American Pipelines and the Canadian Oil Sands
One of every ten barrels of oil the U.S. imports today is from the Canadian oil sands, a tremendous North American energy resource.
The oil sands resource in Canada’s Alberta province are providing Americans with 400,000 barrels per day of crude oil. This crude oil is refined by American workers into gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, home heating oil, propane, and other fuels which sustain our economy and our quality of life.
TransCanada intends to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would give the U.S. access to another 700,000 barrels of crude oil from the oil sands and the Bakken shale region of North Dakota and Canada. Because the project would cross the U.S.-Canada border, it would require a Presidential Permit. Two other pipelines received permits in 2008 and 2009.
The review by the federal government is nearly complete. The U.S. State Department, coordinator of a process involving about a dozen federal agencies including the federal pipeline safety regulator, intends to make a decision by the end of 2011. Recent government reports have concluded that Keystone XL would have a degree of safety over any other domestic pipeline in service today.
Opponents to production of the Canadian oil sands are trying to block Keystone XL. But if the project is defeated, the oil sands will continue to be developed. Crude supplies which may have been shipped here may be shipped to Asia.
Opponents have also wrongly suggested that crude from the Canadian oil sands is somehow more corrosive than other heavy crudes, which have been moved safely for decades. It is not. The oil sands may be produced differently, but the product readied for pipeline transportation will be behave like any other heavy crude oil. There is simply no evidence pipelines carrying diluted bitumen behave any differently than a pipeline carrying conventional crude oil, or that diluted bitumen is more corrosive than other crude oils. Pipeline operators don’t build multi-billion dollar assets to then destroy them with a corrosive product.
These allegations are old and have been part of the federal government review process, yet none of the operating conditions proposed for Keystone XL or any other pipelines suggest crude oil from the oil sands is more risky or more corrosive. Once it begins operation, if approved, Keystone XL will operate under the FERC and DOT rules that all operators follow. These address the properties of oil shipped through pipelines and the requirements for monitoring and mitigating any signs of corrosion.