Special Report

Keystone Has Worst Oil Spill Record of Any Pipeline in US

Canada’s TC Energy Corp. shut down its Keystone Pipeline in early December after discovering a rupture that dumped 14,000 barrels of heavy crude, some of it into a creek in Washington County, Kansas, in the largest U.S. oil spill in nearly a decade.

The temporary shutdown interrupted the flow of this critical artery through which 622,000 barrels of heavy crude oil flows daily from Alberta, Canada, to U.S. refineries and oil farms as far south as Houston. (Also see, cities with the most land flagged for hazardous waste cleanup.)

A week after the spill was discovered, TC Energy said it had cleaned up nearly 2,600 barrels of the spilled crude oil but had yet to determine the cause of the biggest spill in the company’s 71-year history. The 2,600-mile pipeline has had 22 accidents since its first phase went online in 2010, according to a report last year from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Unfortunately, Keystone’s track record is actually about on par for the industry, which  experiences dozens of “significant” oil pipeline incidents every year, according to data collected by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

To determine the U.S.-based pipelines that have leaked the most oil since 2010, 24/7 Wall St. examined press coverage from Bloomberg and other local and national news sources. Revenue and profit figures for the publicly listed companies operating the leakiest oil pipelines in the U.S. were taken from 2021 annual regulatory filings.

Many of these spills are relatively small, but some are significant enough to cause property and environmental damage as well as, occasionally, the loss of life. Of Keystone’s 22 accidents reported by the GAO, six were large enough to impact people and the environment.

The Kansas spill helped put the Keystone Pipeline at the top of the list of the five leakiest crude oil arteries in the country. The five based pipelines listed have spilled nearly 92,000 barrels (3.8 million gallons) of crude in various incidents since 2010.

Owners of these pipelines include Marathon Petroleum Corp., which has owned the Tesoro High Plains Pipeline since 2018; Canadian pipeline and energy company Enbridge Inc.; and Houston-based Enterprise Products. (Find out which is the country that has the most oil.)

Here are the U.S. pipelines that have spilled the most crude oil since 2010.

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