Pipelines – the weak point of Oil Sands Expansion

In order for the Albertan Oil Sands to fulfill a plan to expand to five times their current size, increased capacity for exporting Tar Sands oil must be secured. The primary way export capacity is to be increased is through the construction of pipelines. Pipelines, however, are (comparatively) easy to stop through community mobilizations because they harm communities immediately through leaks and produce few jobs, in addition to their role in the overall climate crisis.

The most important pipeline for Tar Sands expansion and its role in the perpetuation of an oil based economy is the Trailbreaker. This pipeline, which is actually a project to convert sections of existing pipeline and build additional pumping stations to allow for transportation of the oil sands product, will run from Alberta to Chicago, back into Canada through the Great Lakes region, over the island of Montreal, and finally down into Maine terminating at the port of Portland. From Portland, Maine, the product will be loaded onto ships bound for the Gulf of Mexico, specifically the coast of Texas. The reason for this is to exploit the excess capacity of refineries built near US offshore oil in the Gulf of Mexico – capacity which is no longer in use due to decreased production from rigs in the Gulf.

The Trailbreaker project is currently shelved, however, due to the world economic downturn and difficulties with the construction of a pumping station in Dunham, Quebec. In 2009, Dunham elected a mayor who ran on a campaign opposing the pipeline. It is surprisingly easy for communities to band together and oppose the construction of oil pipelines – all pipelines leak (the question is when and how often), and when they leak they cause local environmental catastrophes. Unlike home grown opposition to windfarms, this is a NIMBY-ism which conforms with the interests of the species. Folks from Vancouver might remember the 2007 spill in Burnaby, B.C. – that was from a pipeline shipping 350 barrels per day. Burnaby, B.C. is therefore a good region in which to mobilize support against the proposed Northern Gateway Expansion which would increase that flow to 700,000 barrels per day.

29 thoughts on “Pipelines – the weak point of Oil Sands Expansion

  1. Milan

    Pipelines, however, are (comparatively) easy to stop through community mobilizations

    Do you have some examples of pipelines that have been successfully blocked in this way?

  2. Tristan

    “Northern Tier Abandons Bid for Pipeline – April 23rd 1983

    Many business and bluecollar groups actively supproted Northren Tier’s plan to build a massive oil port near the town. Other groups, including Turner’s organziation, No Oil Port Inc, and environmental gorups, fought hard against the plan….

    Mayor Dorothy Duncan, who was elected on a “no oil port” platofrm in 1981, said the project’s death knell was sounded 18 months ago when Gov John Spellman denied Northern Tier’s application for a state siting permit.”


    “Financing For Peruvian Pipeline Blocked

    Two international banks, headed by the U.S., have halted as much as $335 million in loans for the completion of the environmentally unsafe Camisea natural gas pipeline in Peru.
    The building of the $800 million pipeline, which is 60% complete, has displaced many indigenous in the Amazon rainforest and has destabilized the rainforest’s ecosystem, environmental groups say.
    Two U.S. corporations stood to profit from the pipeline. Hunt Oil headed by a family with close ties to the Bush family and Halliburton where Vice President Dick Cheney used to work as CEO.”


  3. .

    Enbridge plans $400-million oil sands expansion

    Pipeline company will also join $1.4-billion carbon dioxide capture project

    Enbridge Inc. said Monday it plans a $400-million expansion of its Waupisoo oil sands pipeline system and is joining a carbon-capture project backed by power producers TransAlta Inc. and Capital Power Corp.

    Enbridge, Canada’s No. 2 pipeline company, said producers have committed to ship another 229,000 barrels a day on Enbridge’s Waupisoo system, requiring a 255,000 bpd expansion of the line, which currently handles up to 350,000 barrels of oil sands crude daily.

    Oil companies are again expanding operations in the oil sands region of northern Alberta, the largest oil reserves outside of the Middle East, after investment in the region dried up as commodity prices stagnated during the recession. Suncor Energy Inc., Total SA, Imperial Oil Ltd. and others are expanding existing operations or launching new projects as oil prices firm.

    The expansion of the Waupisoo system, which gathers oil from projects and delivers it to a pipeline hub near Edmonton, 380 kilometres south, will be done in two phases. The first 65,000 bpd tranche will be complete in the second half of 2012, then a 229,000 bpd expansion will be added in the second half of 2013.

  4. .


    “CALGARY – A top U.S. politician has waded into the debate against a Canadian pipeline expansion bringing crude from Alberta’s oil sands to southern markets, calling the Keystone XL a “step in the wrong direction.”

    House Energy and Commerce committee chairman Henry Waxman, known for his part in the controversial Waxman Markey energy regulation bill, called on the U.S. government to block the expansion of TransCanada Corp.’s proposed pipeline expansion to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

    He joins a growing list of U.S. representatives and environmentalists opposing the line which they claim promotes global warming and environmental degradation by supporting oil sands operations.”

  5. Milan

    It is difficult to imagine the government of Alberta ever voluntarily regulating oil sands production. As such, it will fall on oil consumers to refuse to buy the filthy stuff, keeping most of it underground for lack of demand.

  6. .

    Oilsands explore Asian upgrading
    Rail-and-ship alternative to pipeline exports urged amid U.S. attacks

    Jason Fekete, Calgary Herald, Postmedia News
    Published: 1:32 am

    As environmental attacks and pipeline protests mount in the United States, the Alberta government and oilsands producers are looking to expand their energy markets to Asia — and hoping to get there by train.

    The Stelmach government, oilsands developers and railway companies are actively pursuing strategies that will see raw bitumen shipped on rail lines from northern Alberta to the West Coast, where the product can then be shipped by tanker to Asian markets to be upgraded and refined.

    “We’re talking about expanding our markets beyond the U.S. We’ve always said that we need to look at other options and we’ll continue to look at other options. Rail is one of them,” Energy Minister Ron Liepert said.

  7. .

    U.S. pushes back timeline of oilsands pipeline proposal

    By Dina O’Meara, Calgary Herald; Postmedia News July 27, 2010

    The U.S. State Department has bowed to pressure from environmental and political lobbies, giving federal agencies until the end of the year to decide if a massive bitumen pipeline from Canada is in the national interest.

    TransCanada Corp.’s contentious Keystone XL project has been challenged by groups in the United States decrying Alberta’s oilsands operations as environmentally unsound and contributing to climate change.

    Monday’s move by the United States gives federal agencies three more months to comment on the $7-billion project, which would flow bitumen from Alberta to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.

    The original directive was for federal agencies to weigh in on whether the pipeline was in the national interest by Sept. 15 — the same time that an analysis of an environmental-impact study will be released.

    “After further consultation with those agencies, the department has extended the time for all consulted federal agencies to provide their views to the department until 90 days following issuance of the final EIS,” the agency said on its website.

  8. .

    Municipalities vote to oppose oil pipeline, tankers

    WHISTLER, B.C. — British Columbia’s municipalities have voted to oppose both a controversial Enbridge pipeline proposal and the presence of tankers along the province’s northern coast.

    Delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Whistler overwhelmingly passed two motions on Friday that were brought forward by the Village of Queen Charlotte.

    One of the motions opposes the Northern Gateway pipeline between Alberta’s oilsands and the B.C. coastal community of Kitimat.

    The other urges Ottawa to legislate a ban on bulk crude oil tanker traffic through Queen Charlotte Sound, Dixon Entrance and Hecate Strait, which would increase if the pipeline is built.

    Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. wants to build two parallel pipelines stretching 1,170 kilometres from the Alberta oilsands to the West Coast. The project is worth $5.5-billion.

    Residents from several communities that the pipeline would pass through have opposed the project and include First Nations leaders in northwestern B.C.

    The National Energy Board is preparing to hold public hearings on the project.

    The mayor of the Village of Queen Charlotte said opposition appears to be on the rise.

    “Understanding of the issue is growing, and that is leading to stronger opposition across the province,” Mayor Carol Kulesha said in a news release.

    Energy Minister Bill Bennett said he’s not surprised the UBCM passed the motions and that he is well aware of the debate over the project.

  9. .

    Enbridge Investors Pipelines Feed Fossil Fuel Addictions

    As Enbridge holds its investors meeting in Toronto’s financial district, Environmental Justice Toronto sent them a message about their dirty investments in fossil fuels. Grassroots organizers sent up a banner attached to helium balloons that read “Enbridge Invests in Oil Addiction.” The banner was visible through the glass front of the building, outside of which activists held up another banner that read “Community Resistance is the Cure.”

    “When it comes to the tar sands, Enbridge is Canada’s pusher, pumping dirty oil through unreliable pipelines which are bound to spill,” said Taylor Flook, an organizer with Environmental Justice Toronto. “Averaging at 61 leaks per year for the past 10 years, Enbridge is celebrating over 600 leaks and breaks—and its investors need to know that. Enbridge pipelines are too risky.”

    Enbridge is asking investors to support the expansion of tar sands oil pipelines across North America. Recent accidents and breaks, including one of the largest spills in US history when a pipeline leaked into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan this July, are showing that it is not a matter of “if” there is a spill, but “when” there is a spill.

  10. .

    Canada-US pipeline on hold amid oil’s recent woes


    BISMARCK, N.D. – The steel is staged, and crews are waiting to lay the last and most expensive leg of TransCanada Corp.’s multibillion-dollar pipeline network that would carry Canadian oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

    Yet final U.S. government approval for the massive project, once assumed to be on a fast track, is now delayed indefinitely, with little official explanation. The company had hoped to begin laying pipe by the end of the year, but those prospects have dimmed.

    Some experts conclude the negative publicity surrounding oil-related disasters, particularly the offshore BP leak that polluted the Gulf Coast for months, has made the Keystone XL pipeline a victim of guilt by association.

    “I think it’s fair to speculate that BP fouled the nest for TransCanada,” said Richard Fineberg, a pipeline analyst with Ester, Alaska-based Research Associates. “There is much more attention to the industry and its dark side. It’s going to be harder to get things done at this moment.”

    If the Calgary-based company is battling poor timing on this leg of the project, it enjoyed much better timing during the previous leg. The Keystone pipeline — separate from Keystone XL albeit part of the same 3,800-mile underground network — sailed through the approval process when Americans were clamoring for the government to do something about record gas prices.

  11. .

    Enbridge Energy’s Alberta Clipper moves first shipment this month
    New York (Platts)–22Oct2010/308 pm EDT/1908 GMT

    Calgary-based Enbridge Energy’s Alberta Clipper pipeline made its first shipment of oil this month at Enbridge’s Superior, Wisconsin terminal, though an Enbridge spokeswoman on Friday declined to provide any volumes. The Clipper, also called Line 67, made its first shipment on October 1, Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Varey said. The 36-inch-diameter Line 67 runs from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin and carries heavy crude. It has an average annual capacity of 450,000 b/d.

  12. .

    This week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office won a key victory against environmentalist groups suing to undo her office’s approval of the Alberta Clipper pipeline. The pipeline, planned by Calgary’s Enbridge, will pump, at capacity, 450,000 barrels of oil sands crude from Hardisty, Alta. to Superior, Wis. The idea of yet more carbon-rich Alberta bitumen feeding America’s oil habit was apparently unbearable for the Sierra Club, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and the National Wildlife Federation. They sued in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota, claiming the government’s approval of the pipe last year took for granted that Americans even wanted more Canadian oil, and that opening up a direct vein to the oil sands would hold up their desired march toward a carbon-free future.

    The State Department’s defence might as well have been an oil-sands publicist’s talking points.

    Importing Alberta oil was, the government said, vital to “serve the national interest by providing American refineries access to secure, reliable and economic sources of growing crude oil supplies … from a reliable ally and trading partner.” Without more Alberta bitumen, refiners would only “attempt to obtain additional supplies from less stable and less reliable sources.”

  13. .

    However, if Canada’s oilmen are to fulfil their rosy output forecasts, they will need new ways of reaching customers. America is an obvious place: Canada is already America’s biggest supplier of oil and petroleum, and as the sands are exploited further its market share should only rise. By 2030, according to IHS CERA, a firm of consultants, the tar sands should supply more than one-third of America’s imported oil.

    But Alberta’s bituminous crude needs specialised coking facilities, and its only significant outlets are refineries in the American Midwest. By 2014, says Jackie Forrest of IHS CERA, new production from the tar sands will have filled the available coking capacity. That will create a bottleneck and hinder upstream spending.

    With this in mind, TransCanada, a Calgary firm, has proposed building a $7 billion pipeline, Keystone XL, to send 510,000 b/d of Albertan oil to refineries in Texas (see map). It already has a line of similar capacity, Keystone. The company says that the new one would pump $20 billion into the American economy and hand $5 billion in taxes to states on the route. Keystone XL would not only take more Canadian oil to America; via terminals on the Gulf of Mexico it could connect the tar sands with international markets as well. There are also plans to ship oil to Asia from Canada’s Pacific coast.

  14. .

    A coalition of American environmental groups on Wednesday urged the Obama administration to block construction of new oilsands pipelines from Canada, arguing the “highly corrosive, acidic, and potentially unstable blend” of crude coming from Alberta dramatically raises the risk of a major spill.

    In a report titled “Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks,” opponents of Calgary-based TransCanada’s Keystone XL project say plans to build the 3,200-kilometre pipeline should be shelved at least until U.S. regulators address the unique challenges posed by transporting diluted bitumen at high temperatures.

    “Bitumen is not the same as conventional oil; it has characteristics that make it potentially more dangerous,” says the report, prepared by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation and Pipeline Safety Trust.

    “Nonetheless, the safety and spill response standards used by the United States to regulate pipeline transport of bitumen are designed for conventional crude oil . . . Until (new) safety and spill response standards are adopted, the United States should put a hold on the consideration of new tar sands pipelines.”

  15. .

    Key Cushing-Gulf pipeline hits delay

    CALGARY – A critical pipeline that will export Canadian crude all the way to the U.S. Gulf Coast will be delayed after the U.S. State Department failed to greenlight the extension as quickly as hoped, operator Trans- Canada Corp. said Tuesday.

    The 510,000 barrel-per-day Keystone XL line from the Cushing, Okla., oil hub to the coast — considered a crucial link for helping relieve the growing glut of crude oil that is trapped in the Midwest due to a lack of southbound pipelines — will now be in service sometime in 2013.

    TransCanada, the country’s No. 1 pipeline and power company, had previously targeted the first quarter. It also boosted the cost estimate for the Keystone pipeline system by $1-billion Tuesday, pushing the tab to $13-billion.

    The company said a necessary permit from the State Department — first filed in 2008–would now likely be approved in the second half of this year instead of its prior first-half estimate. It gave no reason for the delay.

    But the line has been bitterly opposed by green groups and by some U.S. state and federal legislators concerned about greenhouse emissions from expanded oil sands production and by the threat of oil spills in sensitive areas along the route.

    The Obama administration must now reconcile the views of the Environmental Protection Agency, which has raised concerns about greenhouse gases released during the production process, and its own aim to improve energy security by reducing its reliance on crude imported from the Persian Gulf.

  16. .

    A portion of the Trans Canada Highway in northern Ontario was closed for several hours early Sunday after a natural gas pipeline exploded in a massive fireball.

    No one was injured in the explosion, which occurred around 11 p.m. Saturday about 170 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay.

    The town of Beardmore, Ont., was partially evacuated for about an hour as Ontario Provincial Police and emergency crews fought to contain the fire and shut off the gas. Highway 11 was closed in the area until about 8 a.m. Residents have since returned to their homes.

    Staff-Sgt. Carl Pettigrew of the OPP’s Greenstone detachment said it was a “substantial blast,” which occurred about two kilometres from the nearest home.

  17. .

    An official with Enbridge Inc. now says the company expects virtually all of the oil flowing through its controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project to be delivered to Asia.

    Regulatory documents filed with the National Energy Board state that, on average, only one-third of the ocean tankers serving the $5.5-billion crude pipeline will travel to Asia. The remainder, the documents say, will sail to West Coast ports – which would mean a substantial volume of Gateway crude would be destined for U.S. refiners. A Globe and Mail report on the contents of those documents sparked an outcry from critics, who said it undermines the rationale for the new pipeline, which is designed to diversify Canada’s energy export options by providing an Asian outlet. But in an interview Tuesday morning, Vern Yu, Enbridge vice-president of business development, called the regulatory documents “overly cautious and conservative.”

    “The U.S. West Coast refinery market is an attractive market for Canadian crude exports. But based on our current consortium of partners and the commercial discussions we are having with them, we do not forecast any Northern Gateway crude at this time moving to the U.S. West Coast,” he said.

    “It’s the current expectation of our partners that the crude will be shipped via Northern Gateway to Asia.”

    Of 10 partners that have signed up to provide $100-million to fund Gateway’s development, none are U.S. refiners, he said. Enbridge plans to announce initial agreements with oil shippers for “virtually 100 per cent” of Gateway’s capacity in the first or second quarter of this year, although they won’t be named, he said.

    But Mr. Yu admitted the apparent discrepancy between Enbridge documents and its current statements will likely prompt questions as the company seeks regulatory approval for Northern Gateway. The project has been met with fierce opposition by British Columbia environmental and First Nations groups concerned about the risk of spills in waters important for salmon and traditional harvesting.

  18. .

    The Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline has cleared its last major regulatory hurdle.

    On Thursday, the National Energy Board issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity for the long-delayed line, after receiving approval by the federal cabinet. The NEB gave its own nod to the project in December, capping a protracted regulatory process that began in October of 2004.

    Now it’s up to the project’s backers to decide whether to build the 1,196-kilometre line, which would cost $16-billion and provide an outlet for Arctic gas reserves discovered decades ago.

    But the high cost of the project, along with the discovery of huge new volumes of natural gas in more southerly parts of the continent, have raised growing doubts over whether the pipeline will be built any time soon.

    Its backers are Imperial Oil Resources Ventures Ltd., the Mackenzie Valley Aboriginal Pipeline Limited Partnership, ConocoPhillips Canada (North) Ltd., Shell Canada Ltd. and Exxon Mobil Canada Properties.

    Some have argued that the federal government should financially support the Mackenzie project, treating it as a nation-building exercise that would open up the North to development, and a long-term bet on the future of Arctic resources.

    Pipeline company TransCanada Corp., which has backed the aboriginal pipeline group that owns a one-third stake in the line, has also argued that despite newly discovered supplies, Mackenzie will be needed to fill the sharp annual output declines that all natural gas wells experience.

  19. .

    The long-delayed Mackenzie natural gas pipeline has received the final green light from the National Energy Board, though the future of the $16.2-billion project is still far from certain.

    The NEB said Thursday it has issued a certificate allowing the project to move ahead after it received the blessing of the federal cabinet.

    In December, the NEB said the 1,200-kilometre pipeline ought to go ahead so long as 264 conditions are met.

    The announcement marks the end of a more than six-year-long formal regulatory process, though approvals from several other government agencies and local boards are still needed before construction may begin.

    ”It has been a long journey and a long process and we’re obviously pleased to see this,” said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesman for project leader Imperial Oil Ltd. (TSX:IMO).

    The next step will be for the project’s backers, which also include ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Shell and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, to resume negotiations with the federal government over a fiscal framework.

    Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland said he hoped the latest endorsement is a sign of even greater federal support to come.

  20. .

    Pipe dreams: The Mackenzie Valley and the national railway

    When Justice Thomas Berger took his historic Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry to the vast stretches of the Canadian North in the mid-1970s, the analogy often used was to the building of Canada’s first railway in the late 1800s.

    What if a Berger-type inquiry had examined the route of the railway and its impact on the people who inhabited the West back then — the Cree, the Blackfoot, the Métis? Berger conducted himself as if the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry were a latter-day examination of something as momentous as the building of Canada’s railway.

    “There is a direct parallel between what happened on the Prairies after 1869 and the situation in the Northwest Territories today,” he said in his 1977 report.

    “Then, as now, the native people were faced with a vast complex of whites on the frontier,” Berger said. “Then, as now, the basic provisions for native land rights had not been agreed. Then, as now, a large-scale development project was in its initial stages, and a major reordering of the constitutional state of the area was in the making.”

  21. .

    Encana’s backing bolsters case for natural gas export terminal

    After months of quiet negotiation, energy giant Encana Corp. (ECA-T33.650.571.72%) has agreed to buy a minority stake in a natural gas export project that is positioned to redraw Canada’s energy map.

    The company will buy a 30-per-cent interest in Kitimat LNG, a move observers said adds substantial credibility to a $4.7-billion project that would serve as the first major non-U.S. outlet for Canadian energy products.

    “To get Encana to sign on really does endorse it as a viable alternative,” said Chad Friess, an analyst with UBS Securities.

    Encana joins the Canadian subsidiaries of Apache Corp. and EOG Resources Inc., which will now own roughly 40 per cent and 30 per cent of the project respectively.

    But while both Apache and EOG have substantial Canadian land holdings in some of Canada’s most prolific natural gas plays, their production pales in comparison with Encana. The first phase of the terminal is expected to load 700 million cubic feet of gas a day on tankers bound for Asia. Having Encana’s volumes available helps firm the business case for the terminal, which could begin construction by next year and start shipping gas in 2015.

  22. .

    VANCOUVER _ First Nations and environmental groups targeted potential financial backers in their latest attempt to stop the Northern Gateway Pipeline project that would deliver oil from Alberta to tankers on the British Columbia coast.

    A few dozen protesters waved placards, banged drums and chanted outside a Bank of Montreal shareholders meeting at a Vancouver hotel on Tuesday.

    Maxim Winther, with the Rainforest Action Network, said they’re concerned about BMO’s environmental policies and its relationship with Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB), the company planning to build the pipeline through B.C.

    ”We’re looking to identify the sources of funding that Enbridge will be going to in the future when they seek funding for this project,” Winther said.

    They want banks to implement policies that recognize First Nations’ rights around development, Winther said.

    ”It is their land after all that this pipeline is going through,” he said. ”So if Enbridge had any respect for that, or if the Bank of Montreal had any respect they would drop this project right away.”

  23. .

    Natives resist pipeline
    Project has no future without our consent, chief says
    Dina O’Meara, Postmedia News

    Aboriginal groups in Western Canada have united against a proposed pipeline to B.C.’s northern coast, saying the $5.5-billion Northern Gateway project has no future without the approval of communities along the route.

    The Yinka Dene Alliance, representing aboriginal communities along a quarter of the Enbridge pipeline project in B.C., were in Calgary Wednesday to attend the company’s annual meeting and argue the threat of oil spills on traditional lands and in the ocean outweigh any benefit the project could have.

    “We were not there to negotiate,” said Chief Jackie Thomas, of the Saik’uz First Nation. “We were there to deliver a message that this project does not have our consent.”

    A spill on the pipeline, which would stretch from Bruderheim, Alta. to a marine terminal in Kitimat, could destroy the waterways, fish and fauna critical to Aboriginal likelihood and culture, Thomas said.

    Enbridge faces off against critics to Northern Gateway pipeline
    CALGARY _ Faced with fierce resistance to its proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline between Alberta and the B.C. coast, Enbridge Inc.’s top executive told shareholders a year ago that he’d try to turn the opposition’s No into a Yes.

    At the company’s emotionally charged annual meeting on Wednesday, several aboriginal groups along the pipeline’s route said their answer is still no.

    ”This is not a negotiation stance,” hereditary chief Peter Erickson with the Nak’azdli First Nation told the meeting, which lasted around two hours.

    ”We’re not here trying to hedge for a better deal. We’re here to give you our decision, and we’re asking you now that this project not proceed at all.”

    The $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline would stretch 1,172 kilometres from Bruderheim, Alta., to the port of Kitimat, B.C., where crude would be loaded onto tankers to be sold overseas. Much of the line would traverse unceded aboriginal land.

    Calgary-based Enbridge _ which operates the world’s longest system of oil pipelines _ says Northern Gateway is crucial to sell Canadian crude to markets besides the United States, and has framed it as an issue of national interest.

  24. .

    Keystone pipeline faces new hurdle U.S. environmental watchdog says proposed pipeline to Gulf Coast poses serious risks


    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is putting up new roadblocks to TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, arguing the $7-billion (U.S.) project poses serious environmental risks. The EPA’s intervention signals a looming battle within the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, who may ultimately be forced to choose between the project’s promised jobs and security of crude oil supply, and the environmental risks posed by greater production in Alberta’s oil sands.

    The State Department – which has announced a set of hearings this summer – remains committed to reaching a decision before the end of the year, though some analysts suggest the interdepartmental disagreement could delay a final decision until 2012.

    In a letter to the State Department, the EPA outlined a lengthy list of concerns about the pipeline project, and argued the State Department’s draft environmental impact statement is seriously flawed and needs more work.

    Among other things, the U.S. environmental regulator wants a detailed description of efforts by producers and the government of Alberta to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil sands which, as the industry booms, represent the fastest growing source of emissions in Canada.

    TransCanada’s Keystone XL project would connect the oil sands with the world’s largest refining hub, located along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The pipeline is crucial to oil sands producers’ expansion plans, because the Gulf Coast refineries are configured to handle the bitumen, said IHS CERA, a Cambridge, Mass., consultancy.

  25. .

    First nations speak for themselves on pipelines


    The proposed Enbridge pipeline and tankers are not sustainable. The added oil transport capacity would permit a 30-per-cent increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands. Every day, the pipelines would carry up to 525,000 barrels of oil and 193,000 barrels of toxic condensate through pristine wilderness in our territories.

    Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel has publicly stated there is no guarantee a spill will not occur. According to Enbridge’s own accounting, they average 60 spills of varying sizes every year. Over the past year, we have witnessed several devastating accidents including the BP oil spill, Enbridge’s massive spill in Michigan, and just last month, the largest pipeline oil spill in Alberta since 1975, on Lubicon Cree territory.


    Peter Foster doubts the authenticity of first nations opposition. While he’s mistaken, we respect his right to express his views. We invite him to develop a more serious understanding of our perspective by coming to our communities to learn who we are and why we oppose this pipeline. He would find that our people’s health depends on the health of our lands and waters and that we are deeply committed to protecting these resources for the benefit of everyone.

    Under International Law, we have the right to say no, and to have our decision respected. As Nadleh Whut’en Chief Larry Nooski says, “Our nations are the wall this pipeline will not break through.”

  26. .

    Canadian pipeline sparks fear in America’s heartland
    Many people in Nebraska are disturbed by a plan to run a major oilsands pipeline through some of the most sensitive lands in the United States, as Sheldon Alberts writes
    Sheldon Alberts, Postmedia News

    Of all the routes a Canadian company would choose to build a major oilsands pipeline, Tony Fulton can’t understand why Calgarybased TransCanada Corp. would propose to go through the heart of one of the most environmentally vulnerable places in America.

    “It’s pretty clear to me that they just laid a ruler on the map and drew the shortest distance, and that is a line through our Sand Hills and over the Ogallala Aquifer,” says Fulton, a Republican senator in the Nebraska state legislature. “That’s a problem.”

    The $7-billion Keystone XL would cut a swath through the heart of two of Nebraska’s most precious resources, cutting across the largest sand dunes complex in the western hemisphere and 400 kilometres of a vast groundwater source that supplies drinking water and irrigation to most of the state’s population.

  27. .

    For years prices of WTI and Brent were locked together, though the higher-quality American WTI oil generally traded at a premium of a dollar or two to reflect its slightly lower viscosity and sulphur content, which ease refining into petrol, heating oil and other products. Patterns of supply and demand in America, the world’s biggest consumer and importer of oil, rarely diverged much from the rest of the world, where Brent is the main indicator.

    That has changed. The contracts for WTI stipulate “for delivery” to windswept Cushing, Oklahoma (population 8,371), which is strategically situated to serve the refineries of the Gulf of Mexico, and thence the petrol-thirsty northern seaboard. This gave oil firms lots of incentive to build pipelines to Cushing: in recent months oil has poured into Cushing’s growing and labyrinthine storage facilities.

    There it has stayed. A new pipeline from Canada’s oil sands, which opened in February, and unexpectedly large flows of shale oil from North Dakota’s Bakken field have coincided with lacklustre oil demand in America. Planning difficulties mean that a proposed new pipeline from Cushing to the gulf refineries (from where the oil can be shipped abroad) will not open until 2013 at the earliest. Attempts to shift the oil by road and rail have made only a small dent in rising inventories.

  28. .

    Ask oil industry proponents about the need for a national energy strategy and they’ll invariably raise the ill-fated Mackenzie Valley Pipeline.

    If Western Canada is going to increase production of oil sands crude and unconventional natural gas as much as anticipated by the industry, it will need significant additional pipeline capacity to reach new markets in the United States and Asia.

    But oil and gas companies – and the Alberta government – dread the prospect of pipeline proposals getting bogged down in a regulatory quagmire that includes dealing with unsettled First Nations’ land claims in British Columbia.

    They point to the long-proposed Mackenzie Valley project, where the social and environmental assessment dragged on for years – hundreds of permits are still pending – while the commercial case for the pipeline evaporated with the shale gas revolution in North America.

    As federal and provincial governments attempt to forge a national approach to energy, one area of focus will be regulatory efficiency, with Alberta proposing that Ottawa have a single body responsible for the reviews and that it place strict time limits on deliberations.

    When they meet in Kananaskis, Alta., next week, federal, provincial and territorial energy ministers expect to reach agreement on basic principles that would guide a national strategy. Those include lofty notions about the need to produce energy in an environmentally and socially sustainable fashion, to use it efficiently, and to be leaders in the global shift to a low-carbon energy future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *