According to documents obtained by a Freedom of Information Request parts of TransCanada's Keystone 1 pipeline show an alarming rate of corrosion.
A mandatory inspection test has revealed a section of the pipeline's wall corroded 95%, leaving it paper-thin in one area (one-third the thickness of a penny) and dangerously thin in three other places, leading the company to immediately shut it down for fear of a catastrophic oil spill.
The cause of the corrosion is being kept from the public by federal regulators and TransCanada.
“It is highly unusual for a pipeline not yet two years old to experience such deep corrosion issues,” Evan Vokes, a former TransCanada pipeline engineer-turned-whistleblower, was quoted as saying “Something very severe happened that the public needs to know about.”
When TransCanada shut the pipe down, the company and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) told the press that it was due to “possible safety Issues.”
And although an engineer from PHMSA got sent to the site where TransCanada discovered the issue (in Missouri), no further information has been released to the public.
Only after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to PHMSA in August 2013 — which the agency only responded to this April — was the information detailing that the pipeline had deeply corroded in multiple spots exposed.
Documents explaining just what caused the corrosion and findings concerning a possible spill were not included in the FOIA response. According to PHMSA spokesman Damon Hill, documents showing this information will compromise an ongoing compliance review the agency is conducting of TransCanada and so were withheld.
The revelations are a stunning view into the secret world of crude oil pipelines. They paint a picture, contrary to extensive public ad campaigns and lobbying, that the pipes are dangerous and have severe ecological ramification. The released documents also highlight just how easily a spill can occur and show just how important comprehensive cleanup planning to understanding the safety of pipeline proposals.