TransCanada addresses Keystone leaks, XL prospects

Christopher E. Smith
OGJ Pipeline Editor

HOUSTON, June 16 -- Recent leaks along TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline had been detected quickly and remediated quickly, according to Vern Meier, TransCanada vice-president for US pipeline operations. Meier emphasized the known facts during a June 15 press conference call. Meier and Robert Jones, TransCanada’s vice-president for Keystone, participated in a conference call to answer questions regarding both Keystone’s operations and pending regulatory approvals for Keystone XL.

Meier reported that all fittings and seals in suspect equipment along Keystone had been replaced and that TransCanada was now monitoring the line’s operation during restart. He also emphasized that the integrity of the pipe used for Keystone is sound and that all of the leaks had occurred at above-ground facilities. “These sorts of incidents tend to occur in the first 1-2 years of operations, and we expect a significant decrease” in the future, Meier said.

Jones noted that liquid pipeline operators had reported a total of 34,000 spills in 2010, a rate of 7 spills/1,000 miles, he said. He then compared this to Keystone’s record of 1.5 spills/1,000 miles in attempting to add context to concerns regarding the line’s safe operation and the effects of these concerns on Keystone XL’s prospects.

Keystone expects a final environmental impact statement to be issued by the US Department of State in late July or early August, Jones said. DOS will have 90-days to rule on the project following issuance of the EIS. The US House Energy and Commerce Committee's Energy and Power Subcommittee on June 15 passed a bill from Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) that set a Nov. 1 deadline for a DOS decision on the Keystone XL project's crossborder permit application.

Jones emphasized that Keystone XL’s planned route was the least environmentally sensitive route possible and that building pipelines in sandy soils and across aquifers was not new. He noted that all of Keystone XL’s potential routes would have crossed an aquifer, that Keystone itself already crosses the Ogallala, and that “almost the entire state of Texas” lies above one aquifer or another.

Jones also stated that all US Environmental Protection Agency objections had been addressed in either DOS’s draft EIS or supplemental draft EIS and that TransCanada was prepared to start construction of Keystone XL now.

Contact Christopher E. Smith at

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