Fatigue crack blamed for massive oil spill on Keystone pipeline in Kansas

Workers at the site of the oil spill from the Keystone pipeline near Washington, Kansas, in December 2022


The formal determination of the cause of the Keystone Pipeline leak that flooded 500,000 gallons of crude oil into a Kansas creek last December was announced Friday by operator TC Energy.

“The primary cause of the rupture was a progressive fatigue crack that originated at a girth weld connecting a manufactured elbow fitting to the pipe constructed across Mill Creek (in Kansas),” the operator of the pipeline, TC Energy, said in a news release.

The line carries Canadian crude oil to Cushing in Oklahoma where it eventually is transported south to Gulf Coast refineries. TC Energy said the investigation of the nation’s largest oil pipeline spill in nine years found that when it was completed in 2011, there were “inadvertent bending stresses sufficient to initiate a crack” on an elbow fitting.

The Kansas Reflector reported that Sierra Club officials claimed the flaws in the line mean it is only a matter of time before there is another oil spill.

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