Keystone XL and the Quality Ethic

The year-old Keystone pipe line has intrinsic quality issues.  Cancel the  XL upgrade!

Last last Saturday, the Lincoln Nebraska online news journal, the JournalStar, published an article by an engineering whistle blower, Mike Klink.  His point:  The XL initiative is not about jobs (way over inflated) nor U.S. energy security (XL diverts to the Gulf coast shipping docks), it is about lots of new money for the upper levels of the well compensated.  I have called these guys the ultras.

The article’s title is “Mike Klink: Keystone XL pipeline not safe.”   It is one thing to write papers based on analysis, as I we have done.  It is a completely different level of believability (and personal danger)  for the same basic points to be made by an eye witness observer.  This guy worked for a principal contractor of the initial Keystone line, Bechtel, who apparently cut all the corners in the book, and banked nice round numbers.  The original Keystone has had a bad first year of operation history of leaks, breakdowns and shoddy infrastructure crises. It is a project you might expect from a Chinese manufacturing enterprise.  Do the job as cheaply and as quickly as possible, then make it happen cheaper yet.

All during the last year, Mr. Klink has been spotlighting the lack of commitment to quality construction.  Lack of quality in U.S. manufacture has not always been true.  I am convinced that when they were first built, our transcontinental pipelines were done as well as possible.  They leak now, but today is 50-60 years after original build.  Keystone XL seems to typify the new success strategy by our modern American companies.  To bad for all of us.

click for all our discussions about the Keystone XL pipeline

Construction’s built-in culture seems to have morphed to focus on the financial return, not the quality in design and construction.  Bechtel will probably be the company to build the XL upgrade. The company is held by the Bachtel family with Riley Bechtel (50th richest ultra in the US) as CEO.  The company has been controversial since early in its life (Wikipedia‘s coverage is interesting reading). The official plan is to use below-normal wall thicknesses, above-normal line pressures for efficiency.  Expect the same sub-quality steel used in the original Keystone line (read Klink’s article).  Without quality underpinning the work ethic, XL will prove to be a disaster.

We apparently are approaching the mandated decision time on XL.  Let’s hope that Obama’s handlers do not quaff TransCanada and Bechtel’s offered beverages (do you prefer red or green flavored Kool-aide?).    XL is not about jobs.  XL is not about energy security.  It is about home-run programs for our deserving uppers.


Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor
2012 Jan 03
This is listed under   Natural Resources    … thread   Natural Resources >  KXL
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About LastTechAge

I am a physicist with years of work in fusion labs, industry labs, and teaching (physics and math). I have watched the tech scene, watched societal trends and am alarmed. My interest is to help us all improve or maintain that which we worked so hard to achieve.
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