Press "Enter" to skip to content

TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline Showed Significant Corrosion in Third Year of Operation

Big big hat tip to Julie Dermansky of Desmog Blog!

Why might the Public Utilities Commission want to reverse its 2010 decision to permit TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline? Perhaps because of this picture of a Missouri portion of the Keystone I pipeline from 2012:

Corrosion on Keystone I pipeline, documented in Kevin C. Garrity, P.E., Senior Vice-President, Mears Group, "Study of Root Cause and Contributing Factors—Keystone Pipeline Corrosion Anomaly Investigation Final Report," prepared for and accepted by TransCanada, 2013.02.12
Corrosion on Keystone I pipeline, documented in Kevin C. Garrity, P.E., Senior Vice-President, Mears Group, “Study of Root Cause and Contributing Factors—Keystone Pipeline Corrosion Anomaly Investigation Final Report,” prepared for and accepted by TransCanada, 2013.02.12, p. 28.

Peak corrosion in this spot was not quite 42%.

Or this one:

Corrosion on Keystone I pipeline, documented in Kevin C. Garrity, P.E., Senior Vice-President, Mears Group, "Study of Root Cause and Contributing Factors—Keystone Pipeline Corrosion Anomaly Investigation Final Report," prepared for and accepted by TransCanada, 2013.02.12
Corrosion on Keystone I pipeline, documented in Kevin C. Garrity, P.E., Senior Vice-President, Mears Group, “Study of Root Cause and Contributing Factors—Keystone Pipeline Corrosion Anomaly Investigation Final Report,” prepared for and accepted by TransCanada, 2013.02.12, p. 23.

Peak corrosion here, just 30% Plenty of steel left to work with, right?

How about this one:

Corrosion on Keystone I pipeline, documented in Kevin C. Garrity, P.E., Senior Vice-President, Mears Group, "Study of Root Cause and Contributing Factors—Keystone Pipeline Corrosion Anomaly Investigation Final Report," prepared for and accepted by TransCanada, 2013.02.12
Corrosion on Keystone I pipeline, documented in Kevin C. Garrity, P.E., Senior Vice-President, Mears Group, “Study of Root Cause and Contributing Factors—Keystone Pipeline Corrosion Anomaly Investigation Final Report,” prepared for and accepted by TransCanada, 2013.02.12, p. 16.

These corrosion points were discovered among six “anomalies” in a nine-foot section of Keystone I dug up at Mile Post 995.95. Peak corrosion depth among them was 96.8%. The steel on TransCanada’s Keystone I has a nominal thickness of 0.386 inch. In a little more than two years, that steel was within a hundredth of an inch of some neighboring farmer shouting, “Thar she blows!”

Keystone XL is supposed to carry oil under South Dakota ranch land for 40 years.

The photos above come from a document obtained from TransCanada by Dakota Rural Action in its preparation for this week’s permit renewal hearing before the PUC. Dakota Rural Action says 96.8% corrosion on TransCanada’s last big pipeline ought to prompt the PUC to question TransCanada’s repeated safety assurances:

Talk about a near miss,” Robin Martinez, a lawyer for the grassroots citizens group Dakota Rural Action fighting to stop the permit, told DeSmog.

Documents the group obtained during discovery show that the corrosion occurred dangerously close to the Mississippi River near St. Louis.

“Had the pipeline failed, the drinking water supply for a significant number of people could have been destroyed,” Martinez said.

…“Granting a permit would be a risky venture for South Dakota, putting the state’s land and water at risk,” he said [Julie Dermansky, “Evidence Released at TransCanada’s Keystone XL Permit Renewal Hearing Sheds Light On Serious Pipeline Risks,” DesmogBlog, 2015.07.28].


TransCanada insists that the PUC must ignore most of what pipeline opponents are saying and adhere to a strict review of whether TransCanada can continue to satisfy the permit conditions laid out in 2010. It seems fair to consider the corrosion of its existing pipeline since the issuance of that 2010 permit as evidence as to the reliability of TransCanada’s steel and safety claims.


  1. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-07-28 15:59

    It’s so reprehensible that this corporation to keep evidence of its history of lies and poor materials hidden. That seems entirely bogus to me. Doesn’t. PUC have the authority to ensure that all these items are on the table?

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-28 18:10

    In related news, Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to sway the PUC or the President on their Keystone XL decisions, so she won’t tell us her position on Keystone XL until she’s elected President:

    A voter at a Nashua town hall, Bruce Blodgett, a software engineer in Amherst, asked Mrs. Clinton to give a “yes or no” answer to whether she would support the pipeline, which liberals and environmentalists abhor. Mrs. Clinton demurred.

    “This is President Obama’s decision and I’m not going to second-guess him,” she said. “If it’s undecided when I become president, I will answer your question” [Amy Chozik, “Hillary Clinton Is Stumped on Question of Keystone Pipeline,” New York Times: First Draft, 2015.07.28].

    The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza calls this hedge “ridiculous“:

    Look. When you are running for president — whether or not you served in the current administration — you are going to be asked to take positions on issues that the current president is dealing with. As long as we hold elections that begin two years (or more) before the current president is set to leave office, that’s going to be a thing candidates need to contend with. If Clinton’s position is that she can’t take a public stance on any issue that has some sort of pending business before this White House, then she’s not going to be able to take a position on, well, anything.

    And she’s already shown that on some issues, she is willing to take a position. Clinton came out in favor of the Iran deal, for example, despite the fact that its fate remains up in the air in Congress [Chris Cillizza, “Hillary Clinton’s Ridiculous Hedge on Keystone XL,” Washington Post: The Fix, 2015.07.28].

    Bernie Sanders says the PUC and the President should say no to Keystone XL.

  3. Lynn 2015-07-28 18:16

    Feel The Bern!

  4. grudznick 2015-07-28 18:58

    Wait until they start showing pictures of rail oil cars lying sideways across a highway blocking the way for good teachers to get to school in a sparse district that could easily consolidate with several neighbors and get rid of that fatcat administrator dragging down a mid-six-figure salary.

  5. mike from iowa 2015-07-28 19:21

    Those people would be evacuated,Grudz,so what’s your point?

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-28 19:34

    Yes, Grudz, and deadly solar panel leaks and conservation spills….

  7. Paul Seamans 2015-07-28 19:43

    Tarsands dilbit will not be shipped by rail at the current price of oil. Currently, less than 4% of dilbit is shipped to the Gulf by rail. Those railcars blocking a rail crossing will be carrying Bakken crude.

  8. grudznick 2015-07-28 20:07

    Mike, who is from Iowa, is missing my point that far more oil spills into the dirt from whence it came using oil trains instead of these safe and dandy pipe-lines that don’t block traffic and annoy people. Oil in dirt is oil in dirt if you’re worried about it getting in your ground water. Everybody hates oil trains.

  9. grudznick 2015-07-28 20:10

    Promote “Green” by making it cost effective. I’m all green like a frog puppet then.

  10. Paul Seamans 2015-07-28 21:03

    Grudznick, phmsa records show that, barrel for barrel, more oil is spilled from pipelines than from rail. The recent Nexen pipeline spill of 1.3 million gallons in Alberta would equal 52 rail cars at 25,000 gallons per railcar. That would be one half of a unit train.

  11. W R Old Guy 2015-07-28 21:32

    Does anyone know how many control valves will be used? The spill referenced by Paul Seamans reportedly had issues with detection and control valves not working properly. A 36′ pipe has a liquid capacity of 52.9 gallons per foot.

    Spacing of the control valves, size of the break in the pipe and pipeline pressure affect the size of the spill. You will always have a quantity of product released after the valves are closed because of siphoning and gravity. A mile of pipe in this case contains 279,000 gallons of product.

  12. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-07-28 21:59

    Chris Cillizza is right about Hilary’s dodge.

    Paul is absolutely correct. The amount of oil spilled from pipelines dwarfs the tiny amount lost in train derailments. The difference is that train spills often include fire. Pipelines rarely do.

  13. Paul Seamans 2015-07-28 22:00

    WR, the original plan had sixteen valves in the 313 miles in South Dakota. TransCanada was told that they needed twenty. Where the Keystone XL crosses the Cheyenne River the valve on the north side is 16 miles from the valve on the south side. This is about 4.5 million gallons of dilbit that could potentially drain back into the Cheyenne.

  14. Douglas Wiken 2015-07-28 22:16

    The original environmental studies, etc. went through the State Dept. when Hillary was SOS. The US State Dept was involved because XL would cross a national boundary. Hillary has no excuse whatsoever for dodging the issue. She put a person in charge of some part of the investigation who had ties to the pipeline, fossil fuels, or to Trans Canada. I don’t remember for sure. She is probably getting contributions from one of those connections.

  15. grudznick 2015-07-28 23:07

    Mr. Seamans, why do the opponents of this Keystone XL pipeline stand up and yell and scream out of order in the proceedings? It undermines their credibility. Also, some of the lawyers seem odd.

  16. bret clanton 2015-07-29 00:21

    Grudznick….. why do you not post under the name your parents gave you…. it undermines your credibility…..and speaking of seeming odd..?

  17. Roger Beranek 2015-07-29 00:31

    railroad operators spilled about 500 barrels of oil for every billion they moved. Pipeline operators, on the other hand, lost about 2,000 barrels per billion…in perspective that means .000002% gets spilled rather than .0000005%. So Im not terribly interested in which way is safer, rail or pipeline. I just find those opposed to the pipeline are in truth just opposed to oil in general and specifically if its anywhere remotely in their backyard. I doubt the protests would be noticeably diminished if it was some other company building the pipeline, if it was an oil train rather than a pipe, or if the source was just ‘average dirty’ oilfields instead of tar.

  18. leslie 2015-07-29 02:03

    when the leak is under a river and or under ice (in winter) the oil smears 80 miles of yellowstone riparian environment. we do like the environment better than oil companies who subvert science and subsidies to keep burning fossil fuels

  19. Paul Seamans 2015-07-29 06:21

    grudznik, I have been at the entire PUC proceeding and it has been an orderly proceeding. I must have stepped out for a second when all this screaming to which you referred was happening. Maybe you have this proceeding mixed up with FOX News. As for our lawyers; they are a very capable bunch and they bested TransCanada’s lawyers yesterday.

    Roger Beranak; we fight TransCanada because they have bullied landowners during their attainment of their easements with their threats of eminent domain. It is not pleasant to have somebody treat you in this way. If you have not been threatened with condemnation then you should give it a try. It might change your perspective on the Keystone XL.

  20. Douglas Wiken 2015-07-29 12:00

    Beranek, I oppose XL because it can pollute drinking water for thousands of people along the Missouri. It crosses several rivers and their shutoff “system” could dump thousands of gallons of toxic oil and flow modifiers into any river. Also they run across the northern end of the Ogallala ? aquifer just south of Winner. Winner, Colome and Gregory get their drinking water from that aquifer. Good water here is one of the few good things about this area. Loosing that water would be devastating for this area.

    Also, XL is not in the interest of South Dakota or the US. Trans Canada in interviews with news people has stated the primary purpose of XL is to raise fuel prices 10 to 20 cents per gallon in the midwest which they claim has “a glut of crude oil”. The bulk of the oil is set to go to China which has interests in the tar fields. Cheaper oil for China is not really in the interests of the US.

    The PUC is also looking at the wrong end of the pipeline. The basic specifications are flawed and they are not examining that end. Designing a pipeline with a 5 or 10 percent odds of leakage is not a good design to begin with when that pipeline crosses several water resources.

    Trans Canada pipelines have had major leaks. They have a history. All their ads in SD papers and other media are filled with irrelevant assertions and very little fact. Those ads are designed only to keep the paper owners from actually investigating their claims and performance. They claim a safety system will prevent major disaster. How many people watching in SD? A handful. Which also brings up the discredited claims they have made for job growth. Their widely spaced flow sensors could allow thousands of gallons of oil and toxic light solvents into water before anybody had a clue.

    The property tax claims they and commissioners have made have been shown with their eastern SD line to be exaggerated by 2 or 3 times.

    I see no reason for any rational South Dakotan to support this pipeline unless they are being paid for their support in some way.

    Nearly every claim that pipeline proponents have made

  21. 96Tears 2015-07-29 14:17

    It starts with just a pin hole and blow out occurs.

    Are all of the photos posted here of the outside of the pipe? I’m curious what happens on the inside with the far more corrosive and abrasive bitumen flowing through year after year under far higher pressure than other kinds of more commonly piped crude. The chart at the bottom of page 6 in this 2011 report should give anybody reason to pause on running bitumen pipelines willy nilly over North America’s largest subsurface fresh water resource:

    What did you think you were going to drink after the aquifer is ruined?

    Below are links to a few updates of the infamous and extremely costly Kalamazoo River bitumen pipeline burst that is still being cleaned and repaired along 38 miles of river five years later. Imagine the cost and time it would take to clean up a major aquifer. How could they possibly trace where all that high pressured oil goes in a massively large aquifer? A pipeline burst over the Ogallala isn’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. They install these pipelines to run long after people forget where they are.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-29 14:37

    96, as I understand the report, the above photos all show exterior corrosion, caused by “stray voltage.”

  23. Shannon 2015-07-29 14:53

    Not to mention pollution to the Ogllala Aquifer, the leading source of irrigation in the Western Hemisphere.
    Check out this link, especially the points of contamination section. (Spoiler, biggest contaminator is petroleum leaks)

    Now from the wind farm in Campbell County will generate an annual tax payment of approx. $291,000, all of which will be divided and dispersed to the county and school district.

  24. 96Tears 2015-07-30 08:49

    Oops. They did it again.

    Didn’t have to wait long for the next bitumen pipeline burst. This newest one set records.

    “A rupture in a line operated by Nexen, a unit of China’s Cnooc Ltd., spewed 31,500 barrels of bitumen, waste water and sand into the bog-like muskeg of the province’s north this month, igniting outrage from communities along pipeline routes. The crude in the slurry would be enough to make gasoline to fill up about 15,000 cars.”

    So, why would we want that s— in our drinking water here in the United States? Isn’t Keystone shipping Canadian bitumen in a pipeline across our nation to sent that crap to China? Why can’t Canada run their crap across their own nation? Why don’t they build the refinery in Canada so dangerous bitumen doesn’t need to be piped?

    What’s wrong with the America-first Republicans on the PUC that they won’t stick up for America and South Dakota and prevent Canada from shoving their dirty, problematic, leaky pipeline up our American keester?

    Gary, Kristi and Chris, why are you so stupid and willing to help Canada screw us?

  25. Bruce 2015-07-30 09:18

    The pinholes and rust through issues have been a known problem with new steel products created using “recycled” steel. Rusty car bodies and such are melted down with the microscopic rust particles. These rust particles cannot not be neutralized. The particles are opportunistic, always in search of conditions allowing it to grow. The photos attached to this article demonstrate the problems of not using virgin materials to make this pipe.

    As someone who has had to work with rolling pressured schedule 40 & 80 black steel, tubing and various grades of stainless steel pipe for 50 years I have worked with mills for years on this very issue.

    We noticed a pipe breakage issue 30+ years ago and had to research the reasons. Unknown to us, we had received our first batch of imported pipe. As we put rolling pressure on the pipe, it would snap. We found the breakage was occurring on weaknesses caused by the rust particles not filtered out of the process. Our local suppliers did not understand why it was happening so we discussed it with metallurgists. They were able to determine the microscopic particle issues.

    In all these years I personally have never found a solution to this problem. No instead of using schedule 40 wall pipe, schedule 80 must be used just to have the capability to operate with minimum life with warranty.

  26. Paul Seamans 2015-07-30 10:34

    Thank you Bruce for the interesting information on pipe manufacturing.

  27. Bruce 2015-07-30 13:16

    I have tried to explain this rust issue to groups for several years with no responses for action. Dakota Access and the Keystone pipelines should be tested for virgin steel or recycled steel issues. My understanding, the imported pipe is primarily recycled material.

  28. Roger Beranek 2015-07-31 01:00

    There is pretty much zero risk of aquifer contamination even in the event of a spill, due to the geometry of the aquifer and the route of the line, the oil would flow away from the aquifer. Also the same difficulty noted in the article pointed out by Shannon. that prevents most water from recharging the aquifers also makes it difficult for oil to penetrate it as well.

    Bruce, the issue about using adulterated steel is an important consideration that should be mandated, although your line about rust particles being opportunistic and looking for conditions to thrive was senseless bunk that I’m hoping was meant metaphorically

  29. Paul Seamans 2015-07-31 06:18

    Roger Beranek; there is zero probability that you know what you are talking about. In the Sandhills area of the Ogallala Aquifer the water table of the aquifer is often at the surface. The water often forms ponds in the spring. The Sandhills is a recharge area of the aquifer. A pipeline spill in this area would go directly into the aquifer.

  30. Bruce 2015-07-31 08:37

    Roger please do your research on steel and rust. There is a reason older steel created with virgin ingredients will exist in harsh environments while steel created with recycled materials will not.

    For our needs we had to issue composition specifications. We worked on a project where the issued specifications for the structural materials required virgin steel due to cracking problems under stress loads. Virgin steel is more malleable.

    A great use for recycled steel is cast iron and products with little stress.

  31. Bruce 2015-07-31 08:41

    BTW Roger, have you ever tried to stop rust from growing a hole in the sheetmetal on your truck? A section needs to be cut out and replaced. It cannot be stopped with chemicals, paint or praying. Rust is opportunistic. Give it a chance to start and play hell trying to get rid of it.

  32. Roger Beranek 2015-08-01 01:02

    Bruce, I agree about using steel using virgin ingredients. I was just complaining about the language or rust growing. Rust is not alive, does not grow or reproduce. the spread of rust is just an accelerating chemical reaction. The physical structure of rust is rather ventilated and open with weak bonds as opposed to the compact steel, which allows the ingress of more oxygen, moisture and electrolytes to react with the adjacent steel molecules. That explains why even the tiny amounts of rust in recycled steel can compromise its use, although I’m not sure how painted over rust continues to spread. Maybe paint is more gas permeable then we assume.

    Paul: keystone doesn’t go over the Sandhills

  33. Roger Beranek 2015-08-01 01:04

    maybe it acts as its own catalyst, similar to pure water chilled bellow the freezing point remaining liquid until you drop something into it and it freezes solid. Chemistry is more interesting than fossil-fuel Phobia

  34. leslie 2015-08-01 04:55

    beranek-NO. Sandhills-YES.

    north of grand island there are lots of Sandhills. the route goes from Stuart [Holt county] thru Chain Lake on Garfield county line. lots of Sandhills.

    See FSEIS 3-5.2: ” MP 619-707…Holt…counties…soils… highly susceptible to erosion by wind…characteristics of…Sand Hills Region….”

  35. Paul Seamans 2015-08-01 05:26

    leslie is exactly correct about the Sandhills. The Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer extend into southern Tripp Country and the Keystone XL is in the Sandhills and over the Ogallala Aquifer in most of Nebraska.

    Roger, you are due for a road trip along the KXL route to get a better idea of where it passes.

  36. Roger Beranek 2015-08-02 00:17

    Thanks Mike, although I might not agree that the new route poses a threat, the article at least does admit the new route doe not go through the sand hills.

    In light of all the resistance, instead of a pipeline maybe we can have Transcanada invest in a couple nuclear plants?

  37. Paul Seamans 2015-08-02 07:19

    Roger Beranek, somewhere’s about 2012, when TransCanada was applying for a route change, Nebraska changed the map that delineated the Sandhills in Nebraska. The map that was used at that time showed the KXL reroute going through the Sandhills. The newer, and current, map shows the reroute missing the Sandhills. There couldn’t be a simpler way for Nebraska’s governor to accommodate TransCanada, whom he supports, than to simply change which map the state uses. Three people interviewed for the article; Tom Genung, Ken Winston, and Ernie Fellows, would tell you that the Keystone XL reroute still crosses the Nebraska Sandhills.

  38. mike from iowa 2015-08-02 09:20

    t should be noted that there is still significant controversy surrounding TransCanada’s “new” route for Keystone XL through Nebraska. A large part of the governor’s process for getting the route for Keystone XL out of the Sandhills appears to have involved redrawing the map of the Sandhills (see below). As InsideClimate News and E&E News have reported, the new route for the pipeline still places it in some of the most sensitive, sandy regions of Nebraska’s Ogalala Aquifer. And that’s small comfort to Nebraska’s landowners, given the impact that tar sands spills have been shown to have on waterbodies, uncertainties surrounding spill cleanups in aquifers, and Keystone XL’s leak detection system inability to detect leaks smaller than half a million gallons per day.


  39. leslie 2015-08-02 10:57

    when lawyers for energy companies make maps, we are all in trouble.

    just another example of GOP two-step illustrated in EB5. “rope-a-dope”

    another sad but fascinating, historical sand hill story is Little Wolf’s wintering at chokecherry lake, evading troops, 1879 as told in sand hill luminary m. sandoz’ “Cheyenne Autum”.

  40. leslie 2015-08-02 11:27

    so I can’t call beranek a stupid cow?

  41. mike from iowa 2015-08-02 18:30

    Paul S-good article and thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.