Archive for the ‘pipelines 2015’ Category

Toronto, ON – News today that TransCanada will abandon the Cacouna terminal is a major victory for environmental protection in Canada. After months of downplaying clear evidence that the terminal would harm vulnerable wildlife, including endangered Beluga whales, TransCanada finally surrendered to overwhelming public opposition to its original plans for the Energy East mega-pipeline.

With this move, TransCanada is admitting it was an irresponsible plan to build a giant oil tanker terminal in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. The precious St. Lawrence marine ecosystem, home to 15 species of marine mammals and the bedrock of the local tourism economy, is far more valuable to Canadians than any oil tanker terminal could be.

We have to question what ever made TransCanada think it was a good idea to push forward with a massive oil tanker terminal in Beluga whale habitat. This debacle is indicative of the poor regard this company has for the environment.

Unfortunately, the Cacouna terminal is just one small piece of the much larger Energy East proposal. Today’s news will not blunt the growing opposition to Energy East by Canadians concerned about the pipeline’s risks to our drinking water and our climate.

By scrapping Cacouna, TransCanada would double the significant risks from oil spills into the Bay of Fundy, one of Canada’s great natural wonders. The Energy East proposal would now send all of its 1.1 million barrels of oil per day flowing into Saint John, 90 per cent of which is projected to be exported via tankers. This should be deeply concerning to all Canadians.

The risks of an oil spill are not confined just to these export terminals. A rupture anywhere along the 4,600 kilometres of proposed pipeline would be a disaster. TransCanada should abandon the rest of its risky Energy East proposal.

For a La Presse article on the news, click here.

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all…

Thanks to MjS

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Someone at TransCanada must be getting nervous.

As approval of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline appears to be resting on extremely thin ice, TransCanada on Wednesday announced they would be entering the oil-by-rail business to help further their tar sands investments.

What about the pipeline? Well, in a transparent attempt to freshen up the company’s tired talking points, TransCanada’s CEO is using this announcement to continue to push flawed arguments on why America should forsake our national interest and allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built. Give us the pipeline, TransCanada argues, or we’ll start using trains — but we’re taking the tar sands out of the ground no matter what.

I beg to differ.

The reality is TransCanada needs to build this pipeline — and a bunch of other pipelines to boot — because only then will they be economically able to fully develop the tar sands. For TransCanada, the problem is simple: their product can’t compete with the world oil market unless America gives them a way to move their product through our country.

Now, TransCanada doesn’t exactly have the best record when it comes to telling the truth about Keystone XL, and this isn’t the first time they’ve stretched the facts to support their bottom line.

For example, TransCanada’s advertisements claim that any tar sands petroleum transported by the pipeline would stay in the United States, but TransCanada Executive Vice President Alex Pourbaix refused to actually commit to this when under oath.

TransCanada trumpeted the now commonly debunked promise that Keystone XL would create thousands of jobs for Americans. However, TransCanada’s own consultant admitted this $8 billion dollar pipeline would only provide 35 permanent jobs. That’s right — 35 jobs in exchange for bearing all of the risk that a pipeline snaking across our communities would create.

Now they are threatening to ship tar sands by rail over Canada and across the United States if Keystone XL isn’t approved. But we’ve been hearing about this for years, and if it was really that simple — both practically and economically — why isn’t it happening already?

The quick answer is economics. It doesn’t make financial sense for TransCanada to transport oil to the Gulf of Mexico by rail. The longer answer is a bit more nuanced: it’s not only too expensive, but additional capacity would have to be created. Existing railway terminals need to be expanded, expensive expansion of double tracks would likely be required, new terminals need permits, and right of way negotiations and financing arrangements all take time (and would likely create as much political opposition as Keystone XL itself).

The grim facts are starting to catch up to TransCanada, and there isn’t much they are going to be able to do.

While the new Republican-controlled Congress is fast-tracking legislation that forces approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama has — correctly, I might add — promised to veto any attempt to force approval of the project.

It has been made abundantly clear by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that building the Keystone XL pipeline would significantly worsen carbon pollution — failing the President’s climate test.

Now is not the time for tired talking points and further misinformation. TransCanada can continue to make its empty promises and false arguments, but the facts remain the same: Keystone XL is a bad deal for America.

Instead of catering to their fossil fuel donors, our elected leaders in Congress should be focusing on the job-creating, clean energy policies that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, strengthen our economy, and address climate change once and for all.

The next generation is counting on us to make the right decisions. Keystone XL is not one of them.

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‘WARNING’ pop-ups

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Pipeline between Ontario and Montreal had been delayed over environmental concerns

Enbridge to ask NEB permission to open Line 9 pipeline

A map showing the route for the Line 9 proposal that will reverse and increase the flow of oil in the existing pipeline

Enbridge expects its newly reversed Line 9 pipeline between southwestern Ontario and Montreal will come into service by the end of June now that it has addressed some of the National Energy Board’s environmental concerns.

The Calgary-based company plans to ask the NEB for permission to open the pipeline within the next day or two, spokesman Graham White said Friday.

The pipeline was to have started up in November, but was delayed when the federal energy regulator flagged concerns about the protection of water crossings along the route.

The NEB approved the project in March 2014, but the green light was subject to several conditions.

The board said Enbridge had submitted “insufficient” information on how it decided where to place valves shutting off the flow of oil in relation to water crossings. In an October letter to the company, the NEB said it appeared only six of the 104 water crossings identified by Enbridge had valves installed within a kilometre of both sides.

On Friday, the NEB said Enbridge had demonstrated that its approach was appropriate, with a total of 62 valves along the pipeline’s route. Of those, 17 were added as a result of the hearing process.

However, the NEB has imposed more obligations on Enbridge to make sure the pipeline will operate safely throughout its lifespan.

Over the next year, Enbridge must submit more information to the board, including an analysis on whether more valves are needed. A member of the board has also been assigned to review all future filings for the project.

“The board takes protection of people and the environment seriously and it expects the same of the companies it regulates,” the NEB said in a release.

‘NEB caved,’ says critic

Adam Scott, with Environmental Defence, said Friday’s announcement was “really disappointing.”

“It basically looks like the NEB caved,” he said.

He said he was encouraged by the October missive from the NEB to Enbridge taking the pipeline company to task.

Enbridge basically wrote back and said ‘We know what we’re doing. Trust us.’ And the board accepted that instead of actually enforcing their own regulation, which says that they have to have valves installed on all major water crossings within one kilometre,” Scott said.

The additional obligations imposed upon the company are “meaningless” if Enbridge is allowed to start up the pipeline, he said.

“I would want to see all those engineering studies before they’re allowed to actually turn the pipeline on. Either the NEB is concerned about these things or it isn’t, but you don’t ask them to do it after the fact.”

Line 9 opponents have argued Enbridge’s plan puts communities at risk, threatens water supplies and could endanger vulnerable species in ecologically sensitive areas.

Built in 1976, Line 9 originally shipped oil from Sarnia, Ont., to Montreal, but was reversed in the late ’90s to pump imported crude westward. Enbridge wants to switch the direction back to feed Alberta crude to eastern refineries.

The company plans to move 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day through the line, up from the current 240,000 barrels, with no increase in pressure.

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An unpublished federal report on environmental threats from oil and bitumen pipelines says little is known about the potential toxic effects of oilsands products in oceans, lakes or rivers.

“In particular, research on the toxicology of bitumen is lacking,” says the draft report, commissioned in response to concerns raised at the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings.

The document comes as Canada debates pipeline proposals for moving large amounts of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to refineries and ports on both coasts and into the United States. It was obtained by Greenpeace under freedom-of-information legislation.

Although it has been through several versions, the 2013 report has never been released.

“A more complete, peer-reviewed report was produced by (Fisheries and Oceans), and will be published in the coming months,” wrote department spokesman David Walters in an email.

All drafts of the report warn that the behaviour and effects of bitumen remain largely unknown.

“Research on the biological effects of oilsands-related products on aquatic organisms is lacking,” it says.

An early draft lays out 10 specific “knowledge gaps” about bitumen and the various substances used to dilute it when it’s pumped through pipelines.

“Very little information is available on the physical and chemical characteristics of oilsands-related products following a spill into water,” it says.

“A better understanding of the fate and behaviour of these products is critical for assessing the potential risk to aquatic organisms.”

More research is needed on what would happens to heavy metals in bitumen in the case of a spill. There is a “lack of information” on how condensate — a lighter hydrocarbon used to dilute bitumen for pumping — would behave in water.

The understanding of how chemicals in bitumen would interact with fish should be improved, the report says. Specific research on possible oil impacts on the Pacific, Arctic and Great Lakes is needed.

The impact of sunlight, which can make some chemicals in bitumen vastly more harmful, is also unknown, says the report. The combined effect of bitumen and dispersants — chemical agents used to break up oil spilled in water — hasn’t been studied.

As well, little is known about the potential impacts of a spill in the Arctic.

The early draft of the report examines research on Orimulsion, a Venezuelan product about two-thirds bitumen and one-third water.

Studies say Orimulsion tends to sink in fresh water, but remain suspended throughout the water column in salt water. It is also “highly toxic to fish” — 300 times more toxic to embryos than heavy fuel oil.

The 61-page draft includes 14 pages of references to peer-reviewed academic studies as well as government and industry publications. They date from 1976 to 2013 and include articles from a wide variety of scientific journals.

Walters said new research is already underway.

“The information collected during this exercise has already resulted in (the department) providing Canadian universities with funding for five projects related to the effects on fish and shellfish,” he said.

The government also recently released research that found bitumen tends to float on sea water, but responds poorly to dispersants and shows “significant” differences from conventional crude.

Prominent ecologist David Schindler, whose work is cited in the review, said the real state of knowledge about the potential effects of a bitumen spill is even sketchier than the review suggests.

The report adopts a piecemeal, substance-by-substance approach instead of considering the combined effect of all chemicals, he said. It also doesn’t ask what happens if a spill gets under river ice, which has already happened on Alberta’s Athabasca River.

“The recommended list of new activities will not solve these shortcomings,” Schindler said in an email. “They are simply recommending more of the same deficient tests, fine for initial screening, not for protecting ecosystems.”

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Operations At The TransCanada Hardisty Terminal 1 Facility

The TransCanada Corp. Hardisty Terminal 1 in Hardisty, Alberta, Canada.

Whether Keystone XL ever gets built, therecord amount of Canadian oil flowing into the U.S. shows that some of the pipeline project’s original goals are already being met.

The Canadian government and pipeline builder TransCanada Corp. (TRP) have long argued the cross-border pipeline would bolster U.S. energy security by displacing crude from less reliable nations such as Venezuela. That’s happening now.

While Keystone XL remains at the center of a bitter political conflict in the U.S., Canadian producers are sending more crude fromAlberta’s oil sands across the border by train and other, expanded pipeline networks. Canada now supplies 43 percent of U.S. oil imports, up from 15 percent a decade ago, largely at the expense ofMexico and Venezuela.

“The market finds a way,” said Judith Dwarkin, chief energy economist at ITG Investment Research in Calgary. Output from oil-sands projects will continue to rise and “it’s going to find other ways to move, be that by rail, dog sled, whatever.”

U.S. Republicans this week are trying to force Keystone XL’s approval, with Republican North Dakota Senator John Hoevenintroducing bipartisan legislation to authorize the project. That would circumvent President Barack Obama, who has criticized the project, in part because he argues it may help Canadian producers deliver crude to buyers outside North America. Calgary-based TransCanada has said the $8 billion pipeline will supply refineries in Louisiana and Texas. The White House pledged that Obama would veto the bill.

U.S. Senate

The Senate energy committee advanced the legislation today, setting up a confrontation with Obama. Supporters are still short of the 67 Senate votes required to override the promised veto. The Republican-led House is scheduled to vote on a similar bill tomorrow, before a final Senate vote expected later this month after a series of amendments are considered.

With Keystone XL stuck in a U.S. review since 2008, pipeline reversals and expansions have given Canadian supplies an advantage over heavy crude from other countries that have traditionally fed refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. For instance, a second pipe built alongside the Seaway conduit from Cushing,Oklahoma, to Houston will almost double the amount of heavy Canadian crude entering the region starting this month, according to ARC Financial Corp. in Calgary.

Rail Exports

Exports by rail have more than tripled to a record 182,000 barrels a day in the third quarter, from about 57,000 barrels a day two years earlier, according to Canada’s National Energy Board.

Canada is the top crude supplier to the U.S. and the only large exporter that’s posted significant gains in deliveries in the past decade. U.S. imports of Canadian crude have risen 80 percent to about 3 million barrels a day in October from a decade earlier, the latest U.S. Energy Department data shows. The September average of 3.1 million barrels a day was a record high.

Over the same period, supplies from Venezuela fell by about 53 percent. Volumes from Mexico slipped 57 percent, though that may eventually climb as the country is opening its energy industry to foreign investment.

TransCanada and its customers envisioned Keystone XL as a way to connect booming production in the oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries that were already confronting declining imports from Mexico and Venezuela. The project was proposed in 2008 and originally expected to begin carrying crude in 2012.

Obama first rejected the pipeline in 2012 over opposition to its path in Nebraska. TransCanada then split up the project and built the southern portion, refiling for approval of the northern leg with an alternate route. That portion still requires U.S. consent because it crosses the border.

Rail Shipments

The now 1,179-mile (1,897-kilometer) Keystone XL line, starting in Hardisty, Alberta, would transport 830,000 barrels a day from Canada and Bakken shale fields in North Dakota and Montana to an existing network in Steele City, Nebraska, that’s connected to pipelines feeding the Gulf Coast.

With Keystone XL evolving into a political proxy for debates overenergy policy, climate change and jobs, producers increasingly turned to rail.

Even with the rail and pipeline workarounds, oil-sands developers need Keystone XL, ITG’s Dwarkin said. A battle between Saudi Arabia and North American producers for market share that has led to a plunge in crude prices won’t affect oil-sands output growth over the next couple of years, she said.

Increasing Production

Due to investments already committed, oil-sands production is poised to rise 36 percent to at least 2.6 million barrels a day by 2017, Peters & Co., a Calgary-based investment bank, said in a November forecast. Projects now under construction will require 1 million barrels a day of new pipeline space, said Chris Cox, an analyst at Raymond James Ltd. in Calgary.

“What you should expect this year is that all incremental heavy oil barrels are effectively going to be transported by rail,” Cox said.

TransCanada says its customers remain supportive of Keystone XL and that the pipeline’s crude will be refined in the U.S., like every barrel already transported on the company’s existing cross-border oil line from Alberta.

The message hasn’t changed.

“In fact, every barrel of Canadian and American oil transported by Keystone XL that replaces imports from the Middle East and Venezuela improves U.S. and North American energy independence,”Russ Girling, TransCanada’s chief executive officer, said in an e-mailed statement this week about the legislation introduced in Congress.

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