There were problems with construction of Keystone Pipeline, report said

By Jenny LescohierAugust 24, 2021

A supply depot servicing the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline lies idle in Oyen, Alberta, Canada February 1, 2021. REUTERS/Todd Korol/File Photo

Multiple problems with the construction, manufacture and design of the Keystone Pipeline validate President Joe Biden’s decision to revoke the permit for a Keystone XL extension, according to a report requested by leaders of several House Democratic committees.

The lawmakers requested a report by U.S. government watchdog Government Accountability Office (GAO) in November 2019 after more than 11,000 barrels of oil leaked from the pipeline system in two releases in less than two years, Reuters reported.

“GAO found that preventable construction issues contributed to the current Keystone pipeline’s spills more frequently than the industry-wide trends,” they said in a statement.

Keystone’s four largest spills were “caused by issues related to the original design, manufacturing of the pipe, or construction of the pipeline,” the GAO report said.

Biden canceled Keystone XL’s permit on his first day in office on Jan. 20, dealing a death blow to a project that would have carried 830,000 barrels per day of heavy oil sands crude from Alberta to Nebraska. 

Approximately 1,000 construction jobs were eliminated as a result of the revocation. About 93 miles of pipe had been installed and an additional 1.4 miles had been completed at the Canada-U.S. border as of the end of 2020.

Canada-based TC Energy owns the existing Keystone oil pipeline and also operates the largest integrated natural gas pipeline system in North America, stretching from British Columbia to Mexico. According to the company’s 2019 annual report, Keystone XL development costs were $1.5 billion from January 2018 through December 31, 2019.

“TC Energy’s record among its peers is one of the worst in terms of volume of oil spilled per mile transported,” a statement from the lawmakers said. The lawmakers included Representative Frank Pallone, energy and commerce committee chair.

TC Energy officially canceled the $9-billion Keystone XL in June. It filed a notice of intent in July to begin a legacy North American Free Trade Agreement claim and is seeking more than $15 billion in damages from the U.S. government.

The company said in response to the report it has had “zero high-impact incidents in 18 months,” after taking measures to strengthen safety and prevent incidents, according to reports.

Why is the Keystone Pipeline bad?

The 1,200-mile oil pipeline project was originally proposed in 2008 to transport oil from Canada’s Western tar sands to refineries in the U.S.

Climate change activists and opponents to the pipeline fought its construction and claimed the Keystone XL project was unnecessary and would hamper the U.S. transition to cleaner fuels.

“This is a landmark moment in the fight against the climate crisis,” Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity was quoted. “We’re hopeful that the Biden administration will continue to shift this country in the right direction by opposing fossil fuel projects.”

Pipeline supporters, however, say the oil will be shipped anyway and that sending it by rail has caused numerous fiery accidents.

The U.S. representatives behind the latest report said Biden “was clearly right to question this operator’s ability to construct a safe and resilient pipeline, and we support his decision to put Americans’ health and environment above industry interests.”

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