The Current Status of the Keystone XL Pipeline
In 2008, TransCanada Corporation proposed a plan for the longest pipeline in North America, the Keystone XL Pipeline. The pipeline is estimated to be 1,661 miles or 2,663 kilometers. With a starting point in Alberta’s oil sands, the Keystone XL Pipeline would carry the tar-sands crude through the Great Plains to the Gulf of Mexico. Canada is currently considered the largest source of imported oil to the United States having produced 1.5 million barrels a day in 2010 and a projected production exceeding 2 million by 2015. The Keystone XL has the potential to increase the pipeline capacity by 700,000 barrels per day. An independent study provided by TransCanada found that the $13 billion pipeline project will produce a U.S. economic value of $20 billion.
The U.S Department of State has been working closely with a number of agencies to ensure that the development process addresses any concerns regarding environmental and safety issues. With assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and the Department of Energy, the State Department worked to address concerns from the public. Since the beginning of the project in 2008, public meetings and open houses have taken place in six states collecting pages of information and responses to questions.
There have been a number of concerns from numerous environmental organizations regarding the safety measures should an incident occur. This has stalled the project for the time being. TransCanada stated they plan to construct one of the safest, well planned pipelines in use today. A computerized control center that is manned 24 hours a day and 365 days a year will monitor every aspect of the steel pipeline. Should an incident occur, isolation and shut down of the affected section would be immediate due to controls and monitors placed throughout the pipeline, as well as remote access to secure the site. Due to a PHMSA requirement, TransCanada has created an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) that will be initiated to minimize effects to the surrounding area. The plan incorporates its own personnel as well as contract resources.
Where does it go from here? As of December 7, 2011 President Obama had yet to approve the Keystone XL plan. In November, the State Department announced that a final decision regarding the pipeline will not happen until an environmental analysis is done on a new route through Nebraska that will bypass its Sand Hills region. This will most likely push the final decision into 2013.