This is the general description of the project as given by the company who plans to construct and fund it: TransCanada. The company claims that this project will benefit both Canada and the United States in four different ways.
First, they claim that the pipeline will be an environmentally safe and reliable way to transfer mass amounts of oil needed for the United States to prevent possible energy crisis in the future. In 2016, the United States consumed a total of 7.21 billion barrels of petroleum products, an average of about 19.
69 million barrels per day. The estimated amount of oil that will be transferred to America a day is 830,000 barrels which are transferred to a facility in Nebraska. Some of this oil is also predicted to be sent to several refineries in the Gulf Coast around Texas.
That means that the project will help in providing a mere 0.042% of the oil used in the United States on a daily basis. The United States produces another 38.
8% percent of its oil and receives the other 60% from foreign suppliers (Saudi Arabia, Latin America, the Persian Gulf, and other suppliers in Canada).
As of right now, the original Keystone pipeline currently sends an estimated 600,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada each day. The original Keystone pipeline was constructed in 2010 and transports oil fracked in Hardisty, Alberta. This original system travels from Hardisty towards the Providence of Manitoba in the east, then travels southward through North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. This oil is sent to terminals in Cushing, Oklahoma, Springfield, Illinois, and Houston, Texas.
Keystone XL takes a faster route as it flows directly south through Montana. Over the past decade the original Keystone pipeline system has seen a fair share of issues both during development, and the past five years we have used it. The Keystone pipeline leak in November of 2017 in rural South Dakota was nearly double the original estimate, making it one of the largest U.S. inland spills since 2010. An estimated 5,000 barrels were likely to be spilled during the process, but at least double that leaked from the pipeline, drenching the surrounding area with mass amounts of unpurified oil.
During that time the pipeline was shut down for over two weeks as engineers attempted to find the internal problem. The top soil also had to be replaced as workers struggled to clean up the spill in an attempt to limit any groundwater contamination. The spill occurred just days before Nebraska’s Public Service Commission was due to decide whether it would grant the final permit needed to begin construction Keystone XL. Every barrel equal forty-two gallons of oil, making for an immense total of 407,400 gallons spilled. This type of event endangers both the surrounding habitat and the animal species that reside in it. Studies have shown that the project could endanger many animals and their habitats in the U.S. and Canada through the infrastructure’s construction, maintenance, and possible disasters. One particular species is the endangered whooping crane.
Whooping Cranes move at a stately pace, browsing and probing for food rather than hunting patiently and stealthily like a heron. They tend to occur in small flocks (or among much larger numbers of Sandhill Cranes). Ornithologists (scientists who study avian animals) are afraid that the surrounding powerlines set to be constructed along with the project, are a deadly obstacle to the crane as they may often fly into them while hunting. The greater sage grouse is another bird species that has already been affected by the pipelines pre-construction and has lost a small percentage of its habitat. Other animal and insect species at risk include the swift fox and the American burying beetles.
If restoration and relocation programs are set in place, these two species would be more likely to survive. However, that comes at a decent cost. The construction of the pipeline itself has significant effects n the Sandhills in Nebraska. The Nebraska Sandhills stretch 265 miles across Nebraska and contain about 95% or 12.75 million acres of rangeland. In recent years, increased cultivation has occurred primarily due in part to the introduction of center pivot irrigation and livestock grazing still makes up for most of its land use.
It also consists of a remote countryside, marshes and wetlands, winding rivers, and the largest hand-planted forest in the nation. Building in this fragile ecosystem could cause mass disturbances in the marshes and forest areas of the Sand Hills. Marshes are commonly used by the aforementioned species for nesting grounds, as well as nurseries for an abundance of fish species like striped bass. If these areas are tampered with, it could mean the death of an entire ecosystem. Most importantly it could mean massive trouble for farmers who own livestock as their cattle are likely to consume the oil in the event of a gas leak. Poisoning may be caused by toxins that have leached into ground water supplies and can cause serious health effects upon animals who consume the oil.
The Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in 2010 served to incredibly lethal for marine life as an abundance of fish species, sea turtles, aquatic mammals (primarily dolphins), and bird species (primarily seabirds like gulls) have been found dead on beach sides due to their internal organs shutting down from the toxic effects of the oil. By the end of 2011 the Center for Biological Diversity stated the oil spill has likely harmed or killed approximately 82,000 birds of 102 species, approximately 6,165 sea turtles, and up to 25,900 marine mammals, including bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, melon-headed whales and sperm whales. Seagrass beds that resided in the Gulf also experienced some damage which furthered the death tole as gulls used the nearby marshes and mangroves to nest.
While this is a much larger scale than the event that occurred at Keystone, the larger extension being built yields 25% more oil a day than the original system and could very leak close to 12,500 barrels (5,250,000 gallons) of oil into the local environment. As for the safety and security of the pipeline, several security measures take place during construction and maintenance. During construction, the company plans to avoid provoking massive impact on the environment by moving around the natural habitat of the local species.
With the help of environmental activist programs, the pipeline is to be constructed away from any endangered species that may be impacted by the construction. It has also been debated whether or no the pipeline itself should be built in ground to help prevent any issues with harsh weather. The pipeline would be slightly harder to maintain, and the idea of transporting some of the oil by train has been proposed, but nothing concrete has been decided yet. The issue of transporting the oil by trains can be a complicated subject as well, as the oil that is stored on the train is highly flammable, and in the event of an accident, can be highly explosive. This could eventually lead to a catastrophic event where human life, oil, and the transit could all be lost.
After construction is complete, the pipeline is set to have over 16,000 data transmitters stretching the length of the pipeline. These transmitters are capable of picking up the current temperature, pressure, and flow speed of every section of pipe. The transmitters update info every five seconds and allow maintainers to constantly monitor any and all activity the pipeline experiences. In the case of a leak or possible defect, the pipeline also comes with a full-proof shut down system and thousands of automatic and manual shut down valves meant to halt the general flow of oil. This mitigates the average amount of oil spills by stopping transportation before pressure build up can occur.
The operators also come up with emergency response plans and personal protective equipment, as required by OSHA, to help evacuate sites that experience malfunctions. Local authorities are asked to secure such areas and HAZMAT specialists are brought in to help clean up any spills that occur along the pipeline. The system is predicted to have close to eleven malfunctions over the course of its construction though skeptics fear this an underestimate as TransCanada’s past predictions have proved to be inaccurate.
The original Keystone system was predicted to leak at once every forty-one years but has leaked twice in the past four. The company has hardly commented on these events. The second proposal by the company was that the pipeline would benefit both countries by providing a collective 41,000 jobs to support the construction and maintenance for the project.