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Keystone oil pipeline leaks nearly 400K gallons in North Dakota

The Keystone oil pipeline has spilled approximately 383,000 gallons of tar sands oil in northeastern North Dakota, according to North Dakota state regulators on Thursday. The pipeline was shut down on Tuesday after crews discovered the leak.

TC Energy (formerly known as TransCanada), who owns the pipeline, said the leak affected 22,500 square feet of land, or, in a statement that appears to be downplaying the incident, “less than half the size of a football field… We will not have the exact figure until oil recovery has been completed.” They have posted regular updates:

A drop in pressure was detected by TC Energy’s operations control center at approximately 9:20 p.m. MT on October 29, 2019. We immediately began the process to shut down the pipeline, activated our emergency response procedures and dispatched our ground technicians to respond to the incident.

We will not know specifics about the cause of the incident until we complete the investigation and the segment of the pipeline is analyzed by an independent metallurgical lab.

There have been no reported injuries or impacted wildlife.

According to PBS, Karl Rockeman, North Dakota’s water quality division director, “said some wetlands were affected, but not any sources of drinking water. Regulators have been at the site since Wednesday afternoon monitoring the spill and cleanup, he said.”

This isn’t the first Keystone leak

This isn’t the first time the Keystone pipeline has sprung a leak. In 2011, it lost more than 14,000 gallons of oil in southeastern North Dakota. And in 2017, it leaked around 407,000 gallons of oil in northeastern South Dakota.

The $5.2 billion Keystone pipeline, which was first used in 2011, carries oil across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada, to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma.

TC Energy wants to build an $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline that would carry crude oil from Alberta to Texas refineries. Donald Trump issued a federal permit for the expansion project in 2017 after President Barack Obama previously rejected it. TC Energy wants to start construction in 2020.

This proposed XL pipeline has been met with great opposition from environmental and indigenous groups. Up to 10,000 people have participated in protests against the Keystone XL project. Oil spills cause devastating damage to both the environment and to human health.

Environmental group Sierra Club actively opposes the project. Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels associate director Catherine Collentine said:

We don’t yet know the extent of the damage from this latest tar sands spill, but what we do know is that this is not the first time this pipeline has spilled toxic tar sands, and it won’t be the last. We’ve always said it’s not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and once again TC Energy has made our case for us.

In early October, environmental activists Greta Thunberg and Tokata Iron Eyes (the latter protested the Keystone XL at the Standing Rock reservation) held a talk about why the massive oil project was devastating for the environment, and they then attended a rally to protest the project and climate change in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Photo credit: Grand Forks Herald

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.