Snags in Keystone XL Pipeline Construction

Snags in Keystone XL Pipeline ConstructionThe Keystone Pipeline XL, the 4th of 4 phases in the Keystone Pipeline transporting oil from Western Canada to America’s Gulf Coast, has encountered unusual construction defects and problems. As a result, additional requirements have been imposed on the Pipeline’s owner, TransCanada Corp., by the U. S. government’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The Keystone Pipeline has 3 operational Phases and one proposed 4th Phase, known as Keystone Pipeline XL. Stretching roughly 1200 miles from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska via Baker, Montana, the XL is intended to supplant the Phase I pipeline and allow the addition of American-produced oil to the crude oil already being transported from Western Canada’s oil sands, Montana and North Dakota. If the entire Pipeline sounds massive, that’s because it is: the first 3 operational Phases already total 2900+miles of pipeline.

On January 31, 2014, the U. S State Department issued an environmental impact statement about XL, including 57 special conditions to which TransCanada agreed several years ago, and 2 additional safety conditions. Those 2 conditions were added after safety inspectors noticed an alarming rate of defective welds and other construction troubles in the Oklahoma-to-Gulf-Coast construction section. Inspectors stated that 72+% of the welds had to be repaired during 1 week and TransCanada stopped welding in another week when nearly 50% of the welds needed repair. To put that in perspective, several experts state that defects in even 1/10th of 1% of welding are cause for great concern. According to safety inspectors, TransCanada is using unqualified welders and unapproved welding procedures, resulting in the very high failure rate.

Based on safety inspectors’ findings, the State Department added the following conditions: first, that TransCanada must hire a 3rd-party contractor selected by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to monitor construction and report to the U. S. government; secondly, TransCanada must use a quality management program to guarantee that the pipeline is “built to the highest standards by both Keystone personnel and its many contractors.”

Meanwhile, the XL awaits final approval by the Administration, which is awaiting a decision in a suit brought by Nebraska landowners against TransCanada’s use of eminent domain to seize and use their land. Nebraska gave the power of eminent domain to TransCanada for the pipeline but angry landowners challenged some of the land appropriations. A Nebraskan state district court sided with the landowners, whereupon the state appealed to the state’s Supreme Court. A decision is expected sometime in November 2014 or later.

By Kathy Catanzarite

Source: Kathy Catanzarite – Staff Writer

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