Part of Keystone pipeline restarts; 2,600 barrels of oil recovered at Kansas spill

By: - December 15, 2022 11:27 am
pipeline spill

Crews continue to work to clean up and repair a leak on the Keystone pipeline near Washington, Kansas. (Courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency)

LINCOLN — An unaffected portion of the Keystone pipeline was restarted Wednesday night as crews continued recovery, repair and remediation work on a pipeline leak near Washington, Kansas.

The leak, on a portion of the Keystone that runs from Steele City, Nebraska, to Cushing, Oklahoma, leaked nearly a half million gallons of crude oil, about 14,000 barrels, a week ago into Mill Creek, east of Washington.

Largest spill

It was the largest oil spill on the Keystone pipeline since it went into service 12 years ago. The spill occurred as TC Energy, the pipeline’s operator, was running a diagnostic machine through the 36-inch pipe.

Keystone pipeline
The Keystone pipeline system carries crude oil from Canada’s tar sands region to refineries in southern Illinois and the Texas Gulf Coast.
(courtesy TC Energy)

The portion of the pipeline that was restarted runs from Steele City to Patoka, Illinois, and was not impacted by the rupture.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported Wednesday that response crews had recovered 2,163 barrels of oil-water mixture from Mill Creek, with 435 barrels of oil recovered directly from the ruptured pipeline.

That comes to a total of 2,598 barrels, or about 110,000 gallons, recovered from the scene, the EPA said.

Second containment dam built

The agency said that TC Energy crews had built a second earthen dam to provide structural relief to an initial dam that was constructed last week to contain the spilled oil. Migration of oil from the spill site has been halted, the EPA said.

TC Energy said Tuesday evening that the affected segment of the pipeline “remains safely isolated” as work to repair and remediate the damage continues.

“This segment will not be restarted until it is safe to do so and when we have regulatory approval,” the company said in a press release.

Last week, a federal pipeline agency ordered TC Energy to determine the root cause of the oil spill, review 10 years of inspections and create a remedial work plan that assesses the risk of spills at other points along the pipeline before requesting a restart of the pipeline.

About 317 personnel were on the scene from EPA, TC Energy, and other state and local agencies, the EPA said on Wednesday.

‘So many unanswered questions’

Jane Kleeb of the Bold Alliance, which opposes fossil fuel pipelines, said she wants the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to conduct an examination of the integrity of the entire pipeline.

Kleeb said that Bold had raised questions about the use of substandard steel in the Keystone system back in 2010 and the total number of leaks — 25 according to Bold — on a relatively new pipeline is a concern.

“There’s so many unanswered questions that we have,” she said.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.