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Crude oil pipes near Freeport, Texas (Source: Creative Commons)

Crude oil pipes near Freeport, Texas (Source: Creative Commons)

On Wednesday night, Enbridge, Inc. issued a press release announcing that some 1,350 barrels of oil (about 56,700 gallons) had been released from one of its pipelines in Saskatchewan.

Enbridge is a Canadian energy delivery company that operates the longest crude oil and liquids transportation system in the world. According to the company, the spill on Wednesday occurred entirely within its Regina Terminal, which connects its Line 4 pipeline to Wisconsin, and was due to an error with a valve and not the pipeline itself.

The Line 4 pipeline can carry heavy, medium and light sour crude oil, but which kind spilled in the Regina Terminal is not yet known. Enbridge insists that no public lands, wildlife or waterways will be affected by this spill, though “[n]earby residents may detect a faint odor.” Air monitoring puts levels “well within safety limits.”

Because the problems was with a flange or valve in the terminal, a spokesman for the company told Reuters that it could be “a relatively easy fix,” though no date was set for when Line 4 will resume service.

Enbridge delivers energy throughout North America, but Americans may be most familiar with the name specifically for its part in the largest, most expensive inland oil spill in U.S. history, which occurred in Michigan in July 2010. A ruptured Enbridge pipeline dumped over 800,000 gallons of Canadian tar sand oil into the Kalamazoo River, prompting some $1.2 billion in cleanup costs, a four-year class action lawsuit and an eventual $6.75 million paid to nearby residents affected by the spill.

The spill’s negative impact on the area was amplified due to its particularly heavy grade. With an API gravity of less than 10 degrees, tar sands are heavier than even extra-heavy oil. It is so heavy that it sinks instead of floats in water and requires the addition of chemicals like benzene to be transported through pipes. When it hit the Kalamazoo River, it sank to the bottom and released potent chemicals into the air at the same time.

This is why Nebraska farmers like Art Tanderup are so opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would be built over the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies water to eight states in the central U.S. A single, significant rupture in the pipeline could destroy the livelihoods and the lives of the region’s people.

The Kalamazoo River spill was some 800,000 gallons of tar sands. The proposed KXL would transport 830,000 gallons of tar sands per day.

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