Our pipeline would cross Montana’s Yellowstone River. As Governor Brian Schweitzer (D) pointed out, Keystone XL will use the most advanced construction techniques, including horizontal directional drilling that allows us to drill under the river a minimum of 25 feet. The pipe will be built with thicker steel, operate at a lower pressure and use advanced coatings to protect the surface from abrasion – all in an effort to further improve safety.
To ensure the integrity of our pipelines longer term, they are cathodically protected, which means a low-voltage electric current runs through the pipeline, inhibiting external corrosion.
Internal electronic devices called “pigs” are pushed along inside the pipeline to inspect the pipe’s integrity. These special monitoring tools are used to detect anomalies involving loss of wall thickness, including corrosion. In the unlikely event anomalies are detected, the pipeline segment in question is excavated and visually inspected. It is either repaired on the spot or replaced. In addition, pipeline rights of way are routinely patrolled from the air. Ground patrols with hand-held leak detectors are also employed.
TransCanada has voluntarily agreed to 57 conditions put forward by the U.S. national pipeline regulator PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) that will further improve the safety of Keystone. These conditions include an increased number of automatic shut-off valves, increased pipeline inspections and burying the pipeline deeper in the ground.
Pipelines remain the safest method of transporting oil – safer than tankers, trucks or rail. Each day in the U.S., more than 200,000 miles of pipelines move oil and other energy products safely to where they are needed. That’s enough pipe to circle the earth eight times.
National pipeline statistics indicate that pipeline accidents are uncommon and that leaks tend to be small; most pipeline leaks involve three barrels or less, 80 percent of spills involve less than 50 barrels and less than 0.5 percent of spills total more than 10,000 barrels.
The United States consumes 15 million barrels of oil per day and imports 11 million. Keystone XL offers Americans the choice of receiving their oil from a friendly, secure supplier in Canada, instead of importing crude from unstable, volatile foreign nations such as Venezuela, Libya and other areas of the Middle East.
Americans rely on oil and gas to heat their homes, cook their food and drive their cars. They also expect this fuel will be delivered in the safest and most responsible manner possible. We agree and would not put our 60-year reputation and the public at risk doing anything less.
Russell K. Girling is the president and CEO of TransCanada Corporation.