Part of the Keystone XL Pipeline has been closed down after a leak was discovered about 35 km to the south of the Ludden Pump Station in Marshall County, South Dakota, on Thursday 13 November 2017. The spill was detected by pipeline operators TransCanada, who noticed a drop in pressure in the pipeline and shut down flow while the situation was investigated. The leak was originally thought to have been quite small, with about 210 000 barrels (333 900 000 litres) of oil having been lost, however inspection of the site has suggested a much larger loss, with current estimates running at 600 000 barrels (953 900 000 litres) and environmental groups concerned that the real figure will eventually be found to be much higher. This discrepancy is thought to have been caused by the dense nature of the bituminous oil running through the pipeline, which will have resulted in a slower drop in pressure that would happen with a lighter oil fraction.
The November 2017 South Dakota spill. TransCanada.
The Keystone XL Pipeline is intended to carry crude oil from tar sands deposits in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Illinois and Texas in the US. It been opposed at almost every stage by environmental groups concerned about the possibility of leaks such as this week's one in South Dakota, the environmentally destructive nature of extracting oil from tar sands, and the contribution of a major expansion in hydrocarbons production to atmospheric carbon dioxide and global warming. These concerns led former American President Barrack Obama to halt the construction of the pipeline in 2015, however this order was rescinded by incoming President Donald Trump in March 2017. The pipeline currently pumps oil from Alberta to a refinery in Patola, Illinois, with construction of the final leg to Texas underway.
Protests against the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington DC in 2014. Kristina Banks/Huffington Post.
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