Exxon Mobil on Sunday continued cleanup of a pipeline spill that spewed thousands of barrels of heavy Canadian crude in Arkansas as opponents of oil sands development latched on to the incident to attack plans to build the Keystone XL line.
Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said on Sunday that crews had yet to excavate the area around the pipeline breach, a needed step before the company can estimate how long repairs will take and when the line might restart.
"I can't speculate on when it will happen," Jeffers said. "Excavation is necessary as part of an investigation to determine the cause of the incident."
Exxon's Pegasus pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas, was shut after the leak was discovered late Friday afternoon in a subdivision near the town of Mayflower. The leak forced the evacuation of 22 homes.
Exxon also had no specific estimate of how much crude oil had spilled, but the company said 12,000 barrels of oil and water had been recovered - up from 4,500 barrels on Saturday. The company did not say how much of the total was oil and how much was water.
The pipeline was carrying Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude at the time of the leak. An oil spill of more than 1,000 barrels into a Wisconsin field from an Enbridge Inc pipeline last summer kept that line shuttered for around 11 days.
The 848-mile (1,381 km) pipeline used to transport crude oil from Texas to Illinois. In 2006 Exxon reversed it to move crude from Illinois to Texas in response to growing Canadian oil production and the ability of U.S. Gulf Coast refineries to process heavy crude.
The Arkansas spill drew fast reaction from opponents of the 800,000 bpd Keystone XL pipeline, which also would carry heavy crude from Canada's tar sands to the Gulf Coast refining hub.
Environmentalists have expressed concerns about the impact of developing the oil sands and say the crude is more corrosive to pipelines than conventional oil.