Calgary-based pipeline company TransCanada has restarted its Keystone pipeline at a reduced operating pressure after repairing a leak that spilled about 64,000 litres of oil onto farmland in South Dakota.
The American regulator, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), approved a plan to allow the energy company to restart the pipeline on Sunday, TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper said in a statement.
TransCanada had shut down the line on April 2, after a passerby, a local landowner, discovered the spill and reported it to the company. A TransCanada spokesman said it responded quickly to that call by shutting down the line. But the company has not yet explained why its automatic leak detection systems failed to notice that there was a problem.
"As part of the return-to-service plan approved by PHMSA, TransCanada is operating the pipeline at a reduced pressure," Cooper said. "TransCanada continues to conduct aerial patrols and visual inspections of the site."
Cooper said the company identified a "small leak" near a pump station in Hutchinson County, South Dakota. The company didn't say whether it determined what caused the leak, but the incident remained under investigation by U.S. regulators.
"We are committed to safely delivering the crude oil we use to fuel our everyday lives to the North American marketplace," he said. "As previously mentioned, on-site specialists and regulators have not observed any significant environmental impact. There is no threat to public safety as we implement the corrective measures required by PHMSA."
Cooper said the company would pursue clean up efforts and land restoration over the coming days.
"Our goal over the 40,000 miles of pipeline we have operated for the past 65 years is zero incidents," Cooper said. "We will apply what we learn from this incident to move us closer to that goal."
The Keystone pipeline, which ships about 500,000 barrels of oil per day between Hardisty, Alberta and Cushing, Oklahoma, has been operating since June 2010. It was supposed to be the first phase of a major expansion, Keystone XL, to link Alberta oil producers to refineries in Texas. But the Keystone XL project was rejected last November by U.S. President Barack Obama.
TransCanada is now proposing a new major pipeline infrastructure project in Canada, Energy East, that would link Alberta and Saskatchewan oil producers to Eastern Canada, shipping more than one million barrels of oil per day.