Pipeline Water Crossings

Keystone XL will cross the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers in Montana. 

The U.S. State Department, along with a number of agencies including the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), conducted a comprehensive review of Keystone XL and water resources, including groundwater, surface water (e.g., rivers, streams) and water supplies. 

The U.S. State Department concluded in its final environmental analysis that building Keystone XL based on stringent U.S. regulatory guidelines and conditions “would result in a project that would have a degree of safety over any other typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current code.

The Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is the regulatory body that governs protected pipeline water crossings.  Some of their requirements for safety include:

  • Requiring pipeline operators to address any conditions, including flooding and a lack of depth of cover, that may adversely impact the safe operation of the pipeline. 
  • Requiring pipeline operators to assess all threats to their pipelines, including flooding and hurricanes, and take appropriate preventative and mitigative actions. 
  • Requiring operators at intervals not exceeding five years to inspect each crossing under a navigable waterway to determine the condition and integrity of the pipeline.

But efforts to ensure the highest levels of safety near waterways don't stop there.

The oil and natural gas industry policy takes pipeline water crossing safety for pipelines, such as Keystone XL, beyond the regulatory burden.  Examples of industry measures to heighten safety include:

  • Surveying crossings to determine the river bed, depth, stability and width to identify those prone to erosion and water channel changes. 
  • Utilization of real-time monitoring programs and the US Geological Survey (USGS) Water Alert System where available, with pre-established flow rate triggers identifying any potential incidents.

As a result of these regulatory and industry-initiated measures, incidents in and around water crossings are at an all-time low, with the goal always being a perfect record of zero incidents.