Keystone Pipeline Leaks Oil in Advance of Crucial Decision on Sister Pipeline

Thursday's massive oil spill in South Dakota is not a good omen for TransCanada for a favorable decision on Monday on an application before the Nebraska Public Service Commission on the routing of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
November 18, 2017, 11am PST | Irvin Dawid
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Tony Webster

The spill of thick crude from Canada's oil sands was not the first, but the largest for the original Keystone pipeline (Phase I) that has been in operation since June 2010, transporting oil 2,147 miles from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Neb. and Patoka, Ill.

Monday's expected decision from the Public Service Commission in Nebraska will determine the routing, if any, for 275 miles within Nebraska of the more direct 1,136-mile Keystone XL pipeline, also from Hardisty to Steele City. [A straight line vs. a right angle route in map below.] TransCanada is the owner of both pipelines, which extend to refineries in the Gulf Coast.

Keystone Pipeline Route
Courtesy: Wikipedia – Keystone Pipeline Route

"The [30-inch] pipeline has had smaller spills — 400 barrels each — in the same region in 2011 and 2016," report Steven Mufson and Chris Mooney on November 16 for The Washington Post.

Keystone (Phase I) transports "about 500,000 barrels a day of thick bitumen from the oil sands area to pipeline, refining and storage networks in Steele City, Neb., and Patoka, Ill." A similar spill in the 36-inch Keystone XL pipeline, which has an 830,000 barrels-per-day capacity, would result in a much greater spill. Opponents of the Keystone XL expressed their outrage on Thursday.

“This disastrous spill from the first Keystone Pipeline makes clear why Keystone XL should never be built,” said Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Trump’s issuance of a permit for Keystone XL is a farce that will only lead to more pollution for people and wildlife.”

"A decision by the [Public Service Commission] in favor of the pipeline doesn’t mean the project would definitely move forward," reports Paul Hammel for the Omaha World-Herald Bureau.

Opponents, including Bold Nebraska and the Sierra Club, have vowed to file lawsuits challenging the use of eminent domain by a foreign corporation to obtain right of way for the pipeline.

However, market conditions could also cause TransCanada to refrain from construction, adds Hammel.

Record-low prices for crude oil have cast doubt on whether the more expensive Canadian crude is needed. Tar sands oil is expensive to produce, and some major players have pulled out of that region because of a glut of cheaper and more easily accessed sources of oil.

Unlike the original Keystone pipeline, XL would also carry Bakken shale oil from North Dakota, also an unconventional oil but not as expensive to produce as bitumen from oil sands in Alberta.

Hat tip to Christine Elwell.

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, November 16, 2017 in The Washington Post - Energy and Environment
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