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Keystone pipeline to remain closed until corrective action taken after North Dakota oil leak

Workers survey the damage of a pipeline leak in a field near Edinburg, N.D. in this undated handout photo.
Workers survey the damage of a pipeline leak in a field near Edinburg, N.D. in this undated handout photo. Credit: TC Energy, via The Canadian Press

Federal regulators in the United States have ordered the Keystone pipeline to remain shut down until its Calgary-based owner takes corrective action aimed at determining the cause of a breach that leaked an estimated 1.4 million litres (383,000 gallons) of oil in northeastern North Dakota.

READ MORE: Keystone pipeline leaks more than 1.4M litres of oil in North Dakota

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued the order Tuesday to TC Energy. The action comes one week after the pipeline leak was discovered and affected about 2,090 square meters (22,500 square feet) of land near Edinburg, in Walsh County.

The pipeline has been shut down since Oct. 29. It is designed to carry crude oil across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and down through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri on the way to refineries in Patoka, Illinois, and Cushing, Oklahoma.

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A route map for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, with the existing Keystone pipeline shown in brown.
A route map for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, with the existing Keystone pipeline shown in brown. Courtesy: TransCanada

The order requires the company to send the affected portion of the 76-centimetre (30-inch) steel pipeline to an independent laboratory for testing. The company also must develop a plan to restart the line and for remediation.

READ MORE: Western oil prices slip as Keystone pipeline leak cleanup continues

TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, said in a statement it expects to have the damaged portion of the pipeline excavated by the end of the week.

The company said it has about 200 people at the site working around the clock who are “focused on clean-up and remediation activities.”

“We’re continuing to monitor air quality around the site and the surrounding area throughout clean-up, with no concerns,” TC Energy said.

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Oil spilled from a section of the Keystone pipeline is seen in Walsh County, North Dakota, U.S., October 30, 2019.
Oil spilled from a section of the Keystone pipeline is seen in Walsh County, North Dakota, U.S., October 30, 2019. Taylor DeVries/North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality/Handout via REUTERS

Karl Rockeman, North Dakota’s water quality division director, said Wednesday about 954,000 litres (252,000 gallons) of crude oil have been recovered.

Rockeman said some wetlands were affected, but not any sources of drinking water.

The pipeline spill and shutdown come as the company seeks to build the US$8-billion Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from Hardisty, Alberta to refineries in Texas.

READ MORE: Keystone XL pipeline opponents point to North Dakota spill to bolster their argument

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has drawn opposition from people who fear it will cause environmental damage.