TC Energy's Keystone Oil Pipeline Offline Due to Operational Issues

(Reuters) — TC Energy's Keystone oil pipeline went offline due to operational issues, sources said on Thursday, cutting off a major conduit of Canadian oil to the United States and sending oil prices higher.

The 622,000 barrel-per-day pipeline has been dogged by problems, including a 2022 spill in rural Kansas.

TC notified shippers of the outage but did not specify the problem or the possible length of the outage, one industry source said. Three other sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly, confirmed the outage.

A spokesperson for Calgary, Alberta-based TC said the company could not immediately comment. It was not clear how much of the Keystone network was down.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate oil CLc1 turned positive, up 0.4% to $79.46 per barrel, after the trading session closed.

"That's obviously very bad," said Rory Johnston, founder of the Commodity Context newsletter. "With Keystone, we're seeing a pattern of these sporadic outages. Western Canada is so often operating on a knife’s edge of crude egress capability."

Keystone, stretching 4,850 km (3,000 miles), transports oil from Alberta to Nebraska, where it splits, with one arm running east to the Midwest and the other running south to the U.S. crude storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, and to the Gulf, where it is processed by refiners or exported.

Last month, executive vice-president of liquids Bevin Wirzba told analysts on a quarterly call that TC had inspected 80% of the Keystone system during the year since the Kansas spill and found no potential issues with the pipeline's integrity.

The main alternative to Keystone is Enbridge's Mainline, which is running in March at 25% apportionment for light oil and 20% apportionment for heavy oil.

The discount on Western Canada Select (WCS) heavy crude for April delivery grew to as much as $16.30 per barrel in Alberta compared to West Texas Intermediate CLc1, from as little as $15.75, according to brokerage CalRock. At Cushing, WCS traded at a discount of $7.30 per barrel, shrinking 40 cents on the prospect of Canadian supplies becoming tighter at the hub, brokers said.

The Keystone outage comes as shippers await completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which will nearly triple capacity of a line moving oil from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, providing long-awaited relief to Canada's pipeline congestion.

TC shares finished slightly higher in Toronto.

Last year, TC said it planned to spin off its liquids business, including Keystone, to focus on transporting natural gas. The company has been selling assets to reduce debt.

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