Pipeline securityOctober 18, 2011
Yesterday, I posted an argument on environmental grounds that the Keystone XL pipeline should be built – that, because the route traverses a relatively more built and accessible environment, that it is far preferable to the alternate proposed route through a largely pristine region of biological diversity.
The route of Keystone XL is also a preferred route because of security issues. Last month, a pipeline in Kenya exploded, causing the death of 100 local inhabitants. The explosion was caused when those locals gathered to siphon fuel from the leak. A suspected cigarette ignited the pipeline and disaster ensued. Today, the professional industry newsletter Oil & Gas IQ notes that the Kenyan tragedy is the largest and most recent example of a problematic issue of pipeline security in the developing world. Through poor monitoring and maintenance, leaks on such pipelines go unreported and/or untended, and as a consequence, fires and explosions are common. Additionally, pipelines through regions with unsettled political situations are frequent objects of attack and sabotage. This is not a weakness of pipelines, per se, but rather a weakness of local conditions. Regulation, monitoring, and the availability of trained repair crews render such disasters almost unheard of in developed nations. Building Keystone XL, with the inherent pipeline security that comes with its location, relieves the pressure to build other pipelines through far riskier environments.