Kansas residents hold their noses as crews mop up massive U.S. oil spill

WASHINGTON, Conn., Dec 10 (Reuters) – Residents near the site of the worst U.S. oil pipeline spill in a decade took in the noise and smell as cleanup crews toiled in freezing temperatures and investigators searched for clues to what caused it. leakage

A heavy smell of oil hung in the air as tractor trailers hauled generators, lighting and floor mats to a muddy site on the outskirts of this farming community, where a breach in the Keystone pipeline on Wednesday spewed 14,000 barrels of oil.

Pipeline operator TC Energy ( TRP.TO ) said on Friday it was evaluating plans to restart the line, which carries 622,000 barrels a day of Canadian oil to U.S. refineries and export hubs.

“We could smell it first thing in the morning; it was bad,” said Washington resident Dana Secrell, 56. He interrupted: “Stuff breaks. Pipelines break, oil trains derail.”

TC Energy did not provide details of the breach or say when it might begin restarting the broken section. Officials are scheduled Monday to receive a briefing on the pipeline breach and cleanup, Washington County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Randy Hubbard said Saturday.

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Oil flows into the creek

Environmental experts from as far away as Mississippi were helping with the cleanup, and federal investigators combed the site to determine what caused the 36-inch (91-cm) pipeline to break.

Washington County, a rural area of ​​about 5,500 people, is about 200 miles (322 km) northwest of Kansas City.

The spill has not threatened water supplies or forced residents to evacuate. Emergency workers set up booms to contain the oil that flowed into a creek and was sprayed on a hillside near a cattle pasture, Hubbard said.

TC Energy aims to restart a segment of the pipeline that sends oil to Illinois on Saturday and another segment that brings oil to the major trading hub of Cushing, Oklahoma, on Dec. 20, Bloomberg News reported, citing sources. Reuters has not verified those details.

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It was the third spill of several thousand barrels of crude oil along the 2,687-mile (4,324-km) pipeline since it opened in 2010. A previous Keystone spill caused the pipeline to shut down for nearly two weeks.

“Hell, that’s life,” Carol Hollingsworth, 70, of nearby Hollenberg, Kansas, said of the latest spill. “We must have oil.”

TC Energy has about 100 workers leading the cleanup and containment efforts, and the US Environmental Protection Agency is providing monitoring and oversight, said EPA spokeswoman Kellen Ashford.

US regulator the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) said the company shut down the pipeline seven minutes after receiving the leak detection alert.

Crude bottleneck

A prolonged shutdown of the pipeline could lead to a disruption of Canadian crude in Alberta and lower prices at the Hardisty storage hub, although price reaction on Friday was muted.

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Western Canada Select (WCS), the benchmark Canadian heavy grade, last traded at a $27.70 per barrel discount to benchmark U.S. crude futures for December delivery, according to the Calgary-based broker. On Thursday, December WCS traded as low as $33.50 under US crude before settling at a discount of around $28.45.

“The real impact could come if Keystone faces any (flow) pressure restrictions from PHMSA even after the pipeline is allowed to resume operations,” said Ryan Saxton, head of oil data at consultant Wood Mackenzie.

Reporting by Erwin Seba in Washington, Kansas and Nia Williams in Calgary, Alberta; Additional reporting by Aarti Somasekhar in Houston, Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Stephanie Kelly in New York Editing by Gary McWilliams, Stephen Coates and Matthew Lewis

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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