The writer is president and chief executive officer of TransCanada Corp.
On July 1, an unfortunate incident occurred in Montana with the release of oil from a pipeline into the Yellowstone River. We extend our sympathies to all those impacted.
As an industry we must learn from this incident and take any necessary steps to improve performance and ensure the public that pipelines are operated in the safest manner possible. We will do this with the Keystone XL pipeline.
Keystone XL is a 1,700-mile proposed pipeline that would carry Canadian and U.S. crude oil to U.S. refineries including those at the U.S. Gulf Coast. Using the most advanced technology, the pipeline will be monitored 24 hours a day through a centralized control center.
There are 16,000 sensors embedded in the pipeline that provide data via satellite every five seconds. If the slightest drop in pipeline pressure is detected, remote valves are automatically closed, shutting off the flow of oil within minutes.
Our pipeline would cross Montana's Yellowstone River. As Gov. Brian Schweitzer pointed out, Keystone XL would use the most advanced construction techniques, including horizontal directional drilling that allows us to drill under the river a minimum of 25 feet.
The pipe would be built with thicker steel and use advanced coatings to protect the surface from abrasion and corrosion to further improve safety. Similar techniques would be used in Nebraska for the Platte and any other river where scour is a threat.
To ensure the longer-term integrity of our pipelines, they are cathodically protected, which means a low-voltage electric current runs through the pipeline, inhibiting external corrosion.
Internal electronic devices called "pigs" are pushed along inside the pipeline to inspect the pipe's integrity. These special monitoring tools are used to detect anomalies involving loss of wall thickness, including corrosion.
In the unlikely event anomalies are detected, the pipeline segment in question is excavated and visually inspected. It is either repaired on the spot or replaced.
In addition, pipeline rights-of-way are routinely patrolled from the air. Ground patrols with hand-held leak detectors also are employed.
TransCanada has voluntarily agreed to 57 conditions put forward by the U.S. national pipeline regulator PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) that will further improve the safety of Keystone. These conditions include an increased number of automatic shutoff valves, increased pipeline inspections and burying the pipeline deeper in the ground.
Even with the recent Yellowstone incident, pipelines remain the safest method of transporting oil — safer than tankers, trucks or rail. Each day in the United States, more than 200,000 miles of pipelines move oil and other energy products safely to where they are needed. That's enough pipe to circle the Earth eight times.
National pipeline statistics indicate that pipeline accidents are uncommon and that leaks tend to be small; most pipeline leaks involve three barrels or less, 80 percent of spills involve less than 50 barrels and less than 0.5 percent of spills total more than 10,000 barrels.
The United States consumes 15 million barrels of oil per day and imports 11 million. Keystone XL offers Americans the choice of receiving their oil from a friendly, secure supplier in Canada, instead of importing crude from unstable, volatile foreign nations such as Venezuela, Libya and other areas of the Middle East.
Americans rely on oil and gas to heat their homes, cook their food and drive their cars. They also expect this fuel will be delivered in the safest and most responsible manner possible. We agree and would not put our 60-year reputation and the public at risk by doing anything less.