January 10, 2015

TransCanada history is not without blemish

Keystone pipeline advocates frequently argue that pipelines are safer ways to transport crude oil than railroad cars. But look at these facts.

TransCanada pipelines were in the headlines three times in 2014 for rather extensive failures. In September of 2014, a natural gas pipeline owned by TransCanada ruptured in Michigan causing the evacuation of 500 people. An earlier rupture in Alberta last February and another in Manitoba in January.

Some folks might argue that three leaks in one year is not that onerous. If one occurs in YOUR backyard or near your drinking water, you might not share that opinion.

In Keystone I's first year (2010), it leaked 14 times, with the largest spill more than 21,000 gallons. Pipeline regulators shut it down temporarily. Shortly thereafter, Keystone opened up their "state of the art" natural gas Bison pipeline that they claimed would not need repairs for 20 to 30 years. Oops. It exploded two months later. Guess those whistleblowers who claimed construction flaws were onto something.
Preventing leaks and detecting leaks may get easier as new technologies are developed. But leaks will occur. The Wall Street Journal reviewed 1400 pipeline accidents and discovered that out of 251 spill reports, energy companies' monitoring systems only discovered 19.5 percent of them. Most of them were discovered after the fact.
Pipelines spilled an average of 112,569 barrels a year in the U.S. from 2007 to 2012, a 3.5 percent increase from the previous five-year period, according to U.S. Transportation Department figures compiled by Bloomberg.
TransCanada explains: "The fact is, industry-leading design, construction, maintenance, operating and technological features are being incorporated into Keystone XL and the Gulf Coast Pipelines. Our primary focus is always to prevent leaks in the first place. . . While there are many emerging leak detection technologies that are being developed for the oil and gas pipeline industry most are still in the developmental stages. TransCanada is working with industry and the vendor community on evaluating a number of these technologies, including acoustic detection systems, internal pressure wave based tools and external cable and fiber optic based systems as well. . .
The pipeline monitoring and leak detection systems deployed on our Keystone oil pipeline system are based on proven technologies and represent the current state of the art for long distance, large diameter liquid pipeline operations. Our leak detection systems use the most advanced and proven technology available, and our highly-trained operators have consistently shown that they are able to notice very small changes that could be related to a leak and shut the pipeline down within minutes. This was demonstrated twice in 2011. Our monitoring system identified leaks of 10 and 500 barrels at above-ground pumping stations from very small fittings during two incidents in the U.S. On both occasions the pipeline was shut down within minutes and the oil was cleaned up with no environmental impact. The system worked as it was designed to do. Ten and 500-barrel leaks are extremely less than the 12,000 barrels our opponents claim would be the minimum amount our leak detection systems would be able to detect. We will continue to assess technologies that can further complement our current leak detection capabilities if and when the reliability and feasibility of those systems can be proven."