Ten Keystone XL safety features you might not know

Image: Keystone Pipeline pipe construction image.
High-quality carbon steel: Our pipelines are protected with the most advanced, corrosion-resistant fusion-bonded epoxy (FBE) coatings that are designed specifically to meet TransCanada’s safety standards.

Safety is the No.-1 priority at TransCanada. Making sure the Keystone XL Pipeline is the safest pipeline built to date in North America is something we take very seriously. From going through the most exhaustive environmental review for a cross-border pipeline project in the history of the U.S. to the 57 special conditions TransCanada has voluntarily agreed to implement, this project is industry-leading from design to operation.

Below is a list of some of the important safety features you might not have heard about.

  1. Puncture Resistance
  2. Our standards for steel are incredibly high. The steel TransCanada is using on the Gulf Coast and Keystone XL pipelines is high-quality carbon steel with special features that reduce corrosion and enhance strength and pliability. In fact, we are required by the special conditions to ensure that the steel used in the pipeline can withstand impact from a 65-ton excavator with 3.5-inch teeth. This puncture resistance will provide additional protection from third-party damage, which is one of the most common causes of pipeline failures.

  3. Corrosion-Resistant Coating
  4. As with all of TransCanada’s pipelines, safety is at the heart of everything we build. In addition to using high-strength carbon steel, our pipelines are protected with the most advanced, corrosion-resistant fusion-bonded epoxy (FBE) coatings that are designed specifically to meet TransCanada’s safety standards.

  5. Cathodic Protection
  6. During TransCanada’s pipeline operations, a very low-voltage electric current called cathodic protection is applied to the pipe. Cathodic protection connects protected pipeline metal to a more easily corroded piece of metal attached to the pipeline. This type of protection also protects things such as bridges, boats and cars from corrosion and rust. This system undergoes rigorous inspections every year to ensure it is operating effectively.

    The following video details how cathodic protection works on pipelines such as Keystone XL.

  7. Maintenance
  8. Keystone XL Pipeline will operate under an unparalleled maintenance regime. TransCanada will employ state-of-the-art integrity management practices across the entire length of the pipeline and provide regulatory bodies with detailed technical reports annually. This enhanced transparency and accountability demonstrates our commitment to safety and reflects the confidence we have in building the safest pipelines in the United States.

    For instance:

    • TransCanada will conduct corrosion surveys within six months after commencement operations to provide early detection and management of any external corrosion during operation
    • TransCanada must submit certification that demonstrates compliance with all 57 conditions prior to commencing operation of the pipeline
    • Airplanes will patrol the right-of-way at least 26 times a year
    • TransCanada will send cleaning and inspection tools through the pipeline once a year to collect and analyze basic sediment and water (BS&W).
    • The results of our more than 11 internal and external studies must be reported each year in an annual report to the PHMSA.
  9. Horizontal Directional Drilling
  10. This technique, which is sometimes called “trenchless” technology, allows pipeline construction to take place under areas such as rivers, steep slopes, structures, roads or railway crossings. It also reduces the overall impact of the development. Horizontal drilling allows our construction crews to bore well below rivers and roads without disturbing river flows or local traffic. Burying the pipeline approximately 25 feet below riverbeds using this technology helps prevent damage from spring run-off or flooding.

    The following video details horizontal direction drilling if you skip ahead to the 1:24 mark in the video player.

  11. Automatic Shut-off Valves
  12. Keystone XL Pipeline will be equipped with more automated shut-off valves placed at shorter intervals than most, if not all, other existing crude oil pipelines in the U.S. These shutoff valves will be placed every 20 miles along the pipeline route, and extra valves will also be placed, where required, to protect water crossings and other areas of higher consequence. They can be closed remotely on either side of the line, isolating a damaged area within minutes of detection.

    The following video explains automatic shut-off valves.

  13. Pump Stations
  14. Keystone, Keystone XL and Gulf Coast pipelines are all specially designed to ensure that most fittings, valves and seals are located at our above-ground pump stations where they can be easily accessed for maintenance and repairs. All of our pump stations employ catch trays and impermeable site liners that prevent seepage into the ground, as well as berms and catchment areas that, in the unlikely event of a spill, would prevent traces of oil from moving off-site.

  15. 100% Weld Inspections
  16. Keystone XL will have a best-in-class quality assurance and monitoring program that includes inspecting every single weld made on this pipeline. TransCanada inspects these welds with the latest ultrasonic inspection technology in addition to the more standard X-ray inspection tools to confirm the quality of each weld. We require every weld made on our pipelines to be inspected by qualified independent inspectors. We are also required to repair or replace imperfections that are invisible to the human eye. This is an industry-leading process that goes above and beyond any federal or state regulation.

  17. Satellite Monitoring and Leak Detection Systems
  18. TransCanada’s state-of-the-art satellite leak-detection and monitoring system is one of the most impressive safety features of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Keystone XL will have more than 13,500 sensors feeding constant and detailed information about flow rates to our control center 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The system includes a redundant, fully functional back-up computer system and a second control center in case there is a failure in the main control center.

  19. Our People, Our Culture
  20. The most important component of our safety and maintenance programs is our people. All of TransCanada’s oil control and field maintenance personnel receive intensive training for up to a year before they can be certified to work on pipeline operations and maintenance. Oil control operators and maintenance personnel performing pipeline safety related tasks are regularly re-certified to ensure that they remain current in their training and that they continue to receive leading-edge education in pipeline operations, maintenance and leak detection. Our highly-trained, professional and caring staff and their commitment to safety are just some of the reasons why this company has an industry-leading safety record and why we are able to say with confidence that Keystone XL will be the safest pipeline ever constructed in North America.