TC Energy ordered to reduce operating pressure on Keystone pipeline

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TCÉnergie ordered to reduce operating pressure on Keystone pipeline

Cleanup continues in the area where the Keystone pipeline leaked into a creek in Washington County, Kansas.

A U.S. regulator ordered TC Energy on Tuesday to reduce operating pressure on the entire Keystone pipeline system to no more than 72% of breaking strength, reversing a special authorization previously granted to the company. company.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) made this decision following its ongoing investigation into the Dec. 7 leak that resulted in the release of approximately 13,000 barrels of oil in a creek in Washington County, Kansas.

In its amended corrective action order, PHMSA essentially revokes TC Energy's 2007 special permit that allowed the company to operate parts of the pipeline at 80% breaking strength, a higher stress level. than is normally permitted under US regulations.

Keystone was the only crude oil pipeline in the United States to be granted such a special permit. However, the December leak raised questions about the security of the pipeline network.

This recent oil spill was the worst in Keystone's history, and U.S. government data shows that pipeline system spills have increased in severity in recent years, to the point that Keystone's safety record is now worse than the US average.

In issuing Tuesday's order, PHMSA Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety Alan Mayberry wrote that there is a risk of additional spills caused by the same combination of factors that led to the oil leak. of December.

TC Oil's operations, maintenance and/or integrity management programs may be inadequate to address repetitive failures related to the design, the original fabrication and construction of the Keystone pipeline, Mr. Mayberry said.

He added that the continued normal operation of the pipeline, without corrective action, is or would be dangerous to life, property or the environment.

Last month, TC Energy said its own investigation into the leak determined the spill was the result of a number of factors, including bending stress on the pipe and a weld defect. The company said the weld defect resulted in a crack that developed over time due to flex fatigue, leading to the leak.

In an emailed statement Wednesday, TC Energy said it was reviewing the amended corrective action order. Our commitment to the safety of our system operations is unwavering and we will comply with the order, the company says.

TC Energy was able to restart most of the 4,324 kilometers of pipeline a week after the spill, but a 154-mile stretch from south of Steele City, Nebraska to Cushing, Oklahoma remained closed until the end of December.

This small section has been operating at reduced pressure since reopening, but the regulatory order means the entire Keystone pipeline system must now operate at a stress level no greater than 72% of its breaking strength.

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The U.S. regulator said Tuesday that the new pressure restrictions will remain in place until TC Energy receives written approval from the PHMSA. The latter also requires the company to present an independent analysis of the root cause of the pipeline failure and a mitigation plan for how it would deal with a future spill, should one occur.

TC Energy said cleanup work at the spill site is continuing. The company estimated the cost of the remediation and cleanup at approximately US$480 million.

With information from La Presse canadienne

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