oil pipeline kansas spill
Emergency crews in Kansas are preparing to labor through the weekend to clean up the largest US crude oil spill in nearly a decade, after a mysterious rupture in the Keystone pipeline
Emergency crews in Kansas are preparing to labor through the weekend to clean up the largest US crude oil spill in nearly a decade, after a mysterious rupture in the Keystone pipeline.

The pipeline that runs from Canada to Oklahoma lost about 14,000 barrels, or 588,000 gallons, in a spill larger than all prior breaches of the Keystone system combined, officials said Friday.

The spill sent oil gushing into a creek running through rural pastureland in Washington County, Kansas, about 150 miles northwest of Kansas City.

A heavy odor of oil hung in the air as tractor trailers ferried generators, lighting and ground mats to a muddy site for the cleanup operation.

Federal investigators were at the scene trying to help determine what caused a leak in the Keystone, which carries 622,000 barrels of oil per day from Western Canada to US refineries and export hubs.

Pipeline operator TC Energy on Friday said it was evaluating plans to restart the line, which has been shut down since late Wednesday.

It did not provide details of the source of the breach or when a restart could begin, but the company said that it would conduct a full investigation into the causes of the spill.

'At the time of the incident, the pipeline was operating within its design and regulatory approval requirements,' the company said in a statement.

The affected section of pipeline runs through Chris and Bill Pannbacker´s family farm.

Bill Pannbacker, a farmer and stockman, said the company told him that the issues with the pipeline there probably will not be resolved until after the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

The hill where the breach happened was a landmark to locals and used to be a popular destination for hayrides, Pannbacker said.

Randy Hubbard, the county's emergency management director, said the oil traveled only about a quarter mile and there didn't appear to be any wildlife deaths.
oil pipeline kansas spill
Oil from a Keystone pipeline rupture flows into Mill Creek on Thursday. Vacuum trucks, booms and an emergency dam were constructed on the creek to intercept the spill
The company said it is doing around-the-clock air-quality checks and other environmental monitoring. It also was using multiple trucks that amount to giant wet vacuums to suck up the oil.

Past Keystone spills have led to outages that lasted about two weeks, and the company said it still is evaluating when it can reopen the system.

The EPA said no drinking water wells were affected and oil-removal efforts will continue into next week. No one was evacuated, but the Kansas Department of Health and Environment warned people not to go into the creek or allow animals to wade in.

TC Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the spill has been contained. The EPA said the company built an earthen dam across the creek about 4 miles downstream from the pipeline rupture to prevent the oil from moving into larger waterways.

The spill raised questions for environmentalists and safety advocates about whether TC Energy should keep a federal government permit that has allowed the pressure inside parts of its Keystone system - including the stretch through Kansas - to exceed the typical maximum permitted levels.

With Congress facing a potential debate on reauthorizing regulatory programs, the chair of a House subcommittee on pipeline safety took note of the spill Friday.

'I'm watching this situation closely to learn more about this latest oil leak and inform ways to prevent future releases and protect public safety and the environment,' Democratic U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr., of New Jersey, tweeted.

The breach is the largest onshore crude pipeline spill in nine years and surpassed all the previous ones on the Keystone pipeline system combined, according to U.S. Department of Transportation data.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report last year said there had been 22 previous spills along the Keystone system since it began operating in 2010, most of them on TC Energy property and fewer than 20 barrels. The total from those 22 events was a little less than 12,000 barrels, the report said.

The Keystone pipeline's previous largest spill came in 2017, when more than 6,500 barrels spilled near Amherst, South Dakota, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report released last year. The second largest, 4,515 barrels, was in 2019 near Edinburg, North Dakota.

The nearly 2,700-mile Keystone pipeline carries thick, Canadian tar-sands oil to refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas, with about 600,000 barrels moving per day from Canada to Cushing, Oklahoma.

Concerns about spills fouling water helped spur opposition to a new, 1,200 mile Keystone XL pipeline to boost throughput, and the company pulled the plug last year after President Joe Biden canceled a permit for it.

The outage could affect oil inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma, storage hub and cut crude supplies to refining centers in the Central US and Gulf Coast, analysts said.

'We're beginning to get a better sense of the clean up efforts that will need to be undertaken in the longer-term,' said Kellen Ashford, spokesperson for the EPA Region 7, which includes Kansas.

Environmental specialists labored in near freezing temperatures and crews set up equipment to allow operations to continue for days.

TC Energy aims to restart on Saturday a pipeline segment that sends oil to Illinois, and another portion that brings oil to Cushing on December 20, Bloomberg News reported, citing sources.