Reasons Why Keystone Pipeline Still Safer Than Ocean Tankers

Ever since March of this year (2017), transporting crude oil through what’s known as the Keystone Pipeline has made a tremendous impact on the oil industry. Instead of using ocean tankers, oil is transported underground through a nearly 3000 foot-long pipeline in an attempt to make our oceans safer.
Yet some people still have questions and concerns about the safety and effectiveness of using something underground instead of using ocean tankers. Memories of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill are still fresh in environmentalists’ minds, and the horrible pictures of miles and miles of crude oil being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico are burned into our memories.
Approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil were spilled; to put that into perspective, that’s about 210,000,000 milk gallon jugs! All of that was dumped into our beloved ocean, polluting the ocean wildlife, tainting the saltwater, and even reaching the rocks on the Mexican coastline.
With such a catastrophic disaster, so many questions are raised.

Is the Keystone Pipeline safer?

Can oil leaks still happen? What happens if it does? Who gets affected if a leak does happen? How does the oil spill get cleaned up if it’s underground? How much can the Pipeline safely transport?
Well I’m so glad you asked! Let’s take a look at each of these questions.

Keystone Pipeline

Is the Keystone Pipeline safer?

Technically, yes. By using an underground pipeline system, much of the wildlife as well as the workers are protected from leak hazards. Think of it as the subway versus a sailboat. One we can see immediately on the ocean waters, and the other we can’t physically see, yet we know exists just below the surface.

Can oil leaks still happen from the Keystone Pipeline?

Unfortunately, yes. However, the leak will be better contained and won’t affect ocean life like tanker accidents can. The leak happens underground and travels slower, which would be the opposite if oil leaked into water (two liquids vs. a liquid and a solid). Professionals readily admit that since no system is perfect, there will indeed by leaks; however, they intend to combat this problem by having an immediate emergency response team that will be quick to act should any leak occur.

Keystone Pipeline

What happens if a Keystone Pipeline leak occurs?

It actually has already happened, on November 16…210,000 gallons created an ugly pool onto private farmland in South Dakota. Now, before you get all freaked out and angry, just compare the amount of oil leak in South Dakota vs. the BP oil spill. BP had about 210 million (210,000,000) gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

Keystone Pipeline

BP Oil Spill Disaster Effects

This latest spill on the Keystone Pipeline only had 210,000 gallons. While yes it still is an oil spill and yes it still is unfortunate. Professionals blame a defect in the pipeline welding. Thankfully, the welding defect was caught and immediately dealt with. The pipeline is monitored by hundreds of gauges and technology, which is how this spill was quickly found and workers were dispatched to begin clean up.

How does the oil spill get cleaned up if it’s underground?

Referencing this most recent spill, even though it occurred in South Dakota, the spill was a part of TransCanada and they will be responsible with the cleanup according to South Dakota’s regulations. Clean up includes four different methods.

The four major response methods:
1. Leave the oil alone so that it breaks down by natural means.
2. Contain the spill with booms and collect it from the water surface using skimmer equipment
3. Use dispersants to break up the oil and speed its natural biodegradation.
4. Introduce biological agents to the spill to hasten biodegradation.
While there are very similar conditions in all oil spills, no two spills are the same due to the oil variations, weather conditions, and locations. Each spill needs to be dealt with by a professional who can carefully analyze the spill and determine which method is best suited for the clean-up needs. The clean-up needs may also vary by state and/or country, and needs to meet all security and clean-up standards.

Who gets affected if a leak does happen?
In this most recent spill, no waterways or aquifers were affected, as well as the drinking water for nearby farm-owners. In layman’s terms, the ocean is safe! This is an enormous relief when compared to badly the ocean suffered a few years ago. While oil spills are inevitable, how the industry handles them is the most important thing. And being underground instead of underwater helps keep the ecology safer. It is also important to note that the drinking water was safe, due to the location of the leak. This helps put farm- and home-owners at ease, knowing that the response team was concerned to make sure that no nearby individuals were affected.

Just how big is the Keystone Pipeline?

An article from the Environmental & Energy Law & Policy Journal gives us some exact information on just what the Keystone Pipeline is and all of its components: “TransCanada is currently constructing the second phase of the pipeline, expected to be complete between 2012 and 2013. Phase two, entitled “Keystone Cushing,” is an extension of the Keystone Pipeline from Steele City, Nebraska to Cushing, Oklahoma. The 36-inch pipeline will connect to storage and distribution facilities in Cushing, a city that is a major hub for crude oil marketing, refining, and pipelines. Phase three, “Keystone XL,” will extend from Hardisty, Alberta through Saskatchewan, and in the U.S. through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. It will incorporate a portion of the Keystone Cushing through Nebraska and Kansas to serve markets in Cushing, Oklahoma, and ultimately to a delivery point near existing terminals in Port Arthur, Texas and Houston, Texas.”

How much can the Keystone Pipeline safely transport?
The Pipeline boasts that they can carry about 600,00 barrels a day, roughy 23 million gallons. Since opening operations in 2010, they have transported over 1.5 billion barrels of oil…that’s about 63 billion gallons! All safely being whisked away underground with safety equipment carefully monitoring the journey.

Keystone Pipeline

Finally, while no oil transport system is perfect, the Keystone Pipeline is going the extra mile to ensure no major spills can happen to affect ocean wildlife and marine biology like the terrible BP oil disaster of less than a decade ago. Using an underground system to safely transport crude oil is at the heart of the Keystone Pipeline project, and it will continue to implement safety procedures to protect the oil every step of the way.
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