Four and a half years of studies and five failed votes in the House later, exactly where are we with the Keystone XL pipeline? Stuck on the US-Canadian border where it is likely to remain until mid-2013 despite the headline-grabbing issuance of one of three permits to begin construction in Texas for the smaller and much less controversial portion of the pipeline.
On 26 June, the US Army Corps of Engineers granted TransCanada Corp one of three permits required in order to begin construction on the $2.3 billion southern section of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. This first in the permit series covers construction across the wetlands and waterways of Texas’ Galveston district. TransCanada still needs to more permits from Tulsa, Oklahoma and Forth Worth, Texas, to complete this southern Gulf portion of the pipeline extension. Tulsa is set to rule on the second permit in a month and a half.
This southern section of the extended pipeline will carry 700,000 barrels a day of crude, to start with, to Texas refineries from Cushing. Construction will begin this summer. The southern line, permits pending, could be functional by mid-to-late next year. Indeed, Obama pledged to speed up the approval process to make this a reality.
But these permits are only for the southern extension of the Keystone pipeline, which seeks to extend the existing Keystone pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico. This is a much less controversial piece of the pipeline project, which by dint of not crossing the US-Canadian border and which is being pursued by TransCanada independently from the rest of the Keystone XL pipeline extension, does not require complicated approval.
The “greater” Keystone XL pipeline project would extend the existing Keystone pipeline, which runs from Hardisty in Alberta, Canada, then eastwards in Canada, dropping southwards into the US, through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and ending in Cushing, Oklahoma, with an eastern branch spiking off at Steele City, Nebraska and running to Patoka, Illinois.
The proposed extension would run from Hardisty across the border through Phillips Country, Montana, and meet up with the existing pipeline at Steele City. This would represent 1,179 miles of new pipeline that would carry Canadian tar sands crude eventually to the Gulf of Mexico, with an initial capacity of 830,000 barrels per day.