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NAS schedules session for bitumen transportation by pipeline study

The National Academies of Science will host its first data-gathering session for its Pipeline Transportation of Bitumen project July 23-24 at NAS’s headquarters. The project will address whether diluted bitumen, which TransCanada Corp. wants to transport in its proposed Keystone XL pipeline, has a greater potential to be accidentally released than other crude oils commonly shipped by pipeline, NAS said.

TransCanada has proposed building the 1,179-mile pipeline from Hardesty, Alta., to Steele City, Neb., and is reapplying for a cross-border permit after US President Barack Obama rejected its first application in early 2012 after officials in Nebraska expressed concern over its route a few months earlier.

It expects the new application to be approved sometime during first-quarter 2013, TransCanada said in information posted on its web site. Construction would begin soon after, with an anticipated startup in 2015, it indicated.

US and Canadian oil industry groups endorse the project since it would help move bitumen recovered from Alberta’s oil sands to US Gulf Coast refineries while providing some capacity to transport crude oil produced from the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana to markets.

Environmental organizations oppose it because they believe bitumen production and processing would have significant climate-change impacts, and the potential for damage is too great if the pipeline ruptures.

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