Right now, the oil and gas industry is holding its breath as the approval of two major tar sands pipelines hang in the balance. The $13 billion Keystone XL pipeline would significantly increase the Canadian export of of dirty tar sands bitumen to the U.S. by as much as 510,000 barrels a day. And, on this side of the border, the ferociously debated $5.5 billion, 1,170 kilometre Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would carry dirty tar sands bitumen to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto supertankers bound for growing energy markets in Asia.
As the decisions near, a series of major oil spills in the last year have highlighted the dangers these two pipelines pose, particularly given the major expansion of tar sands production they would enable.
This week, a pump-station equipment failure at a TransCanada pipeline caused 80,000 litres of oil to spill in North Dakota. The Keystone system has suffered 12 leaks since it opened last June, all of them related to equipment failures at pump stations. Despite the frequent spill record, the pipeline is due to resume operations on Saturday.
The pipeline currently carries up to 591,000 barrels a day of crude from northern Alberta to the oil-storage crossroads in Oklahoma and refineries in Illinois. TransCanada is seeking approval from the U.S. State Department to expand the Keystone system to 1.1 million barrels a day and to extend it from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries on the U.S. Gulf coast. A decision is expected this year.
In addition to the North Dakota leak, Enbridge announced yesterday that it discovered a small leak on its Norman Wells line in the Northwest Territories. The spill’s effects were likely mitigated because the line had already been shut down due to a major spill in Alberta on April 29th, when 28,000 barrels of oil spilled from the rupture of a Plains All American Pipeline. The spill is Alberta’s worst in 35 years, and was more than a third larger than the spill that rocked Michigan in 2010.
On April 30th, Plains Midstream Canada, the Canadian subsidiary of Plains All American, quietly issued a press release informing the public of the crude spill from the Rainbow Pipeline in northern Alberta near Little Buffalo, AB. The spill was thought to be small, and it took a full four days for Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) to issue an announcement that a major spill had occurred.
Read more at desmogblog.com