Home » Posts tagged 'transcanada'
Tag Archives: transcanada
AP | Posted: 02/19/2014 4:14 pm EST | Updated: 02/19/2014 11:59 pm EST
WASHINGTON – Not even the U.S. president can save the Keystone XL pipeline project now — at least not by himself.
The long-delayed plan suffered a major setback Wednesday when a Nebraska district judge ripped up a state law that could have forced landowners to allow the pipeline through their property.
The ruling opens up the prospect of more regulatory hurdles, complicated negotiations with landowners, legal fights and fresh delays, regardless of whether or not Barack Obama ever approves the controversial project.
Lancaster County Judge Stephanie Stacy declared unconstitutional a law that had given Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman the power to push the project through private land.
Unless the law is reinstated by a higher court, Calgary-based pipeline builder TransCanada Corp. could be forced to either draw up a new route or seek permission from every last landowner on the current one.
Additional lawsuits seem almost inevitable in the ongoing fight over a project designed to increase the pipeline capacity for Canadian oil into the U.S. by about one-quarter — a pitched battle that has already lasted for years.
Stacy insisted her ruling had nothing to do with the merits of the pipeline and everything to do with Nebraska’s constitution.
“TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline has become a political lightning rod for both supporters and opponents of the pipeline, but the issues before this court have nothing to do with the merits of that pipeline,” she wrote.
“The constitutional issues before this court will not require consideration of the current pipeline debate, nor will the decision in this case resolve that debate.”
State officials who defended the law will appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court. Nebraska lawmakers may have to pass a new pipeline-siting law to allow the third-party Public Service Commission to act.
If they do, it’s not yet clear how long the five-member commission might take on the issue or whether it would approve the pipeline.
TransCanada, meanwhile, said it was disappointed and disagreed with the decision, but would analyze it before deciding on its next steps.
As it stands, TransCanada has settled with landowners in five of six U.S. states through which the pipeline is supposed to pass, as well as with more than two-thirds of the affected landowners in Nebraska.
But a minority have kept fighting, despite skyrocketing offers of compensation.
Jeanne Crumly and her husband have seen offers for use of their land surge from $8,900 to $61,977.84. But they don’t want the pipeline on their family farm at any price.
Crumly, who lives in the tiny Nebraska town of Page, about 300 kilometres northwest of Omaha, said she had to read the ruling a couple of times to believe it. She made celebratory phone calls to her husband and children once it sank in.
“It felt great,” Crumly said. “There’s some justice and it’s not just money running the show.”
The company had been upping the ante for access to people’s property, presumably to settle all possible disputes in the event Obama approved the pipeline.
TransCanada, which has complained it’s been losing money as the pipeline equipment sits idle, had been hoping to start building during this year’s construction season.
That plan now seems like a distant long shot.
The southern leg of the pipeline is already operational. But oil must still be transported by rail from Alberta through the northern U.S. before it can be sent by pipeline to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.
The issue came up at a North American leaders’ summit in Mexico, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper pressed Obama to provide some clarity on his intentions.
Officials said Obama’s message remained unchanged: there’s a regulatory process underway, and he doesn’t control it.
There’s a 90-day period during which U.S. government departments can raise concerns about the pipeline, before the State Department makes a final recommendation to the president.
However, administration officials have made it clear that there is no set deadline for either State or the president to make the final call.
Obama did add during a news conference later that he and Harper spoke about the need to work together on dealing with greenhouse-gas emissions.
There is some speculation in Washington that Obama might want to delay the politically sensitive decision until after November’s midterm elections.
Proposed Energy East Pipeline Could Exceed Keystone XL in GHG Emissions, Finds Report | DeSmog Canada
Proposed Energy East Pipeline Could Exceed Keystone XL in GHG Emissions, Finds Report
A new report from Pembina Institute says that the proposed TransCanada Energy East pipeline could generate up to 32 million tonnes (Mt) of additional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the crude oil production required to fill it. Thirty-two million tonnes of carbon emissions is the equivalent of adding 7 million cars to Canada’s roads, exceeding the projected emissions of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.
The Keystone XL pipeline, in comparison, would generate 22 Mt of additional GHG emissions through oilsands production, according to a previous report by Pembina. The estimated emissions impact of Energy East is “higher than the total current provincial emissions of five provinces.”
The $12 million Energy East pipeline, proposed by TransCanada in August 2013, would have the capacity to transport 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of oilsands and conventional crude oil from Alberta to New Brunswick. According to the report, the volume of new oilsands production associated with Energy East would represent up to a 39 per cent increase from 2012 oilsands production levels.
Figure 1: Greenhouse gas emissions associated with Energy East compared to those of selected
provinces. Climate Implications of the Proposed Energy East Pipeline: A Preliminary Assessment. The Pembina Institute, 2014.
Oilsands production is currently Canada’s fastest growing source of GHG emissions, and is set to nearly triple between now and 2030, according to Environment Canada. Report authors Clare Demerse and Erin Flanagan told DeSmog Canada that this growth is “the single largest barrier to achieving [Canada’s] 2020 climate target.”
Given that Canada is set to miss its 2020 emissions reduction target by 122 Mt with current measures, Demerse and Flanagan see the Energy East proposal’s potential to add a new source of GHGs from the oilsands as “significant and troubling.”
The authors stress that the report, titled Climate Implications of the Proposed Energy East Pipeline, only assesses the pipeline’s upstream, “Well-to-Refinery Gate” emissions impact, rather than the downstream, “Well-to-Wheel” emissions of the crude oil being transported, which would include emissions released by its combustion in vehicle engines. The actual climate impact of Energy East would therefore be even greater than figures in the report.
“The oilsands are already Canada’s fastest-growing source of carbon pollution and the Energy East pipeline would help to accelerate production. Any regulatory review should include not only the impact of the pipeline itself, but also the impact of producing the crude that would flow through it,” said Demerse, Federal Policy Director at Pembina.
Figure 2: Change in GHG emissions by economic sector, 2005-2020. Climate Implications of the Proposed Energy East Pipeline: A Preliminary Assessment. The Pembina Institute, 2014.
Demerse and Flanagan hope that the report will urge the National Energy Board (NEB) to undertake a more thorough appraisal of Energy East’s environmental impact than its review of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal, saying that they wanted to submit their findings “before the National Energy Board decides on the format of its review.”
The authors note that “many Canadians asked for consideration of the impacts of oilsands production in the Northern Gateway hearings,” so if the NEB chooses a “more complete and balanced review of the Energy East proposal – one that looks at the environmental impacts of filling the pipeline as well as the pipeline infrastructure itself – I think the regulators would simply be catching up to where Canadians already are.”
TransCanada is set to submit its regulatory application for Energy East to the NEB later this year.
The report recommends that the NEB “include the pipeline’s full upstream impacts in the scope of its review, and that the federal government should end its delays and adopt strong emissions regulations for the oil and gas sector.”
The report mentions that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies have been found to lower oilsands production emissions, but adds that “Canada lacks the kind of stringent climate policies that would provide a strong incentive for those kinds of investments,” especially considering the high cost of such technology.
The authors believe that approving projects like Energy East and Keystone XL could “see less emphasis on, and less encouragement of, clean energy investment in Canada” when the country needs to be “starting the transition to a clean energy future.”
“The oilsands industry plans to triple production by 2030 and building new pipelines is necessary to realize those ambitions. We need to look at the full scope of impacts when evaluating pipelines,” said Flanagan.
In its 2013 World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Association (IEA) modelled a scenario where countries take the action required to keep global warming below 2 degrees C, and found that global demand for oil would likely peak in 2020 and fall thereafter. Demerse and Flanagan suggest that Canada needs to “keep that kind of long-term picture in mind when we’re considering a pipeline proposal that could last for 30, 40 or 50 years.”
Reaction was fast and furious to the State Department’s final report on the environmental impacts of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline on Friday, and you couldn’t be blamed if you wondered if environmental groups, the oil and industry and government were responding to completely different reports.
While many headlines trumpeted the report as good news for Keystone XL backers, we believe it swung the pendulum towards a rejection of the pipeline by President Obama.
Why? Because President Obama says that he is committed to climate action, and the report is clear that in a world where climate change is taken seriously, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would undoubtedly have a significant impact on climate change.
It is the President who will make the final decision to approve or reject the pipeline, and if he is serious about his commitment to climate action, this report gives him everything he needs to reject the pipeline.
The report looks at a series of scenarios and the climate impact of the pipeline in each one. In one of these scenarios, we are tackling climate change; demand for oil continues to drop in North America and the tar sands continue to face transportation constraints – not unlike the constraints they are facing today.
While the report still downplays the climate pollution, it is in this scenario that the pipeline would contribute most significantly to global carbon pollution, up to 5.7 million news cars or 7 coal-fired power plants worth of emissions per year. The other scenarios are ones in which the global demand for oil is aligned with carbon emissions that would lead to dangerous global warming. The other scenarios are ones where we are not meaningfully tackling climate change.
If the President is committed to a safe climate future – it is one that does not include the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
The tar sands exist because of a perfect storm of conditions: a high oil price, no meaningful regulatory costs, and a world with little action on climate change. This is a set of conditions that is crumbling despite increasingly desperate efforts to keep this expensive and carbon intensive operation profitable. Industry and government know very well that pipelines, and especially Keystone XL, are the key to being able to lock in more expansion and more production.
While some who support the pipeline argue that tar sands oil will still be brought to market regardless of whether the pipeline is approved – namely by rail – the cost, lack of policy, public concern and logistics are enough for experts and industry alike to know that rail cannot replace pipelines. In fact, industry projections depend on approval of every pipeline on the table plus some rail to be able to triple tar sands product as planned by 2030.
Notably, the State Department itself threw cold water on the chances of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline being built, stating that“…this project has been so derailed via political opposition, state determines ‘it remains uncertain at this time if the project would receive permits and be constructed and therefore… was eliminated from detailed analysis.”
Industry’s hopes for tar sands expansion are far from inevitable. Regardless of the Keystone outcome, it will never be easy to build another giant tar sands pipeline on this continent again.
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and the President has committed to doing everything he can to avoid the worst of it. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is the test of his sincerity. It is the single biggest thing he could do as President to make it clear to Canada and the world that the era of reckless fossil fuel development is over. That a country – like Canada – can’t get away with leaving its fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution completely unregulated. That now is the time to be investing in smarter, cleaner energy, not locking ourselves into decade’s worth of some of the world’ most carbon intensive fuels with a new giant pipeline.
Last week in his State of the Union speech the President said, “Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”
The reason we can be so optimistic about this report is that it gives the President the evidence he needs – if he is serious about the climate crises – to reject this pipeline, and leave a legacy of a clean energy future.
Big Oil Is Gaming the System to Raise Domestic U.S. Prices
Completion of the entire [Keystone] pipeline would raise prices at the pump in the Midwest and Rocky Mountains 10 to 20 cents a gallon, Verleger, the Colorado consultant, said in an e-mail message.The higher crude prices also would erase the discount enjoyed by cities including Chicago, Cheyenne and Denver, Verleger said.
CNN Money reports:
Gas prices might go up, not down: Right now, a lot of oil being produced in Canada and North Dakota has trouble reaching the refineries and terminals on the Gulf. Since that supply can’t be sold abroad, it reduces the competition for it to Midwest refineries that can pay lower prices to get it.
Giving the Canadian oil access to the Gulf means the glut in the Midwest goes away,making it more expensive for the region.
Tyson Slocum – Director of Public Citizens’ Energy Program – explains:
How does bringing in more oil supply result in higher gas prices, you ask? Let me walk you through the facts. A combination of record domestic oil production and anemic domestic demand has resulted in large stockpiles of crude oil in the U.S. In particular, supplies of crude in the critical area of Cushing, OK increased more than 150% from 2004 to early 2011 (compared to a 40% rise for the country as a whole). Segments of the oil industry want to import additional supplies of crude from Canada, bypass the surplus crude stockpiles in Oklahoma in an effort to refine this Canadian imported oil into gasoline in the Gulf Coast with the goal of increasing gasoline exports to Latin America and other foreign markets.
Cushing typically is a busy place – I noted in my recent Senate testimony how Wall Street speculators were snapping up oil storage capacity at Cushing. And all of that surplus capacity is pushing WTI prices down – and for many in the oil business, downward pressure on prices is a terrible thing. As MarketWatch reports, “[B]y running south across six U.S. states from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, [the Keystone pipeline] would skirt the pipeline hub at landlocked Cushing, Okla., a bottleneck that has forced Canadian producers to sell their oil at a steep discount to other crude grades facing fewer obstacles to the market.
There are several global crude oil benchmarks, and the price differential between Brent and WTI now is around $10/barrel, which is a fairly significant spread, historically speaking. Moving more Canadian crude to bypass the WTI-benchmarked Cushing stocks, the industry hopes, will align WTI’s current price discount to be higher, and more in line with Brent.
The Keystone pipeline isn’t just about expanding the unsustainable mining of … Canadian crude, but also to raise gasoline prices for American consumers whose gasoline is currently priced under WTI crude benchmark prices.
Slocum notes that oil is America’s number 1 import at time same that fuel is America’s number 1 export.
Specifically, more oil is being produced now under Obama than under Bush. But gas consumption is flat.
So producers are exporting refined products. By exporting, producers keep refined products off the U.S. market, creating artificial scarcity and keeping U.S. fuel prices high.
Slocum said that the main goal of the Keystone Pipeline is to import Canadian crude so the big American oil companies can export more refined fuel, driving up prices for U.S. consumers.
Tom Steyer points out:
Statements from pipeline developers reveal that the intent of the Keystone XL is not to help Americans, but to use America as an export line to markets in Asia and Europe. As Alberta’s energy minister Ken Hughes acknowledged, “[I]t is a strategic imperative, it is in Alberta’s interest, in Canada’s interest, that we get access to tidewater… to diversify away from the single continental market and be part of the global market.”
And see this NBC News report.
As Fortune explains, the U.S. is now an exporter of refined petroleum products, but Americans aren’t getting reduced prices because the oil companies are now pricing the fuel according to Europeanmetrics:
The U.S. is now selling more petroleum products than it is buying for the first time in more than six decades. Yet Americans are paying around $4 or more for a gallon of gas, even as demand slumps to historic lows. What gives?
Americans have been told for years that if only we drilled more oil, we would see a drop in gasoline prices.
But more drilling is happening now, and prices are still going up. That’s because Wall Street has changed the formula for pricing gasoline.
Until this time last year, gas prices hinged on the price of U.S. crude oil, set daily in a small town in Cushing, Oklahoma – the largest oil-storage hub in the country. Today, gasoline prices instead track the price of a type of oil found in the North Sea called Brent crude. And Brent crude, it so happens, trades at a premium to U.S. oil by around $20 a barrel.
So, even as we drill for more oil in the U.S., the price benchmark has dodged the markdown bullet by taking cues from the more expensive oil. As always, we must compete with the rest of the world for petroleum – including our own.
This is an unprecedented shift. Since the dawn of the modern-day oil markets in downtown Manhattan in the 1980s, U.S. gasoline prices have followed the domestic oil price ….
In the past year, U.S. oil prices have repeatedly traded in the double-digits below the Brent price. That is money Wall Street cannot afford to walk away from.
To put it more literally, if a Wall Street trader or a major oil company can get a higher price for oil from an overseas buyer, rather than an American one, the overseas buyer wins. Just because an oil company drills inside U.S. borders doesn’t mean it has to sell to a U.S. buyer. There is patriotism and then there is profit motive. This is why Americans should carefully consider the sacrifice of wildlife preservation areas before designating them for oil drilling. The harsh reality is that we may never see a drop of oil that comes from some of our most precious lands.
With the planned construction of more pipelines from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, oil will be able to leave the U.S. in greater volumes.
This isn’t old news … or just a hypothetical worry.
As Bloomberg reported in December 2013:
West Texas Intermediate crude gained the most since September after TransCanada Corp. (TRP) said it will begin operating the southern leg of its Keystone XL pipeline to the Gulf Coast in January.
[West Texas Intermediate oil] prices jumped to a one-month high, narrowing WTI’s discount to Brent. TransCanada plans to start deliveries Jan. 3 to Port Arthur, Texas, via the segment of the Keystone expansion project from Cushing, Oklahoma, according to a government filing yesterday. Cushing is the delivery point for WTI futures. Crude [oil pries] also rose as U.S. total inventories probably slid for the first time since September last week.
“With the pipeline up and running, you are going to see drops in Cushing inventories,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts. “It drives up WTI prices far more than Brent. You are going to see a narrowing of the Brent-WTI differential.”
State Department Releases Flawed Keystone XL Final Environmental Review In Super Bowl Friday Trash Dump | DeSmogBlog
The State Department has released theFinal Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed northern leg of the controversial and long-embattled TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
In a familiar “Friday trash dump” — a move many expected the Obama administration to shun — John Kerry’s State Department chose to “carefully stage-manage the report’s release” on Super Bowl Friday when most Americans are switching focus to football instead of political scandals. **See bottom of this post for breaking analysis**
Anticipating the report’s release, insiders who had been briefed on the review told Bloomberg News the SEIS — not a formal decision by the State Department on the permitting of the pipeline, but rather another step in the department’s information gathering — “will probably disappoint environmental groups and opponents of the Keystone pipeline.”
And, indeed, the new report reads: “Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.”
This reiterates one of the earlier draft’s most heavily criticized conclusions that the pipeline is “unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands,” and thus avoids a comprehensive assessment of those climate impacts.
In June 2013, President Obama said in a speech announcing his Climate Action Plan at Georgetown University that he would only approve the permit if it was proven that “this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
The final environmental review is being released on the heels of damning revelations about the close ties between the Canadian pipeline builder, TransCanada and Environmental Resources Management (ERM). ERM was hired by the State Department to conduct the environmental review.
Friends of the Earth president Erich Pica did not mince words in his reaction to the State Department’s new report, telling the National Journal, “The State Department’s environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline is a farce. Since the beginning of the assessment, the oil industry has had a direct pipeline into the agency.”
ERM Group: A History Tied to API
Over the past two years, DeSmogBlog has published a number of articles documenting controversial projects — in Peru, the Caspian Sea, Delaware and Alaska — that the ERM Group has approved. In each case the projects have been permitted and have eventually resulted in spills or severe environmental damage.
ERM Group is a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute, which has spent over $22 million lobbying on behalf of Keystone XL.
Timing of the Release
The Final SEIS also precedes a heavily anticipated State Department Inspector General’s report addressing these potential conflicts-of-interest between TransCanada, ERM and the State Department, as has been covered here onDeSmogBlog. It also occurs on a Friday afternoon before the Super Bowl, with attention of much of the American public diverted.
Environmental groups and opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline were surprised by the timing and suddenness of the report’s release. The surprise was not shared by supporters of the pipeline.
For days, industry reps have been claiming that the SEIS would be released this week. The loudest voice was that of Jack Gerard, chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute (API), who speaking to Reuters last week said, “It’s our expectation it will be released next week,” citing sources within the administration.
ERM Group is a dues-paying member of API. Of this clear conflict and the timing of the release, Steve Kretzmann of Oil Change International wrote:
Jack Gerard was apparently briefed by “sources within the Administration” on the timing and content of the report. Before the environmental community. Before Congress. Before anyone else.
If that doesn’t prove once and for all what a corrupt process this has been, I don’t know what will. The oil industry, which has had this process rigged since the word go, are the first to know, because of their cozy and corrupt role in this process.
Green Groups Respond
Jim Murphy of National Wildlife Federation asked this of the decision before the State Department:
The question going into the State Department’s final environmental impact statement is this: Who will State listen to? Will State reverse course after listening to the Environmental Protection Agency experts who criticized the first draft as ‘inadequate‘ and the second draft as ‘insufficient’ on climate impacts, oil spill risks, and threats to water resources? Will it listen to Goldman Sachs, who called Keystone XL key to expanding tar sands production and all the carbon pollution that goes along with it?
What about Canada’s own government or the oil industry, which has repeatedly said Keystone XL is needed to realize tar sands growth plans that Canada projects will cause its own carbon emissions tosoar 38% by 2030? Or will State stand by the oil industry consultants it hired to write that first draft currently being investigated forconflicts of interest?
During the State of the Union, President Obama said he wanted to be able to look into the eyes of his children’s children and say he did everything he could to confront the climate crisis. How exactly does he plan on explaining to his grandchildren how building a 800,000 barrel a day tar sands pipeline like Keystone XL helped solve climate change? The twisted logic in the State Department’s environmental assessment might provide some political cover in DC, but it will be small comfort for future generations who have the bear the impacts of the climate crisis.
Over 76,000 citizens have pledged an oath of civil disobedience if Keystone XL gets the final green-light from President Obama. Though that decision will probably not be made for months.
Green Groups Take Action
In anticipation of the report’s release, a diverse coalition of 16 environmental organizations sent a petition to Secretary of State John Kerry, insisting that the scope of the environmental review is far too narrow and that an entirely new review is necessary.
Citing the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, the groups threaten legal action if the environmental review doesn’t consider the cumulative impact of related projects, like the Keystone XL and the proposed Alberta Clipper expansion.
The groups write:
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that an EIS consider the cumulative impacts of the proposed federal agency action. Cumulative impacts are defined as: “the impact on the environment which results from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non-Federal) or person undertakes such other actions.”…
The Keystone XL DSEIS fails to address the cumulative effects of Keystone XL and Alberta Clipper, especially the growth-inducing effects that the combined 1.3 million bpd of additional pipeline capacity would have on the rate of tar sands extraction in Canada.
The groups signing the petition include: Sierra Club, Bold Nebraska, Center for Biological Diversity, For Love of Water, Friends of the Earth, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Labor Network for Sustainability, Michigan Environmental Council, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, Michigan Land Use Institute, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International, Rainforest Action Network and 350.org.
“The State Department will open a 30-day comment period on Feb. 5, and the agencies will have 90 days to weigh in,” The Washington Post explained. “After a decision is issued other agencies have 15 days to object, and if one does, the president must decide whether or not to issue the permit.”
DeSmogBlog will continue to feature in-depth analysis of the Keystone FEIS and responses from energy, climate and policy experts.
**UPDATES WILL BE ADDED BELOW AS ANALYSIS ROLLS IN**
BusinessWeek points to this section on the paltry job creation: Once constructed, Keystone XL “will support only 50 U.S. jobs–35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.”
Ben Jervey contributed reporting to this article.
Image credit: Kris Krug.
ST. PIERRE-JOLYS, Man. – Five homes remain evacuated as TransCanada Piplelines deals with a natural gas pipeline fire about 25 kilometres south of Winnipeg.
TransCanada says it has shut down the Emerson Lateral portion of the Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline system and is venting the gas. Roads leading to the site have also been closed.
It follows an explosion and fire at a valve site near St. Pierre-Jolys about 1:15 a.m. local time.
TransCanada says venting the system generates a loud noise that will gradually lessen over several hours. The company says there is no risk to anyone.
It says the fire is steadily decreasing in size and is being closely monitored by its staff and local emergency response crews. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the National Energy Board are also investigating.
There are no reported injuries.
The closed portion of the pipeline system provides Manitoba Hydro with natural gas for several communities in the region.
TransCanada says it’s working with the utility to determine if alternative sources of gas are needed.
A natural gas pipeline was still burning Saturday morning after it exploded overnight near Otterburne, about 25 kilometres south of Winnipeg.
St-Pierre-Jolys RCMP responded around 1:05 a.m. to what they’re calling a “loud explosion.”
Witnesses who live close to the scene said it was massive. Paul Rawluklives nearby and drove to the site.
“As we got closer, we could see these massive 200 to 300 metre high flames just shooting out of the ground and it literally sounded like a jet plane,” he said. “And that’s the thing that really got us, was the sound of it.”
He said it was hard to describe the scale.
“Massive, like absolutely massive,” he said. “The police were by [Highway] 59 and you could just see little cars out there and you could see in comparison how big the flame was. It was just literally two to 300 metres in the air. And bright, I mean lit up the sky.”
Tyler Holigroski, who lives in the Otterburne area, remembers seeing a flickering, bright light in the sky.
“Thought it was the neighbours’ house or something like that,” he said. “I thought there was a fire, but the way it lit the sky, it was like the sun coming up. The only thing is it was flashing. It would get brighter, get dim, get brighter, go dim.
“It lit up the whole sky here for half an hour. The sky’s still glowing, actually,” Holigroski said.
Police have confirmed the fire is coming from the pipeline, but say the burning gas is non-toxic.
The pipeline, which is owned by TransCanada PipeLines, has been temporarily shutdown according to a statement from a company spokesman. The statement also said that nearby roads have been closed, and that the company is not aware of any reports of injuries.
However, five houses within the vicinity of the fire were evacuated by RCMP and St-Pierre-Jolys Fire Department.
Police and fire officials, along with TransCanada Pipelines, are investigating the cause of the explosion.
The southern portion of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline officially opened on Wednesday, pumping oil from the distribution hub of Cushing, Okla., to refineries on the American Gulf Coast.
Calgary-based TransCanada announced the news on its website Wednesday. At about 10:45 a.m. central time, the Gulf Coast Project began delivering crude oil to the pipeline company’s refining customers.
“This is a very important milestone for TransCanada, our shippers and Gulf Coast refiners who have been waiting for a pipeline to supply oil directly from Cushing,” TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said.
The 783-kilometre stretch of pipeline in the American South cost $2.3 billion to develop and construct. The 36-inch pipeline that can transport as much as 830,000 barrels of oil per day.
The shorter leg will begin transporting on average about 300,000 barrels of oil daily and should end the year at an average of about 520,000 barrels, TransCanada’s Alex Pourbaix said.
TransCanada was trumpeting the opening of the pipeline as a watershed moment on Wednesday, but the company still faces numerous hurdles getting the rest of the Keystone XL pipeline approved.
The remaining portion of the pipeline is still seeking final approval from the U.S. government. When and if it’s completed, it will ship Canadian oil more than 1,800 kilometres from Hardisty, Alta., through six U.S. states to the Gulf of Mexico for refining and export.
Environmentalists have rallied against the project, urging U.S. President Barack Obama to stop its construction. But it’s backers say it will be an economic boom for both countries and reduce North America’s dependence on foreign oil from more hostile parts of the globe.
Jane Kleeb, of Bold Nebraska, a group that has opposed the Keystone pipeline, said the Gulf Coast segment presented a “huge risk” to people along the route noting problems flagged by the federal pipeline regulator during construction.
“Citizens are watching this pipeline like a hawk,” Kleeb vowed.
Oil prices rose
Oil prices were boosted by the opening of the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline.
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery rose $1.76, or 1.9 per cent, to close at $96.73 US a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil last closed above $96 a barrel on Dec. 31.
Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, gained $1.54, or 1.4 per cent, to US$108.27 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Meanwhile, natural gas futures shot up almost six per cent as temperatures in many parts of the U.S. Northeast dropped well below freezing and strong demand tapped the region’s supplies of natural gas.
TransCanada Begins Injecting Oil Into Keystone XL Southern Half; Exact Start Date A Mystery | DeSmogBlog
Keystone XL’s southern half is one step closer to opening for business. TransCanada announced that “on Saturday, December 7, 2013, the company began to inject oil into the Gulf Coast Project pipeline as it moves closer to the start of commercial service.”
The Sierra Club’s legal challenge to stop the pipeline was recently denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, so the southern half, battled over for years between the industry and environmentalists, will soon become a reality.
According to a statement provided to DeSmog by TransCanada, “Over the coming weeks, TransCanada will inject about three million of [sic] barrels of oil into the system, beginning in Cushing, Oklahoma and moving down to the company’s facilities in the Houston refining area.”
In mid-January, up to 700,000 barrels per day of Alberta’s tar sands diluted bitumen (dilbit) could begin flowing through the 485-mile southern half of TransCanada’s pipeline, known as the Gulf Coast Project. Running from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas, the southern half of the pipeline was approved by both a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit 12 and an Executive Order from President Barack Obama in March 2012.
Bloomberg, The Canadian Press and The Oklahoman each reported that the Gulf Coast Project pipeline is now being injected with oil. Line fill is the last key step before a pipeline can begin operations.
“There are many moving parts to this process — completion of construction, testing, regulatory approvals, line fill and then the transition to operations,” TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard told DeSmog. “Line fill has to take place first, then once final testing and certifications are completed, the line can then go into commercial service.”
Residents living along the length of the southern half will have no clue about the rest of the start-up process, as TransCanada says it won’t provide any more information until the line is already running. “For commercial and contractual reasons, the next update we will provide will be after the line has gone into commercial service,” the company announced.
When DeSmog asked whether the company is currently injecting conventional oil or diluted bitumen sourced from the Canadian tar sands, TransCanada’s Howard replied:
“Many people like to try and categorize the blend, etc., however we are injecting oil into the pipeline. As you’ve likely seen me quoted before, oil is oil and this pipeline is designed to handle both light and heavy blends of oil, in accordance with all U.S. regulatory standards.
I am not able to provide you the specific blend or breakdown as we are not permitted (by our customers) from disclosing that information to the media. There are very strict confidentiality clauses in the commercial contracts we enter into with our customers, and that precludes us from providing that. The reason is that if we are providing information about a specific blend, when it is in our system, etc. – that has the potential to identify who our customers may be or allow others to take financial positions in the market and profit from that information when others do not have access to the same information. This has much farther reaching impacts for the financial markets (and ultimately all of us).”
Riddled with Anomalies
The Keystone XL line fill comes just weeks after Public Citizen released an investigation revealing potentially dangerous anomalies such as dents, faulty welding and exterior damage that the group suggests could lead to pipeline ruptures, tears and spills.
“[Public Citizen] and its citizen sources uncovered over 125 anomalies in that half of the line alone,” DeSmogBlog reported on November 12. “These findings moved Public Citizen to conclude the southern half of the pipeline shouldn’t begin service until the anomalies are taken care of, and ponders if the issues can ever be resolved sufficiently.”
Public Citizen posted these photos on Flickr:
Pinholes in the applied coating can lead to exposing underlying pipe damage to leakage.
Multiple coating patches over new pipe about to be placed into the trench during initial construction.
Close up of section of Keystone XL southern half’s pipe marked “junk” by TransCanada.
Front of a cut out section of pipe on citizen David Whatley’s land marked “Dent Cut Out.”
A dent anomaly on the exterior cut out section of pipe. The dent was about the size of a brick.
Precedent of Spills
“The government should investigate, and shouldn’t let crude flow until that is done,” Tom Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office said in a press statement accompanying the report. “Given the stakes – the potential for a catastrophic spill of hazardous crude along a pipeline that traverses hundreds of streams and rivers and comes within a few miles of some towns and cities – it would be irresponsible to allow the pipeline to start operating.
“TransCanada’s history with pipeline problems speaks for itself and I fear we could be looking at another pipeline whose integrity may be in question.”
Despite this precedent of spills, Keystone XL’s southern half is about to become a reality, with the fate of the border-crossing northern half of Keystone XL still resting in the hands of President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Canada has a problem. Our greenhouse gas pollution is soaring. With climate impacts hitting harder and closer to home (ice storms, polar vortexes, floods…), our country is recklessly racking up a huge carbon bill that will saddle future generations with a debt impossible to pay off.
In a new report prepared for the United Nations, for the first time Environment Canada did the number crunching all the way to 2030. We’ve known for awhile that our 2020 target has become a mission impossible. But this report also paints a sorry picture of 2030, where Canada still doesn’t have its act together and climate pollution, specifically from the tar sands, continues to skyrocket (check out this detailed analysis by the Pembina Institute).
The report reaffirms that the growth in pollution from the tar sands – if the tar sands are allowed to continue expanding as projected – will wipe out any progress made to reduce emissions in any other sector, including Ontario’s coal phase-out, B.C.’s carbon tax, or other provinces’ energy efficiency and carbon reduction measures.
The result is while some pull up their bootstraps and clean up their acts, soaring pollution from the tar sands will cancel out everyone else’s hard work. And this means if Canada is to meet a national goal to cut emissions, some regions and sectors will need to do more than their fair share because one sector – oil – is getting off scott-free.
We hear a lot of talk these days about pipelines as “nation building projects” and being in the “national interest.” But if tar sands expansion is allowed, made possible by big new pipelines, this is a recipe for dividing our country, not uniting it.
Here’s why: At some point, Canada will need to get serious about reducing emissions, and how the carbon pie is divided between regions will become important. We can expect regions to speak up loudly if they’re asked to do more than their fare share to reduce carbon emissions because the oil industry is being irresponsible.
All provinces have a stake in major pipeline proposals like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and TransCanada’s Energy East. There’s the tangible danger that these pipelines could spill tar sands oil into forests, farmland and drinking water sources. And then there’s the less tangible – but critical – impact they would have on the amount of carbon the country is pumping into the atmosphere and the impacts of climate change.
Will Ontario, British Columbia or Quebec be keen to do more than their fair share to cut carbon to make up for the impact of these pipelines? Doubtful. And they should not be asked to. All sectors and regions will need to reduce emissions. For the oil sector, that means keeping production at current levels and cleaning up existing operations – not expanding. It also means seeing the government put in place robust regulations on the oil sector that will see emissions go down, rather than up. Even the weak regulationsunder discussion now have just been punted ‘a couple of years’ further down the road by the Prime Minister.
The idea that Canada may fail to rein in soaring emissions by 2030 may not seem like the brightest news to kick off the New Year, but there is an important caveat to this story. It can only come true if industry and government get their way when it comes to rapid and reckless tar sands expansion.
The good news is that new pipelines and oil projects aren’t getting a free ride these days. With ever-growing public concern about moving oil (by tanker, rail, or pipeline), a world feeling the early impacts (and paying the price) of a changing climate, and new conversations in the financial sector about the risks of investing in high-carbon fuels, the tar sands are facing a serious uphill battle.
The world is waking up to climate change and the environmental devastation of projects like the tar sands, and while our current government chooses to leave their head in the sand, Canadians are also standing up to demand the safe, smart, clean energy future we deserve.