Federal regulators issue pipeline restrictions after December spill in Kansas

Cleanup and recovery efforts for oil spilled into Washington Co.’s Mill Creek from the Keystone pipeline have been detailed by the EPA.
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 4:42 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Federal regulators have placed temporary restrictions on operations for the Keystone Pipeline.

The order comes after a review of the December spill in Washington County. The leak sprung about 10 miles south of the Nebraska border, in Mill Creek. Response efforts have continued since.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued an order requiring TC Energy to lower the pressure along the area of the pipeline affected in the that spill to 923 psig. The larger section of the pipeline from North Dakota to Oklahoma will be lowered to 72 percent SMYS, the standard amount allowed before TC Energy was provided a special permit to reach over 80 percent SMYS.

That order will stay in place until direct approval is granted from the administration’s director following several reviews and threat assessments are completed along the pipeline. TC Energy will need to conduct a review of Prior In-line Inspection results, run mechanical and metallurgical tests, write up a remedial work plan, among several required assessments. The PHMSA did say TC Energy has submitted the many required assessments they’ve been ordered to since the spill.

The PHMSA stated the order was necessary due to the increasing amount of oil spilled in a handful of leaks over the past several years. Leaks in 2011 and 2016 each resulted in only 400 barrels spilled, but subsequent leaks in the following years saw increases up to more than 4,000 and 6,500 before the 14,000 barrel spill seen in 2022.

You can read the full order here. The PHMSA says its investigation into the failure is ongoing.