Approvals For TransCanada Tar Sand Pipeline Gets Sticky; Plus PMHSA Low-Stress Tug-Of-War And FERC Posting Edict

October 2010 Vol. 65 No. 10

Jones says he expects a final EIS from the State Department by the end of this year, and construction approval soon after. The State Department must approve construction because the pipeline crosses the Canadian-U.S. border. He points out that the Bush administration approved the Alberta Clipper and the Obama administration approved the Keystone pipeline, the only two tar sands pipelines in the U.S. He adds that approval of Keystone XL would help assure U.S. energy security because the alternative to bringing tar sands from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries is bringing foreign oil from places such as Saudi Arabia. On the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, Jones states that when emissions from transporting Saudi oil are figured in, GHG emissions on tar sands are only 5-15 percent per barrel more. He notes that Keystone XL will also carry conventional oil from the Bakken basin in Montana and North Dakota, where there are currently pipeline bottlenecks.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated mean undiscovered volumes of 3.65 billion barrels of oil, 1.85 trillion cubic feet of associated/dissolved natural gas, and 148 million barrels of natural gas liquids in the Bakken Shale Formation of the Williston Basin Province located in Montana and North Dakota. In late August, Enbridge Inc. said it will spend about $550 million to expand its pipelines serving oil producers in the Bakken and Three Forks formations in North Dakota, Saskatchewan, Montana and Manitoba.

PHMSA Low-Stress Pipeline Proposal
Regulation of liquids pipelines is also a current issue with regard to offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. That is one of the issues at the heart of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) proposed regulation of low-stress, liquids pipelines not covered in its 2008 final rule. That applied only to rural higher-risk, larger-diameter onshore pipelines that are located in or within one-half mile of an unusually sensitive area (USA) and operate at stress levels greater than 20 percent of specified minimum yield strength.