The controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would deliver tar sands oil mined in Alberta, Canada to Texas for cleanup and then return it to Canada has a number of serious issues and points of contention. Among the debates going on in Washington are which route would be used and what, exactly, are the risks of environmental disasters. We have another example of what the Keystone XL might bring now that ExxonMobil is dealing with a pipeline rupture in Mayflower, AR in its Pegasus pipeline.

The oil company is cleaning up thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude oil spilled from an Arkansas pipeline Friday, March 29. The pipeline is about 65 years old and broke near a housing development in Mayflower, streaming oil across yards and down streets (as you can see in the video below). The pipeline remained shut and the company declined to speculate when it would be repaired and restarted. ExxonMobil had been fined in 2010 for not frequently inspecting another portion of the Pegasus line.

The smell is unbelievable.

If you watch the video, you'll see what a local resident videotaped while driving home. His house hadn't been affected, but across the street there was a pipeline break point where oil gushed down to a drain at end of the street. The smell is unbelievable, he says in the video.

Evacuation of local residents had yet to take place, but that could be required for assessment of the damage and determining why the leak occurred. Police set up a check point to keep residents away from the affected area. Helicopters were circling the neighborhood on Monday to assess the damage. ExxonMobil released a statement that two ducks had been found dead from the spill and that 10 "oiled ducks" were being treated at a local animal welfare center.

The Pegasus pipeline can transport more than 90,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Patoka, IL, to Nederland, TX. While this is not tar sands oil, Pegasus was carrying Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude at the time of the break. It's a bitumen oil from Pelican Lake in Northern Alberta that needs to be blended with lighter oils or natural gas liquids to make it through pipelines.

Debate has been sparked about the age and condition of these pipelines and the volume of oil that can be transported through Pegasus, and it has similar implications for Keystone XL. Traders have said a prolonged disruption of Canadian crude in the Pegasus line could spike prices for crude oil in the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists are expressing concerns over greenhouse gas emissions from these pipelines, and other threats. "An influx of tar sands on the U.S. pipeline network poses greater risks to pipeline integrity, challenges for leak detection systems and significantly increased impacts to sensitive water resources," the Natural Resources Defense Council said in an emailed note to Reuters.



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