Monday, September 13, 2010

Federal regulators relaxed standards for pipe used in Keystone line

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - An article by the editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch raises serious questions about the safety of the Keystone Pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands to Illinois. The questions are being raised at a time when the Keystone XL pipeline, which expands parts of the original Keystone system, is under construction.
The ruckus began in February 2009, when a retired U.S. steelworker from a closed steel mill in Granite City, Ill., saw a freight train containing car after car of 30-inch steel pipe made by Welspun in India passing by. The pipe was destined for use in TransCanada’s 2,151-mile original Keystone Pipeline then under construction.
Even though much of the pipe in the Keystone project came from American
suppliers, protest rallies by out-of-work steelmakers were held in Granite City, Ill., and downtown St. Louis, Mo.
Since then, serious questions have been raised about the integrity of some of the Indian-made pipe.
The Keystone Pipeline was completed earlier this year, and oil from the Canadian tarsands began flowing in the conduit in June.
Under TransCanada's emergency response plan, one of the worst-case scenarios is that a rupture could occur in St. Charles County, Mo., near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Some 24,000 barrels of oil could pour from line before the leak could be stopped and the pipeline repaired. That's worse than the tarsands oil spill currently being cleaned up in Michigan following the failure of Enbridge Line 6B, which spilled an estimated 19,500 barrels of synbit (upgraded tarsands bitumen) into the Kalamazoo River watershed.
Problems have been reported with steel milled by Welspun in the same Indian plant, and in the same time period, that the Keystone steel was milled.
The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has given pipeline companies a waiver that increases the probability of problems.
Previously, PHMSA ordered pipe replaced if it expanded as little as
0.6 percent when the material inside was under full pressure. In
October, PHMSA said companies had to notify the agency only when
expansions reached one percent. Only pipe that expanded 1.5 percent or
more would have to be replaced under the relaxed standard.
Plains Justice, a public-interest group, has reviewed federal documents that raised serious concerns about substandard pipe made by various mills between 2007 and 2009. Of particular concern was pipe made by India’s Welspun.
Of the pipe used in the Keystone project, 47 percent was made by

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