Keystone pipeline operator says faulty welding and other problems led to the Kansas oil spill

Share this post or save for later
The Keystone’s biggest spill ever happened on Dec. 7 in Washington County. The cleanup is ongoing.

Canadian oil company TC Energy said Thursday that faulty welding contributed to an “instantaneous rupture” in its Keystone pipeline that gushed hundreds of thousands of gallons of extra sticky tar sands crude oil onto Kansas native prairie, cropland and into a creek.

The federal government required the company to have a third party conduct metallurgy tests. The Kansas News Service has filed an open records request for the full results.

TC Energy also gets three months to complete an analysis of the cause of the spill. That report must be “supplemented or facilitated by” a third party. The analysis isn’t finished, but TC Energy said in an online post early Thursday that the mechanical and metallurgy results had come back.

It says those tests point to factors including “bending stress on the pipe and a weld flaw.”

TC Energy seemed to point a finger outside its own ranks, saying the weld flaw was made at a “fabrication facility.”

“The weld flaw led to a crack that propagated over time as a result of bending stress fatigue, eventually leading to an instantaneous rupture,” TC Energy wrote in its press release. “The cause of the bending stress remains under investigation.”

The company said welding inspection and testing had complied with “applicable codes and standards.”

It also said the pipe itself showed no defects.

And it said the Keystone was operating at a legal pressure level when it burst.

The Kansas News Service submitted an open records request in December for a report that shows the precise pressure levels at the time of the rupture.

In late December, the federal government allowed TC Energy to restart the pipeline, on the condition that it operate for the time being at a lower pressure than when the rupture occurred.

“Our focus continues to be the safe operation of the pipeline system,” TC Energy wrote in its press release.

The federal government is also requiring TC Energy to look for other potential weak points within the 96-mile stretch of the Keystone system that includes the site of the spill in Washington County near the Nebraska border.

That stretch runs from Jefferson County in Nebraska through Washington, Clay and Dickinson counties in Kansas.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen covers the environment for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @celia_LJ or email her at celia (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to the Kansas News Service.

Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters

Click here to learn more about our newsletters first

Latest state news:


Previous Article

Kansas gun-rights advocates renew call for firearm safety programs in all K-12 public schools

Next Article

Town hall to rally local business owners around solutions to entrepreneurial inequities