In what at least one expert is calling a “very unusual” move, TransCanada Corp. is reportedly digging up and rebuilding dozens of sections of the already-completed part of the Keystone XL pipeline.
According to multiple news reports, a 100-kilometre stretch of the pipeline running near the Sabine River in north Texas is being dug up in multiple spots just months after parts of the pipeline were originally put in the ground.
TransCanada is waiting for permission from the U.S. government to build the stretch of the Keystone pipeline that runs from the Canadian border to Cushing, Okla.
But the part south of Cushing that runs to the Gulf Coast doesn’t require federal approval, and TransCanada hit the half-way mark in the construction of that stretch earlier this year.
“Here this pipeline has been in the ground for months and now they’re here again,” Winnsboro, Texas, landowner David Whitley told Texas Public Citizen.
“An independent TransCanada inspector has told me there are all these anomalies on land up and down the pipeline along this 60-mile stretch, including the one on my property they are digging up now.”
Landowners in the area say pipeline workers told them there are at least 40 repair sites along the stretch of pipeline.
TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard told the Longview, Texas, News-Journal that inspections had revealed “small imperfections” in the pipe.
Another spokesman, David Dodson, told the paper 81 feet of pipeline would be replaced in all, but there was "no performance issue with the completed portion of the pipeline."
“Before any of our projects go into commercial service, they go through many different kinds of tests and inspections,” Dodson wrote in an email to the News-Journal.
“We have already inspected and tested portions of the pipeline using water pressure and remote sensing. We have used ultrasonic inspection tools and X rays to inspect each weld. And recently, we used some of our inline inspection tools to identify issues that may have been introduced to the pipe during construction or in the process of refilling the trench in which the pipeline is buried.”
All the same, news of the repairs has raised concerns among some residents and activists that the pipeline could be at high risk of rupturing.
The repairs are “not a good sign,” University of Texas civil engineering professor Mohammad Najafi told Inside Climate News.
"It doesn't necessarily mean it's dangerous, but it means [TransCanada] may have missed something," he said, adding that such a large number of “anomalies” along one stretch of pipeline is “very unusual.”
Many environmental activists and opponents of the Keystone XL argue TransCanada has a questionable safety record.
They note that the original Keystone Pipeline (not to be confused with the Keystone XL), which runs from Canada to the U.S. Midwest, suffered 12 spills in the year after it opened in 2010 — the highest spill rate of any oil pipeline in U.S. history.
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