SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — TransCanada said Friday that it has received conditional approval from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration to restart its Keystone Pipeline after identifying the source of a small leak that has let about 16,800 gallons of oil seep into a South Dakota field.
The Calgary-based company expects to complete repairs on Saturday, and crews will restart at a reduced pressure to ensure everything is working properly, said TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper. The company expects to be at full operation by the end of Saturday.
About 100 workers are at the site, where crews excavated soil to expose more than 275 feet of pipe to find the leak about 4 miles from the Freeman pump station in Hutchinson County. Engineers evaluated a repair method in conjunction with the federal pipeline agency.
Cooper said there's no significant environmental impact or threat to public safety from the leak, which was reported last Saturday.
"The small amount of surface oil was contained using earth berms and absorbent material," Cooper said in an email Friday. "There are no significant bodies of water nearby."
Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist with the South Dakota Department of Natural Resources, said the impact seems to be limited to soil in and around the pipeline.
"We have not had any impacts to aquifers, and no impact to surface water in terms of oil getting into a creek or stream," Walsh said Friday.
Walsh said the contaminated soil is being removed, and any water that comes in contact with contaminated material is also being captured and removed.
"They will have to take some confirmation samples to confirm that they got it all and that it meets our satisfaction for cleanup," Walsh said.
The pipeline runs from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Illinois and Cushing, Oklahoma, passing through the eastern Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. The Keystone pipeline can handle 550,000 barrels, or about 23 million gallons, daily. It's part of a pipeline system that also would have included the Keystone XL pipeline had President Barack Obama not rejected that project last November.
Dakota Rural Action, a conservation and family agriculture group, said the fact that so many gallons of oil spilled before being detected should give regulators serious pause about the company's ability to safely operate the pipeline.
"South Dakota's farmers and ranchers should know they can maintain their family operations without threat of bursting pipelines and oil spills," the group said in a statement Friday. "Our land and water are too valuable for pipelines."
Analysts say the shutdown will have a short-term impact in which less-heavy Canadian crude will be getting to the market, but the system is already oversupplied so consumers are unlikely to see an impact at the pump.
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