Monday, March 30, 2015

Canada Pushes Ahead with Alternatives to Keystone XL

Canada's Keystone XL Alternatives (Credit: Climate Central) Click to Enlarge.
A decision on whether to allow the Keystone XL Pipeline to be built in the U.S. could come at any time, but there are myriad other projects on the table designed to do exactly what Keystone XL was designed to do:  transport Canadian tar sands oil to refineries.

Those pipelines, both in the U.S. and Canada, are being designed to move the oily bitumen produced from the tar sands to refineries in Texas and eastern Canada, and to ports on the Pacific Coast where the oil could be shipped to Asia.

Combined, the pipelines would be able to carry more than 3 million barrels of oil per day, far in excess of the 800,000 barrels per day that TransCanada’s Keystone XL is designed to carry.

Canada is sitting on about 168 billion barrels of crude oil locked up in the Alberta tar sands northeast of Edmonton — a trove of carbon-heavy fossil fuels bested in size only by oil reserves in Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.  Today, the roughly 2 million barrels of tar sands oil produced each day in Alberta is sent to refineries in the U.S. and Canada via rail or small pipelines, none of which are adequate to carry the 3.8 million barrels of oil per day expected to be produced in the oil sands by 2022.

With Keystone XL’s future in question, Canada has a huge economic incentive to find alternative routes to markets.  The tar sands represent a windfall of revenue for Alberta, which could see $350 billion in royalties and $122 billion in total tax revenue if they are fully developed over the next 25 years, according to Alberta government statistics.

But Keystone XL has famously run up against the politics of climate change where the Obama administration must approve the pipeline crossing into the U.S.  The tar sands are one of the most carbon-heavy kinds of oil found on Earth, and processing and burning it will help accelerate an already rapidly changing climate, scientists say.  Of course, the U.S. already refines and burns tar sands oil, but Keystone XL has become a symbol for accelerated tar sands development to the detriment of the climate.
As a way around those challenges, other pipelines are in the works.  One pipeline is already operating and sending hundreds of thousands of barrels of tar sands bitumen to Texas every day.

Read more at Canada Pushes Ahead with Alternatives to Keystone XL

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