Backers of Keystone XL often point to a less-discussed U.S. benefit from the pipeline: It would carry up to 100,000 barrels per day of light oil from North Dakota’s booming Bakken shale play. Right now, however, only 65,000 barrels of that capacity are taken via firm commitments, KXL sponsor TransCanada told the State Department during […]

An important fact is tucked away on page 5 of the federal accident report for ExxonMobil’s March 29 Arkansas pipeline leak that the Sierra Club released to the public today. It may sound more boring than relevant, but bear with me: A Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system was working normally on the ill-fated […]

The EPA late yesterday rated the State Department’s review of the Keystone XL pipeline “insufficient,” causing a collective cheer from the environmental community and a rush on the left to define the move as “momentum-shifting.” But EPA’s “2” rating represents only an incremental step towards using one of two chances it has under the National […]

Environmental economists in academia and lawmakers in Congress have at least one thing in common: They’re highly concerned with balancing the costs and benefits of government regulations. Both policy wonks and politicians invoke the ultra-dry term “cost-benefit analysis” to describe the often controversial process of weighing a rule’s societal upside against the price the public […]

ExxonMobil formalized on Friday an argument that it made more quietly in the first days after its Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, AR: The Wabasca Heavy Crude that leaked is “conventionally produced heavy oil,” not crude from the oil sands of western Canada. That seemingly arcane claim cuts to the core of the campaign that […]

When its 20-inch, 65-year-old Pegasus pipeline began propelling heavy Canadian crude down the streets of an Arkansas subdivision nine days ago, ExxonMobil alerted the Coast Guard’s National Response Center — standard procedure for operators who experience an emergency. But the timing of NRC alerts took on new political relevance in 2010, after a Michigan spill […]

I first reported 14 months ago on the IRS memo that exempted Canadian oil-sands crude (along with shale oil, coal-to-liquids, and biomass fuel) from the government’s 8-cent-per-barrel tax that keeps its Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund intact. Since then, opponents of Keystone XL and other oil sands pipelines have kept the story in the news, […]

As Arkansas responders work to clean upwards of 2,000 barrels of spilled Canadian oil-sands crude from ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline, which ruptured on Friday, let’s take a quick look back at the company’s safety record in recent years. Inspectors at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) fined Exxon $26,200 in 2010 after a check […]

The last thing I’d want to do is subject patient readers to the bone-dry, insomnia-curing language of your average annual financial report to the Securities and Exchange Commission. But buried deep in those documents is often refreshing candor about future risks, phrased in plain language that the non-shareholding public might appreciate. And since everyone loves […]

In the heated political debate over the future of Canada’s oil sands region, both sides point to robust production projections for its heavy bitumen-based fuel — specifically, the industry’s plans to turn out more than 5 million barrels a day by 2030. Production of both lighter synthetic crude and heavy diluted bitumen from the oil […]

The State Department’s new environmental impact statement on Keystone XL runs for nearly 2,000 pages, but one of its arguments is rightly seizing most of the public’s attention this week. Regardless of whether the $5.3 billion pipeline is built, the government’s reviewers say, oil sands development would not noticeably slow because producers could still make […]

Poring over the financial statements of pipeline companies, a certain phrase recurs often enough to become unforgettable, in its own bone-dry tax-code sort of way: “master limited partnership.” The words seem to mean little to the layman. But MLPs, as they are known, became more well-known last year when congressional Democrats won some GOP support […]

Remember last week, when TransCanada threw a jab at Keystone XL opponents by unveiling a “plan A” to move more than a half-million barrels of oil-sands crude out of Alberta — no matter what happens to the infamous pipeline — by converting parts of its natural gas Mainline to run oil? Well, Enbridge got in on […]

By now the story is familiar to Americans and Canadians alike: First there was Keystone XL, the salvation of a fossil-fuel industry looking for fresh routes out of Alberta for heavy oil-sands crude. As that pipeline sailed into a storm over its value in terms of job creation, exports, and carbon emissions, the Northern Gateway pipeline […]

I’ve wondered in these pages if tankers could be the new pipelines, but recent weeks have proven that trains are first in line to fill the infrastructure gap created by booming oil production in America — and, potentially, in Canada. Warren Buffett’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe line projects a 40-percent boom in crude oil shipments […]

Now that the New York Times has aimed a welcome national spotlight on oil and gas pipeline operators’ ability to detect leaks, it’s worth taking a deeper dive into the government report on the issue that first appeared here two months ago. One of the longest-running battles over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline deals with […]

The International Energy Agency (IEA) today released its annual energy outlook, offering the sobering prediction of a 3.6-degree Celsius long-term temperature increase — almost double the 2-degree threshold that scientists have warned could produce irreversibly negative climate change consequences. While IEA stated that oil comprises 22 percent of the world’s total fossil-fuel reserves expressed in […]

The disordered state of leak detection along U.S. pipelines, laid bare in the government-commissioned report that I discussed earlier, helps illustrate the success that critics of new oil-shipment projects such as Keystone XL have enjoyed in recent months. Put simply, while anti-pipeline forces point to potential risks and the industry’s shaky safety record of late […]

Federal pipeline regulators received a draft report on leak detection last week that includes some fascinating — and disconcerting — revelations about the success of various methods and the standards that govern how companies watch for oil spills on their lines. The report by Ohio-based Kiefner & Associates opens with sobering statistics on the ability […]


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