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Pig in the Pipeline! TransCanada to Close Keystone for April Enema

A "pig in a poke" is a lovely idiom for "an offering or deal that is foolishly accepted without being examined first." That's not quite an accurate description of the Keystone 1 pipeline. But TransCanada needs to get a bigger poker to get a pig out of its pipe:

TransCanada Corp. will shut down its Keystone oil pipeline in April for up to several days to find and remove an errant "pig," from the 500,000-barrel-per-day oil system, the company said Monday.

The piece of equipment, a pipeline inspection gauge (pig), was being used during a routine cleaning operation of the Hardisty to Cushing, Okla., line when it became disconnected, TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said.

"I can't speculate on how long it will take to remove the pig but it should be completed within a few days," Cunha said in an email [Dina O'Meara, "TransCanada to Shut Keystone Pipeline in April to Remove 'Pig'," Calgary Herald, 2012.03.20].

The pig broke away on March 15 somewhere upstream of the Steele City, Nebraska, pumping station but has not hindered a normal flow of oil through Keystone 1 at 500,000 gallons a day. With oil flowing at that enormous pressure, you fellows at the refinery in Cushing might want to check your oil for pig parts.

We can hope that waiting a couple weeks before shutting down the flow and cleaning out the pipes signals that there's no need to be concerned about nuts and bolts zooming through the pipe and damaging or plugging a valve. But maybe TransCanada figures that tar sands oil is so acidic and abrasive that it will simply wear that pig down to nothing before they have to open the hatch and fish it out.

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