DOS issues final EIS for proposed Keystone XL pipeline

The US Department of State issued a final environmental impact statement of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline. The finding that the project would have limited environmental impacts drew cheers from oil and gas and other business groups, and boos from environmental organizations.

DOS still needs to determine whether the proposed project—which would consist of an 861.5-mile segment from Morgan, Mont., to Steele City, Neb., and a 483.8-mile segment from Cushing, Okla., to refineries in Houston, and Port Arthur, Tex.—is in the national interest.

This review will be a broader evaluation beyond environmental impacts which will consider economic, energy security, foreign policy, and other relevant issues, DOS said in an Aug. 26 statement. It said that it expects to consult with at least eight other federal agencies, and will hold public meetings in the six states the new pipeline would cross and in Washington as well as accept comments online.

“We are on track…to make a determination by the end of the year,” the statement added. “Above all else, the department is committed to maintaining the integrity of a transparent, impartial, and rigorous process.”

The final EIS noted in its executive summary that TransCanada, the project’s sponsor, applied to the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in 2009 for a permit to operate the pipeline at a slightly higher than normally allowed pressure, then withdrew the application in August 2010.

PHMSA had begun working with DOS to develop special conditions specific to the project, and the two groups ultimately established 57 of these conditions, however. Keystone has agreed to design, construct, operate, maintain, and monitor the proposed system in accordance with these more stringent conditions in addition to existing PHMSA regulatory requirements, the final EIS said.

Degree of safety

“In consultation with PHMSA, DOS determined that incorporation of the special conditions would result in a project that would have a degree of safety greater than any typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current regulations, and a degree of safety along the entire length…that would be similar to that required in high consequence areas as defined in the regulations,” it continued.

Nine of the special conditions establish standards and requirements for manufacturing pipe and materials, pipe inspections at the mill and in the field, performance tests, and quality control procedures. Another 14 address the two proposed pipeline segments’ design and construction, including testing of components, according to the final EIS.

It said that conditions 24 through 49 present requirements for a supervisor control and data acquisition (SCADA) system which would be used to remotely monitor and control the pipeline. This system also would satisfy requirements for internal corrosion inspection, cathodic protection, identification of the pipeline’s location with above-ground markers, internal pipeline inspections using smart pigs, visual monitoring of the pipeline corridor, and repair procedures.

The nine remaining conditions establish requirements for maintaining detailed records, establishing a right-of-way management plan, reporting to PHMSA, and providing the US Department of Transportation agency with certification from a senior Keystone executive that the operator has complied with the special conditions, the final EIS said.

It said that while a leak detection system would be in place, spills remain possible. Using PHMSA and National Response Center crude oil and hazardous liquids spill data, the final EIS said that DOS calculated that there could be 1.18-1.38 spills greater than 2,100 gal/year (50 bbl) for the entire project. “The estimated frequency of spills of any size ranged from 1.78 to 2.51 spills/year,” it added.

Potential aquifer impacts

DOS assessed the proposed project’s potential impacts on the Ogallala and other aquifers, and found that no sole-source aquifers or aquifers serving as principal area drinking waters sources would be crossed by the new pipeline segments, it said. “Diluted bitumen and synthetic crude oil, the two types of crude that would be transported by the proposed project, would initially float on water if spilled,” the final EIS said. “Over time, the lighter aromatic fractions of the crude would evaporate, and water-soluble components could enter the groundwater.”

It said that studies of oil spills from underground storage tanks indicate that potential surface and groundwater impacts typically are limited to several hundred feet or less from a spill site. It said that while conditions in a 1979 spill from a pipeline in Minnesota were not fully analogous, extensive studies of its impacts suggest that consequences from a similar-size spill in the Northern High Plains Aquifer’s Sand Hills Region would involve a limited area around the spill site.

“In no spill incident scenario would the entire High Plains Aquifer system be adversely affected,” the final EIS said. It suggested that Keystone commission an independent review of its risk assessment involving other aquifers along the route, including shallow or near-surface aquifers, and determine whether additional measures are needed.

It also found that refiners which are likely to receive crude from the proposed pipeline are already configured to process it, and probably would continue to handle heavy crude whether or not Keystone XL is built. Construction of the system is not expected to affect oil sands production in Canada, it added.

The American Petroleum Institute welcomed the final EIS’s release and urged DOS to complete its national interest determination and issue permits for the pipeline without delay. “The nation’s quintessential shovel-ready project is a step closer to reality,” API Refining Manager Cindy Schild said on Aug. 26. “That’s good news for tens of thousands of Americans who stand to find new jobs when this pipeline project is finally approved.”

‘A huge win’

“This is a huge win for American consumers,” said Michael Whatley, executive vice-president of the Consumer Energy Alliance. “The pipeline will not only help lower fuel prices but it will create 20,000 much needed high-wage jobs in America’s heartland, generate more than $20 billion in economic growth, and significantly reduce our dependence on oil from unstable regimes.”

National Petrochemical & Refiners Association Pres. Charles T. Drevna also noted that DOS released the final EIS after a long and thoughtful review. He urged it to take the next step “and allow this critically important pipeline to be built, providing needed jobs, tax revenue, and reliable energy for the American people.”

“The question before us is not whether Canada will develop its oil sands resources. We know that they will,” said Matt Koch, vice-president of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy. “The question is whether the US imports more oil from Canada, a reliable ally, or from other nations overseas who may not share our values.” He called on industries and businesses to be actively engaged as DOS prepares its national interest assessment.

Environmental organizations were dismayed. “The US State Department’s final report on the Keystone XL today is an insult to anyone who expects government to work for the interests of the American people,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said. “Americans don't want a 2,000 mile-long toxic crude oil pipeline running through our heartland for the benefit of a foreign oil corporation and they don’t want another oil spill.”

Celebrities had joined civil disobedience protests outside the White House for several days preceding the EIS’s release, and were expected to press US President Barack Obama to reject any favorable recommendation for the project.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

Oil-price collapse may aggravate producing nations’ other problems

02/05/2015 The recent global crude-oil price plunge could be aggravating underlying problems in Mexico, Colombia, and other Western Hemisphere producing natio...

Alberta’s premier seeks more North American energy integration

02/05/2015 Better policy integration and cooperation will be needed for Canada, Mexico, and the US to fully realize the North American energy renaissance’s po...

EPA suggests DOS reconsider Keystone XL climate impact conclusions

02/03/2015 The US Department of State might want to reconsider its conclusions regarding potential climate impacts from the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pip...

Syncrude sees additional $260-400 million in possible budget cuts

02/02/2015 The estimate for capital expenditures has also been reduced to $451 million net to COS, which includes $104 million of remaining expenditures on ma...

Novel upgrading technology cuts diluent use, capital costs

02/02/2015 A novel bitumen upgrading process that decreases the amount of diluent required for pipeline transportation and reduces overall operating costs has...

BHI: Texas anchors 90-unit plunge in US rig count

01/30/2015 The US drilling rig count plunged 90 units—a majority of which were in Texas—to settle at 1,543 rigs working during the week ended Jan. 30, Baker H...

Oxy cuts capital budget by a third

01/30/2015 In the midst of falling oil prices, Occidental Petroleum Corp., Houston, expects to reduce its total capital spending for 2015 to $5.8 billion from...

Cenovus trims additional $700 million from capital budget

01/28/2015 Cenovus Energy Inc., Calgary, will defer $700 million in additional capital expenditures originally planned for 2015 until crude oil prices recover...

Pengrowth cuts capital spending due to declining oil prices

01/23/2015 The recent “rapid” decline in world oil prices is the main reason given by Pengrowth Energy Corp., Calgary, for setting its 2015 capital budget at ...
White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

When Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected