Dec 13 (Reuters) – Cleaning up the largest oil spill in the United States in nearly a decade will take at least weeks longer, local Kansas officials said on Tuesday, citing a recent meeting with the pipeline owner Keystone, TC Energy Corp (TRP.TO).
There is still no official timetable for the restart of the key pipeline between Canada and the United States, which was closed after the discovery of a spill of approximately 14,000 barrels of crude on Wednesday in Washington County. in Kansas.
TC and county officials met briefly on Monday.
“They told us they expected to be here for several more weeks,” said Randy Hubbard, Washington County emergency management coordinator. “They haven’t qualified what it is.”
The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said TC Energy has yet to submit a restart plan. The affected line segment cannot resume operations until regulators approve a full restart plan, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation document.
The 622,000 barrel-per-day Keystone line, which ships heavy Canadian crude from Alberta to U.S. refiners in the Midwest and Gulf Coast, had been granted a special permit to operate at a higher rate than any other oil line raw in the United States, and has been doing so since 2017.
U.S. crude futures jumped more than 6% this week, buoyed in part by shutdown-related supply issues.
TC Energy shares are up 0.8% since the spill was disclosed.
The Canadian company delayed the restart of the section of the pipeline that extends to Illinois by four days until Dec. 14 after restart efforts were delayed by bad weather, Bloomberg reported, citing sources. The Keystone Pipeline splits at Steele City, Nebraska. One branch serves refineries in the Midwest, while the other extends to the Gulf Coast.
TC Energy said it has not yet identified the cause of the leak and the investigation is ongoing. Sabotage has been ruled out, Kansas State Representative Lisa Moser said in an online post Monday.
‘BOOTS ON THE PITCH 24/7’
More than 300 people from TC, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state and county agencies are on site, the EPA said.
Workers recovered about 2,600 barrels of oil and water from Mill Creek, which is not connected to a drinking water source, according to TC.
Washington Commissioner Raleigh Ordoyne said TC’s cleanup efforts have exceeded expectations.
“At a time when no one stands behind their product, or no one takes responsibility for actions or wrongs, TC Energy stepped in and took care of business,” Ordoyne said.
“They have boots on the ground 24/7 and I couldn’t imagine this cleaning going any better.”
Vacuum trucks continue to suck up oil from Mill Creek, but skimmers used to collect surface water aren’t working well due to the cool temperatures, Moser said.
The spill directly affects five landowners, while nine other landowners have staging areas for TC workers on their properties, Moser said, adding that all 14 are receiving compensation.
Jeanette Stamm, 78, who owns pasture land 2 miles from the spill site, said she was concerned about whether crews could remove all the oil from Mill Creek and whether crude could seep into the aquifer.
“I hope (the area) will go back to how it was. I don’t know if it will ever be.”
TC said it placed several booms downstream of the release point to prevent the oil from moving and the oil did not break through the containment zone.
It rained in Washington County on Tuesday but cleared in the evening, according to the National Weather Service.
The rainfall did not negatively impact containment at the site, TC said.
“They’re running big equipment in muddy fields, so that will definitely slow things down,” Hubbard said.
Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Arathy Somasekhar in Houston; Additional reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York Editing by Marguerita Choy
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