Slick as oil.
A well-payed PR Man can make even a tar sands crude pipeline sound good.
As printed in the Cherokeean Herald, from Jacksonville, Texas, February 1, 2012
TransCanada will reapply for permit
Spokesman says, ‘All options are on the table’
BY TERRIE GONZALEZ
A spokesman for TransCanada pipeline said the denial of a Presidential Permit for construction of the proposed Keystone XL does not signal an end to the project. “The intention is to reapply,” said Jim Prescott, a media consultant who has helped pave the pipeline’s path for the past five and one-half years. “All options are on the table for consideration.”
One proposal is to build Keystone 3 separately with a coupling, thus avoiding the need for the Presidential Permit. “We need the Presidential Permit for approximately 50 feet of pipe at the border,” said Mr. Prescott. “We’re looking at optionsto see what’s possible. We’re ready to go. The pipe is here for phase three, and the contractors are teed up.”
The permit, he said, was not denied because of the merits of the project. He said it was denied because the President requested a review of the pipeline route over the sensitive Sand Hills and Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska and had promised a decision by early 2013. Republicans added a payroll tax cuts bill rider in December 2011, requiring the President to make a decision within 60 days. Mr. Prescott said TransCanada is evaluating their options from regulatory, construction and commercial standpoints.
“No one ships more oil to the U.S. than Canada,” said Mr. Prescott. “Canada is the largest by a margin of more than two to one. The next four producers, which fluctuate positions, are Venezuela, Nigeria, Mexico and Russia.” He did not mention Saudi Arabia, which the U.S. Energy Information Administration lists as the second largest supplier of oil to the U.S. Mr. Prescott defended the company’s rationale for trading with Canada. “The alternative, if the pipeline is not built, is to increase dependence on Venezuela and Mexico. It’s an uncertain future. We can expand our business with a reliable trading partner who wants to do business with us.”
He said allegations by environmentalists that the oil is earmarked for foreign markets, that China owns part of the pipeline or that the pipe is made in China or India is incorrect. He said that 65 percent of the steel is manufactured in the United States or Canadian mills. The flat sheets of metal are shipped to Little Rock, Ark., where it is rolled and fabricated into pipe. The material is coated with a fusion-bond epoxy in Louisville, Ken. The pipe varies in thickness from 1/2-2/3-inch; sometimes it is doublewalled in environmentally sensitive areas, he said.
Mr. Prescott explained that pump stations are located every 50 miles. The tar sands oil is pressurized to 1,440 psi when it leaves the pump station, and drops to about 50 psi after traveling 50 miles. TransCanada’s master plan calls for a pump station in Cherokee County near Wells. He said that four-six pumps would use electricity to add pressure to the pipe, which would translate into extra dollars to the Cherokee County Electric Co-op and property taxes to the county and Wells ISD.
He acknowledged that the Keystone I and 2 have had approximately a dozen leaks in the last year. However, he said all the leaks occurred at pumping stations (including one in Canada) and not in the pipeline itself. He said the average spill was less than five barrels and was repaired and cleaned within 24-28 hours. He said that it is not a matter of saying “nothing is going to happen.” The bigger issue, he said, is to assume that something is going to happen. “What are we going to do to prevent it? What are we doing with design and construction to meet standards once it is in service, and what do we do to keep it from happening?”
Pipeline detractors have criticized TransCanada for not releasing the chemical composition of the additives to the tar sands oil. Mr. Prescott denied the information is proprietary, and that he will provide the chemical composition to the Cherokeean Herald. He said once the pipeline is built, contractual relationships with contractors and vendors on codes, statutes and response times will be in place. “There will be an incredibly complex and thorough document in place.” He said he understands the concerns expressed about leaks. “I get this. First responders are asking, ‘How will I respond to a leak in my jurisdiction.’” The response plan will be in place, he promised. “We haven’t gotten there yet.”
Environmentalists worry that the tar sand mixture could leak into East Texas’ Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer and contaminate drinking water for a 60-county area. Pipeline critics, he said, think that tar sand oil is something new. “It’s not the case. There are pipelines that are transporting oil that is similar from the coast of California. This is not the first pipeline to carry tar sands oil.”
Citing a draft, supplemental and final environmental impact statements (EIS), he said the Keystone XL has been under review for 41 months. “That is longer than any pipeline, ever. To suggest as some have that there has not been enough time spent on an accurate assessment is not correct. The statement is on the Internet and it is thousands of pages long. It is incredibly thorough,” he said.
At a glance
Four phases of construction would connect a pipeline network from Hardisty, Alberta in Canada to Beaumont capable of transporting up to 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil daily.
Cost of the original Keystone Pipleline was $5.2 billion. The Keystone XL expansion is estimated at $7 billion.
• Phase 1: a 2,147-mile pipeline went online June 2010, connecting Hardisty, Alberta to Wood River and Patoka, Ill.
• Phase 2: 291-mile pipeline from Steele City, Neb. to Cushing, Ok. went online February 2011.
• Phase 3: proposed 435-mile pipeline from Cushing, Ok. to terminals in Nederland. An existing, 47-mile leg is proposed to link Liberty County with Houston.
• Phase 4: proposed 327-mile pipeline to connect Hardisty with Baker, Mont.
Approximately 85 percent of the pipeline’s capacity is committed. Some 250,000 barrels would come from the Bakken formation in Montana, where fracturing is being used to recover difficult to reach oil. The remainder would be mined at the Athabasca Oil Sands region in Alberta.