February 7, 2023

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Keystone pipeline shut down after 14,000 barrel oil spill in Kansas By Reuters

©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The TC Energy logo is seen on a smartphone in this illustration dated December 4, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

By Brijesh Patel, Rod Nickel and Nia Williams

(Reuters) – Canada’s TC Energy (NYSE:) shut down its Keystone pipeline in the United States after more than 14,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into a creek in Kansas, making it one of the largest oil spills in the United States in nearly a decade made .

The cause of the leak, which occurred in Kansas about 20 miles (32 km) south of a major intersection in Steele City, Nebraska, is unknown. It is the third spill of several thousand barrels of crude oil in the pipeline since it opened in 2010.

The 622,000 barrels per day Keystone Line is a major artery transporting Canadian heavy crude oil from Alberta to refineries in the US Midwest and Gulf Coast. It is unclear how long the closure will last.

There were no impacts on drinking water wells or the public, the US Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement, although surface water at Mill Creek was affected.

Kellan Ashford (NYSE:), spokesman for EPA Region 7, which includes Kansas, said the cause of the leak was still unclear as of Thursday night.

TC mobilized about 100 people to respond to the spill while EPA dispatched two coordinators, Ashford said. Washington County Emergency Management and the Kansas Department of Health and Safety were also on site.

Keystone shut down the line around 8pm CT Wednesday (0200GMT Thursday) after alarms went off and system pressure dropped, TC said in a press release. Booms were said to have been used to contain the spill.


According to the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), this would be the largest crude oil spill since a Tesoro pipeline spilled more than 20,000 barrels of oil in North Dakota in October 2013.

PHMSA is also investigating the leak, which occurred near Washington, Kansas, a city of about 1,000 people.

According to PHMSA data, there have been seven keystone spills since commissioning in June 2010. The largest were in December 2017, when more than 6,600 barrels were spilled in South Dakota, and November 2019, when more than 4,500 barrels were spilled in North Dakota, PHMSA figures said.

“It’s disturbing to see how many failures and so much oil have spilled from any pipeline, but it’s especially disturbing with such a relatively new pipeline,” Bill Caram, chief executive of the not-for-profit Pipeline Safety Trust, said in a statement.


TC declared force majeure over the outage, according to a source with direct knowledge, referring to unexpected external circumstances preventing a party from meeting its obligations. TC did not respond to a request for comment.

Two Keystone trucking companies said TC has not yet told them how long the pipeline may be closed.

Keystone’s closure will hamper shipments of Canadian crude both to the US storage center in Cushing, Oklahoma, and to the Gulf, where it is processed by refiners or exported.

The closure is expected to increase Alberta’s Western Canada Select (WCS) heavy oil rebate to what was already high due to weak demand for heavy, sour Canadian oil.

WCS for December delivery traded at $33.50 a barrel below WTI, according to a broker, compared to Wednesday’s settlement of $27.50 a barrel below the benchmark.

“It’s really a worst-case scenario if this outage lasts long,” said Rory Johnston, founder of energy newsletter Commodity Context, noting that if prices continue to fall, shippers will choose to transport crude oil by rail could.

Steele City is roughly the intersection where Keystone splits, with one segment transporting crude oil to refineries in Illinois and the other transporting oil south to Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast.

If the spill is south of the intersection, TC may be able to restart the segment quickly after Illinois, RBC analyst Robert Kwan said in a note.

Previous shutdowns have generally lasted about two weeks, but this could be longer given the body of water involved, Kwan said.

TC shares closed down 0.1% in Toronto.