Kansas residents hold noses as crews mop up huge US oil spill

WASHINGTON, Kan., Dec 10 (Reuters) – Residents near the site of the worst U.S. oil pipeline leak in a decade took the commotion and smell in stride as cleanup crews worked in scorching temperatures close to zero, and investigators have been looking for clues as to what caused the spill.

A strong smell of petroleum wafted through the air as tractor-trailers hauled generators, lights and groundsheets to a muddy site on the outskirts of this farming community, where a breach in the Keystone pipeline discovered on Wednesday spat 14,000 barrels of oil.

TC Energy Pipeline Operator (TRP.TO) said Friday it was evaluating plans to restart the line, which carries 622,000 barrels a day of Canadian oil to U.S. refineries and export hubs.

“We could smell it first thing in the morning; it was bad,” said Dana Cecrle, 56, a Washington resident. He ignored the disruption: “Things are breaking.

TC Energy did not provide details about the breach or indicate when a restart on the broken segment might begin. Officials are to receive a pipeline rupture and cleanup briefing on Monday, Washington County Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Randy Hubbard said Saturday.

OIL FLOWS TOWARDS THE CREEK

Environmental scientists from as far away as Mississippi were helping with the cleanup, and federal investigators searched the site to determine what caused the 36-inch (91 cm) pipeline to burst.

Washington County, a rural area of ‚Äč‚Äčabout 5,500 people, is about 200 miles (322 km) northwest of Kansas City.

The spill did not threaten water supplies or force residents to evacuate. Rescuers set up dams to contain the oil that flowed into a stream and was sprayed on a hillside near a cattle pasture, Hubbard said.

TC Energy is aiming to restart a segment of pipeline that sends oil to Illinois on Saturday, and another section that brings oil to the main trading center in Cushing, Oklahoma, on Dec. 20, Bloomberg News reported, citing sources. Reuters has not verified these details.

It was the third spill of several thousand barrels of crude on the 2,687-mile (4,324 km) pipeline since it opened in 2010. A previous Keystone spill shut down the pipeline for about two weeks.

“Hell is life,” Carol Hollingsworth, 70, of nearby Hollenberg, Kansas, said of the latest spill. “We must have the oil.”

TC Energy had about 100 workers leading cleanup and containment efforts, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was providing oversight and monitoring, EPA spokeswoman Kellen Ashford said.

The US regulator Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) said the company shut down the pipeline seven minutes after receiving a leak detection alarm.

RAW BOTTLENECK

An extended pipeline shutdown could lead to a bottleneck of Canadian crude in Alberta and lower prices at the Hardisty storage facility, although the price reaction on Friday was muted.

Western Canada Select (WCS), the benchmark Canadian heavy grade, for December delivery last traded at a discount of $27.70 per barrel to the benchmark oil futures U.S. crude, according to a Calgary-based broker. December WCS was trading as low as $33.50 below US crude on Thursday, before settling around $28.45 off.

“The real impact could come if Keystone faces pressure (flow) restrictions from PHMSA, even after the pipeline is cleared to resume operations,” said Ryan Saxton, oil data manager at consultants Wood Mackenzie. .

Reporting by Erwin Seba in Washington, Kansas, and Nia Williams in Calgary, Alberta; Additional reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston, Rod Nickel in Winnipeg and Stephanie Kelly in New York Editing by Gary McWilliams, Stephen Coates and Matthew Lewis

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