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A 'small anomaly' shuts down Keystone pipeline for several days

October 18, 2012|By Kim Murphy and Michael Muskal
  • Keystone oil pipeline construction in North Dakota.
Keystone oil pipeline construction in North Dakota. (TransCanada Corporation )

After finding a “small anomaly,” TransCanada Corp. said on Thursday that it has shut down its Keystone pipeline, which has become a symbol for environmentalists who oppose its expansion in the United States and a bone of contention between Republicans and Democrats in this presidential election year.

The company said the the segment of the pipeline -- which runs from Alberta, Canada, to Illinois, and on to Oklahoma -- is expected to be shut for three days as a precaution. No leaks have been detected in the system, TransCanada spokesman Grady Semmens said in an e-mail.

“We found a small anomaly on the outside of the pipe after analyzing the data from an in-line inspection tool. As a precaution, we've shut down the line so we can go in and take a closer look. We expect the system to be down for three days before it is restarted,” he said.

The shutdown is not expected to have any long-term effect on the line that carries an estimated 590,000 barrels a day. “Once restart happens we expect normal operations and flows for the remainder of October. We may have to make up some volumes in November but we are still evaluating this,” he stated.

Oil prices rose at the market opening amid reports of the pipeline’s closure, but prices fell later in the day.

The first phase of the pipeline became operational in 2010. There have been more than a dozen minor problems on the line, a situation, the company, has said, typical for any startup.

But an expanded pipeline system, known as Keystone XL, is designed to bring the oil from Canada to Texas and has run into opposition. Environmentalists said on Thursday that the latest shutdown was part of pattern that proved the expansion shouldn’t be allowed.

 “The reason TransCanada needs to keep shutting down Keystone is because pipelines are inherently dangerous, stated Joe Mendelson, National Wildlife Federation climate and energy policy director. “The best approach to our energy challenges isn't building more pipelines, it's embracing clean energy solutions that don’t spill or explode.”

President Obama earlier this year denied an application to expand the pipeline network, citing environmental concerns. The White House has said it might reconsider the project at some point.

That denial has been repeatedly criticized by Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential challenger, who has argued that the project would create needed jobs while helping the United States deal with its energy needs.

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