By Sunday afternoon, the company had deployed 15 vacuum trucks and 33 storage tanks to start cleaning up and temporarily store about 12,000 barrels of oil and water that had been recovered, the company said. Crews were steam-cleaning oil from property, Exxon Mobil said, while some fought in rainy weather to keep the oil from reaching nearby Lake Conway through storm drains.
The pipeline, which was built in the 1940s and was recently expanded, was carrying low-quality Wabasca Heavy crude oil from Alberta, Exxon Mobil spokesman Alan T. Jeffers said. According to the Crude Monitor Web site, Wabasca Heavy is a blend of oil produced in the Athabasca region, where the oil sands are located.
An existing Keystone pipeline carries crude oil that comes from the oil sands deposits in Alberta to Patoka through Exxon Mobil’s lines. Jeffers said he did not know if this batch of crude oil came from the Keystone line.
Many critics of the Keystone XL pipeline say that corrosion risks are greater in pipelines carrying low-quality bitumen-laden crude from the oil sands. They have urged President Obama to reject the Keystone XL permit application.
“This latest pipeline incident is a troubling reminder that oil companies still have not proven that they can safely transport Canadian tar sands oil across the United States without creating risks to our citizens and our environment,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey (Mass.), the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.
TransCanada, owner of the Keystone system, has said that the new pipeline would be far safer than any other part of the nation’s 2.6 million miles of oil, gas and chemical pipelines.
The Environmental Protection Agency declared the Arkansas leak a “major spill,” a label put on any spill of 250 barrels or more. Exxon Mobil said it was preparing for a spill of up to 10,000 barrels, but that the estimate would probably end up being lower than that.
The company and other responders were battling to keep the crude oil, which gushed into yards and ran down residential streets in a Mayflower neighborhood, from leaking into Lake Conway, a popular recreation and game-fishing spot. Cleanup crews have deployed 3,600 feet of boom near the lake as a precaution, and as of Sunday afternoon no oil had reached the lake, Jeffers said.
He added that dikes had been built to prevent runoff into the lake, but heavy rains were making that difficult, and runoff from storm drains into the lake was a concern.