One month after ExxonMobil’s 70-year-old Pegasus pipeline spilled 5,000 barrels of oil in the town of Mayflower, Ark., another breach in the same pipeline created an oil spill on a residential yard in Ripley County, Missouri.
The spill is reportedly small, but it calls into question the integrity of ExxonMobil’s pipeline, which stretches from Illinois to Texas and transports a 30,000-gallon daily load of diluted bitumen fuel – an extremely viscous and toxic blend of liquefied Canadian tar sands.
The March 29 spill in Mayflower, Ark., flooded a residential neighborhood and contaminated the surrounding land and water. The disaster displaced more than 80 people. Government records indicate ExxonMobil workers have collected about 40 percent of the 5,000 barrels spilled there.
The Missouri oil spill occurred about 200 miles north of the Mayflower, Ark., spill. According to Energy Ticker, a Ripley County resident contacted ExxonMobil after discovering oil emerging and forming a patch on the land. Vegetation near the spill was dead.
The size of the spill was reportedly small. Some sources say it was about one barrel (42 gallons), just a fraction of the Mayflower spill. Nevertheless, the spill casts more doubt on the integrity of the Pegasus pipeline, which was built in the 1940s and modified in 2009 to boost tar-sands shipping capacity by 50 percent.
According to Bloomberg, the pipeline is now capable of carrying 96,000 barrels per day, but considering the recent spills it is obviously having trouble safely transporting less than a third of its maximum volume.
The Pegasus pipeline’s troubles have also drawn attention back to TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a project that safety experts and conservationists fiercely oppose for the environmental and human risks it would present throughout the middle U.S.
In April, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a letter to the U.S. State Department, sharply criticizing its support of the pipeline. In the letter, the EPA enumerated several dangers that haven’t been adequately addressed, including the highly toxic and viscous nature of tar sands oil, often called diluted bitumen, or dilbit. Tar sands oil that has been diluted with additives so that it can flow through a pipeline is several times more difficult and expensive to clean up than conventional crude oil.