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TransCanada Digging Up Keystone Pipeline, Checking for "Anomalies"

That Sioux Falls paper reports that TransCanada is digging up six 120-foot stretches of the Keystone I pipeline here in South Dakota, three sites in Nebraska, and one in Missouri. TransCanada reports "anomalies" in the pipeline:

During a November inspection of the 1,087-mile pipeline, the company found some places where the pipe may have expanded. Exploratory digs are required whenever an inspection shows that a pipe may have expanded beyond allowable limits [Cody Winchester, "TransCanada Inspecting Portions of Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota," that Sioux Falls paper, 2010.12.09].

Expansion anomalies? Where have I heard that term before?

The documents provided show that PHMSA investigated a total of seven pipelines, four constructed by Boardwalk Partners, LP (Boardwalk), and three by Kinder Morgan, Inc. (Kinder Morgan). PHMSA confirmed that five of these pipelines contained significant amounts of defective pipe. Specifically, the documents show that the pipe stretched under pressure, creating "expansion anomalies" that indicate use of low-strength steel. To repair their pipelines, the affected companies removed and replaced hundreds of pipe joints.

A number of companies are implicated in producing defective pipe, but it appears that Welspun Corp. Ltd (Welspun), an Indian steel pipe manufacturer, produced most of it. For example, according to released documents, Welspun was responsible for 88% of pipe with expansion anomalies provided to Boardwalk ["Use of Substandard Steel by U.S. Pipeline Industry 2007 to 2009," Plains Justice, 2010.06.28].

Expansion anomalies. Defective pipe joints. Welspun. TransCanada. Remember this story? Plains Justice sounded the alarm about defective steel from Indian pipemaker Welspun back in June. Welspun supplied 47% of the steel for the Keystone I pipeline during the same period that it supplied defective steel other U.S. pipelines.

Correction! 2010.12.10 12:20 CST: The original documents Plains Justice analyzed to alert us to the Welspun defects did not indicate that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration had taken any action on the issue with respect to TransCanada. However, PHMSA has indeed ordered these tests and digs in response to the discovery of the Welspun defects in other pipelines. However, as Phillip O'Connor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes, TransCanada would be digging up a lot more pipe if the Obama Administration hadn't eased pipeline regulations in October 2009.

How did the South Dakota media respond to these concerns? Mostly with silence.

How did TransCanada respond?

TransCanada officials said they had not reviewed the Plains Justice report but offered assurances the pipeline was safe. They noted that TransCanada's contracts with mills outline specifications above industry standards, and the company reviews manufacturing processes and quality control tests conducted by the suppliers. In addition, the company performs its own quality assurance checks after manufacturing.

"Our pipeline has been fully tested, and it is safe," spokesman Terry Cunha said [Phillip O'Connor, "Group Fears Leaks in New Oil Pipeline," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2010.07.03].

...fully tested and it is safe. Then what the heck are the backhoes doing at ten sites digging it up?

Do I get to say, "I told you so" yet?

TransCanada, find the problem, fix it, and tell us exactly what you find and what you do to make sure you've solved the problem. PHMSA, impose a litle oversight here. Secretary Clinton, look inot this and think long and hard before you approve that Keystone XL permit.

And South Dakota media: pay the heck attention! If you'd have hopped on the Welspun-TransCanada-Keystone story back when I told you about it, if you had done your watchdog job and turned up the heat on Big Foreign Oil, maybe the nice fellas on the backhoe crews could have done their work on a nice sunny day in July instead of having to freeze their cans busting frozen sod in December.

Update 17:18 CST: TransCanada has found anomalies at 12 sites in South Dakota, 14 in Nebraska, 12 in Kansas, and 9 in Missouri. Someone get me a map! The evaluation of the tests from the ten dig sites may take several weeks, but TransCanada fearlessly continues to pump 250,000 barrels a day through the Keystone pipeline. TransCanada is also filling the pipeline's Cushing extension, which branches from Keystone I at Steele City, Neberaska, and runs to Cushing, Oklahoma.

The three sites being dug up in Nebraska are all in Cedar County, near the site of the fourth documented TransCanada Keystone pump station leak, which came to light Tuesday.