their fact-finding process,” Hubbard said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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