Arkansas oil spill after ExxonMobil pipeline rupture raises safety question on Keystone XL

Home/Green News/Arkansas oil spill after ExxonMobil pipeline rupture raises safety question on Keystone XL

One more oil spill in the U.S., one more environmental catastrophe. This one resulted from the rupture of the Exxon Mobil’s Pegasus pipe on March 29 in Mayflower, Arkansas. It timely happened and raises questions about the U.S. pipeline network and the safety of importing Canadian heavy crude, as President Barack Obama weighs whether to approve the Keystone XL project.

The U.S. State Department is reviewing TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone project to link Alberta’s oil sands with refineries along the Gulf Coast because it crosses an international border. Republicans and some Democrats in Congress argue Keystone will create thousands of jobs and improve U.S. energy security. The Senate just approved (March 22) a non-binding resolution encouraging the project’s development. If built, the pipeline could carry more than 800,000 barrels of diluted bitumen, or dilbit, each day.

Exxon’s pipeline Pegasus runs from Patoka, Illinois runs to Nederland, Texas, and can carry 96,000 barrels a day of a type of dilbit similar to what would be transported on Keystone. One central question to the debate is whether this type of fuel is more corrosive than conventional crude. Given tar-sands oil’s heavier than conventional crude consistency, it is expected to be tougher to clean up as it sinks in the water vs. floating on top. In any cases, no one can write off the corrosion threat, one can at best manage it.

In the Pegasus rupture case, the broken section was installed in the late 1940s, showing the need for the U.S. to upgrade its infrastructure along with higher safety standards (more shutoff valves, more inspections and pipes buried deeper in the ground).

Asking too much? A spill is defined as any incident in which more than 5 gallons of fuel leaked. Last year, there were 364 spills from pipelines in the U.S., that released about 54,000 barrels of oil and refined products. That’s out of the about 11.9 billion barrels of oil, gasoline and other refined products pumped across the network of pipelines each year in the U.S., across 119,000 miles of pipelines.

In Arkansas, Exxon said to have collected about 12,000 barrels of oil and water from the spill so far (spewing into lawns, roadways, backyards and nearly fouling a nearby lake), pushing the Town to recommend evacuation to 22 homes. Political and economical considerations put aside, the most pressing task is to clean up. There is no knowledge about the possible health impact on the community at this time, but protecting it from further harm is the priority. The air smells like oil, and crude oil is crude oil, dangerous to everyone and everything.

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Credit photo: Courtney Spradlin/Log Cabin Democrat via AP Photo


* Up for some thought-sharing on this topic?  

One more time, coated birds and wildlife destruction to deal with. Health consequences for those exposed and impact on the environment: yet to be discovered.

. Given the regular price to pay on humankind and nature for using oil as a source of energy, would it make sense to consider cleaner alternatives, even if they are more expensive (in the short term only given expected future health care costs)?

. Is creating jobs at the price of transporting large amounts of this corrosive and polluting fuel (and exposing everyone along the way and farther) a good deal for American taxpayers (who pays for clean-up?) and for our environment?

. Fossil fuel resources being limited, and the cost of exploiting them being so high, would not it make sense to start looking into alternatives sooner rather than later, while we still have time to test and improve them?

. Would you be ready to pay more now for a more secure energy source right now and savings in the long term?

Let us know… 

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