Alarming Corrosion Rates In TransCanada Keystone Pipeline

Alarming Corrosion Rates In TransCanada Keystone Pipeline
Protest against the proposed KeystoneXL tar sands pipeline Fibonacci Blue / Flickr CC BY 2.0
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If documents obtained by the DeSmogBlog are to be believed, TransCanada Keystone 1 pipeline is facing corrosion issues at an alarming rate despite being in operation only for a short duration of two years.


With its aim to provide Canadian and American oil producers more access to refining markets along the U.S. Gulf Coast and Midwest, the Keystone XL Pipeline Project can transport almost 830,000 barrels of oil per day to refineries.

As uncovered during a mandatory inspection test, a section of the pipeline’s wall had witnessed 95 percent corrosion, which had reduced its thickness to that of a paper in one area and dangerously thin in three other places. This revelation had led to an immediate shutdown of the pipeline by TransCanada.

It was stated in the documents that apart from the 95-percent deep anomaly found in the pipeline, the other three anomalies also had external metal loss up to 83 percent.

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In 2012, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) had said to the press that the pipeline was shut down due to “possible safety issues.” They added that the leaks were detected in the pipeline and it was shut down for some repairs.

According to a former TransCanada pipeline engineer-turned-whistleblower Evan Vokes “It is highly unusual for a pipeline not yet two years old to experience such deep corrosion issues.” He added, “something very severe happened that the public needs to know about.”

The information that revealed the corrosion of the pipeline at multiple spots had been exposed to the public only after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was made by the DeSmogBlog to the PHMSA in Aug 2013. Apart from sharing the information on corrosion, the documents in response to the FOIA request also divulged a plan made to check for possible spills at the corroded spots.  Despite the requests, the cause of corrosion and information regarding a possible spill had not been included in the response.

Even though the documents revealed in response to the FOIA request only comprise the PHMSA response, the possibility of a spill has been confirmed in an internal email sent by PHMSA representative David Barrett.