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Keystone Pipeline Shut Down After Leaking 383,000 Gallons of Tar Sands Oil and Nobody’s Talking About It

October’s spill solidified opposition to the Keystone XL project—a proposed expansion to the pipeline.



(TMU)UPDATE (11.6.19): TC Energy now estimates that roughly 383,000 gallons (or 9,120 barrels) of tar sands oil spilled from their pipeline in North Dakota on or leading up to October 29.

The Keystone Pipeline was approved in 2006, despite strong opposition to the project. The pipeline began pumping in 2010 and now carries thick tar sands oil mixed with a cocktail of chemicals to decrease the viscosity from the tar sands fields of Alberta, Canada to Patoka, Illinois.

TC Energy estimated that the pipeline would spill 11 times in 50 years, which amounts to roughly once every seven years. However, the pipeline has spilled four times since it first began working in 2010—that’s already four spills in nine years.

When tar sands oil leaks, the chemical diluents evaporate, causing a quick bout of toxic air pollution in the surrounding area, leaving behind a very thick and heavy oil called bitumen. According to Diane Orihel, professor of aquatic ecotoxicology at Queen’s University, “Once bitumen sinks to the bottom of a lake or wetland, it is much more problematic to clean up than conventional oil, which floats nicely and can be skimmed off the surface.” 

The Keystone Pipeline crosses multiple wetland areas in the Dakotas with the most recent spill having unfortunately affected one of these important breeding grounds for migratory birds. And thanks to the agriculture industry, the total acreage of wetlands covering the Dakotas continues to decrease, with or without oil spills.

October’s spill has solidified opposition to the Keystone XL project—a proposed expansion to the pipeline.

“The spill confirms what we have been warning people about over the last 10 years,” said Jeanne Crumly, whose cattle ranch sits along Keystone XL’s approved path.

According to Reuters, “TC Energy had already begun eminent domain proceedings against 89 families who live along the Keystone XL route.”


A pipeline carrying tar sands oil into the United States from Canada has reportedly leaked an unknown amount of oil across North Dakota. The pipeline’s owner, TC Energy—formerly known as TransCanada—shut down the pipeline as a result of the leak.

“TC Energy immediately began the process to shut down the pipeline, activated its emergency response procedures and dispatched ground technicians to assess the situation,” the company said.

According to State Environmental Quality Chief Dave Glatt, regulators were notified of the crude oil leak near the town of Edinburg in northeastern North Dakota late on Tuesday after detecting a drop in pressure. The oil was reportedly leaked over an area that regulators have estimated to be about 1,500 feet long by 15 feet wide as of Wednesday afternoon.

The Calgary, Alberta-based company is working to contain the spill, the cause of which is currently under investigation. Area roads are closed as the clean-up and investigation continues.

According to Glatt, area drinking water was not affected by the spill though some wetlands were affected.

It is unclear when the leak began and for low long it has been leaking.

At a cost of $5.2 billion, the 590,000-barrel-per-day Keystone pipeline, which began pumping crude oil in 2010, is part of a 2,687-mile system that would include the Keystone XL pipeline, if approved.

Just yesterday, tribal officer Kip Spotted Eagle told a South Dakota state panel that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline should not be allowed to divert water from three rives in South Dakota. The Yankton Sioux Tribe historic preservation officer said the proposed pipeline project could infringe on tribes’ hunting and fishing.

The $8 billion project is seeking permits to use water from the Cheyenne, White, and Bad rivers in South Dakota. The state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources has recommended the board grant the permits.

By Emma Fiala | Creative Commons |

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