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Oil Pipelines in Canada

Oil Pipelines in Canada

Oil pipelines in Canada are an integral part of the country’s energy infrastructure.1 They are the safest and most efficient method of transporting large quantities of Canadian crude oil.2 But, they are also a divisive issue.

Environmentalists oppose pipeline construction; they believe renewable energies should receive the investment instead.3 The oil sector argues that they need to build more pipelines to maintain supply for growing international markets.4 Some of Canada’s indigenous peoples support pipelines, so long as they have a share.5 Others see them as an invasion of their land and are concerned about the environmental risks that they pose.6

How many pipelines from Canada are in the US?

There are 31 oil and 39 natural gas pipelines in operation that cross the Canadian-US border.7 There are a further 16 pipelines transporting other commodities, plus 10 to 15 are not currently in operation.8 Four additional major oil pipelines have been proposed in Canada: Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project, Energy East, Keystone XL and the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.9 All three have experienced significant delays due to regulatory, legal and environmental roadblocks.10 The Keystone XL pipeline’s construction is currently halted as US President Joe Biden revoked its permit in his first executive order.11 This oil pipeline would have seen over 800,000 barrels per day arrive into Texas from Alberta.

How many miles of pipelines are in Canada and the US?

There are an estimated 521,952 miles of pipelines in Canada.12 Their infrastructure is dwarfed by the US’ where pipelines stretch for more than 2.6 million miles.13 Combined, North American pipelines could encircle the globe more than 125 times.14 Hundreds of billions of ton-miles of petroleum products and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are transported each year in this way.15

Advantages of expanding pipelines for crude oil and natural gas

Pipelines are extremely efficient at moving oil and gas. Members of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association move 3.8 million barrels of crude oil per day through pipelines; the equivalent of 6,300 rail cars16 or 18,900 trucks.17 Oil industry representatives want to increase pipeline capacity in order to export more oil from remote locations such as Alberta.18 They also claim expanding pipelines will create additional jobs and deliver more taxes to the Canadian government.19

The primary motive for expanding pipelines comes down to economics. Alberta’s oil sands, where the vast majority of Canada’s oil is produced,20 is more costly than crude oil to extract and refine.21 It is also more expensive to transport via train or truck, leaving the industry highly dependent upon pipelines.22 Turbulent global oil prices have exacerbated the situation.23 A barrel of Albertan oil was valued at less than a liter of olive oil in March 2020.24 To maximize profits, Canadian oil companies want to transport more oil via pipelines to refineries in the US midwest or Gulf Coast25 and access international markets such as China.26

What are the arguments against expanding Canada’s oil pipelines?

The investment for oil pipelines could go towards funding clean energy sources instead.27 Canada is already the world’s fourth-biggest producer of crude oil, and environmentalists do not want to increase fossil fuel production.28 If the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline is completed, it will triple the volumes of crude oil moving from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.29

Pipelines also pose a direct threat to the environment.30 Both constructing and operating a pipeline causes unavoidable ecological disturbance.31 Construction involves the destruction of habitats, the clearing of vegetation and soil compaction.32 Operation runs the risk of oil spills. Canada’s pipelines spilled an average of 1,084 barrels per year between 2011 and 2014.33 The harm caused by a spill can be environmentally devastating.34 Not only is it extremely difficult to clean up, but the damage can also make the entire spill area inhospitable to wildlife for decades.35

Canada is committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.36 Projects that expand the harmful oil sands industry and release more carbon dioxide appear contradictory to this target. Whether the economic incentives or the environmentalist opposition for further pipelines will prevail remains to be seen.

Oil Pipelines in Canada

Sources

  1. CAPP. (n.d.). Canada Pipeline Maps & Facts | Trans Mountain Pipeline, Keystone XL, Enbridge Line 3. [online] Available at: https://www.capp.ca/explore/oil-and-natural-gas-pipelines/.
  2. CAPP. (n.d.). Canada Pipeline Maps & Facts | Trans Mountain Pipeline, Keystone XL, Enbridge Line 3. [online] Available at: https://www.capp.ca/explore/oil-and-natural-gas-pipelines/.
  3. Chen, R. (2019). Everything You Need To Know About Pipelines—And Why They’re So Controversial. [online] Chatelaine. Available at: https://www.chatelaine.com/news/gas-oil-pipelines-in-canada/.
  4. CAPP. (n.d.). Canada Pipeline Maps & Facts | Trans Mountain Pipeline, Keystone XL, Enbridge Line 3. [online] Available at: https://www.capp.ca/explore/oil-and-natural-gas-pipelines/.
  5. An oil pipeline expansion is dividing Canada’s indigenous peoples. (2019). The Washington Post. [online] 15 Sep. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/an-oil-pipeline-expansion-is-dividing-canadas-indigenous-peoples/2019/09/14/ec74ac82-b961-11e9-8e83-4e6687e99814_story.html.
  6. Cladoosby, B., Forsman, L., Gobin, T. and Julius, J. (2019). The Trans Mountain pipeline is a disaster – but Trudeau can make it right | Brian Cladoosby, Leonard Forsman, Teri Gobin and Jay Julius. The Guardian. [online] 14 Jun. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/14/trans-mountain-pipeline-expansion-trudeau-indigenous-communities.
  7. Canada, N.R. (2012). faqs-federally-regulated-petroleum-pipelines-canada. [online] www.nrcan.gc.ca. Available at: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/our-natural-resources/energy-sources-distribution/clean-fossil-fuels/pipelines/faqs-federally-regulated-petroleum-pipelines-canada/5893#h-1-4 [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021].
  8. Canada, N.R. (2012). faqs-federally-regulated-petroleum-pipelines-canada. [online] www.nrcan.gc.ca. Available at: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/our-natural-resources/energy-sources-distribution/clean-fossil-fuels/pipelines/faqs-federally-regulated-petroleum-pipelines-canada/5893#h-1-4 [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021].
  9. CAPP. (n.d.). Canada Pipeline Maps & Facts | Trans Mountain Pipeline, Keystone XL, Enbridge Line 3. [online] Available at: https://www.capp.ca/explore/oil-and-natural-gas-pipelines/.
  10. CAPP. (n.d.). Canada Pipeline Maps & Facts | Trans Mountain Pipeline, Keystone XL, Enbridge Line 3. [online] Available at: https://www.capp.ca/explore/oil-and-natural-gas-pipelines/.
  11. www.spglobal.com. (2020). Canadian officials, execs tout commitments to Keystone XL, Trans Mountain and more | S&P Global Platts. [online] Available at: https://www.spglobal.com/platts/en/market-insights/latest-news/oil/090120-canadian-officials-execs-tout-commitments-to-keystone-xl-trans-mountain-and-more [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021].
  12. Canada, N.R. (2012). faqs-federally-regulated-petroleum-pipelines-canada. [online] www.nrcan.gc.ca. Available at: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/our-natural-resources/energy-sources-distribution/clean-fossil-fuels/pipelines/faqs-federally-regulated-petroleum-pipelines-canada/5893#h-1-3.
  13. www.phmsa.dot.gov. (n.d.). General Pipeline FAQs | PHMSA. [online] Available at: https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/faqs/general-pipeline-faqs#:~:text=The%20nation.
  14. https://www.facebook.com/spacecom (2017). How Big Is Earth? [online] Space.com. Available at: https://www.space.com/17638-how-big-is-earth.html.
  15. www.phmsa.dot.gov. (n.d.). General Pipeline FAQs | PHMSA. [online] Available at: https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/faqs/general-pipeline-faqs#:~:text=The%20nation.
  16. About Pipelines. (n.d.). Your Questions. [online] Available at: https://www.aboutpipelines.com/en/your-questions/ [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021].
  17. Hansen, M. (n.d.). . [online] . Available at: https://www.strata.org/pdf/2017/pipelines.pdf.
  18. Leahy, S. (2019). This is the world’s most destructive oil operation—and it’s growing. [online] Nationalgeographic.com. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/04/alberta-canadas-tar-sands-is-growing-but-indigenous-people-fight-back/.
  19. Transmountain.com. (2014). Project Benefits. [online] Available at: https://www.transmountain.com/benefits.
  20. Nrcan.gc.ca. (2017). Crude oil facts | Natural Resources Canada. [online] Available at: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-data/data-analysis/energy-data-analysis/energy-facts/crude-oil-facts/20064.
  21. Denchak, M. (2019). What Is the Keystone Pipeline? [online] NRDC. Available at: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/what-keystone-pipeline.
  22. Denchak, M. (2019). What Is the Keystone Pipeline? [online] NRDC. Available at: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/what-keystone-pipeline.
  23. financialpost. (n.d.). Oil price war tests Canadian energy producers’ years-long drive to cut costs. [online] Available at: https://financialpost.com/commodities/energy/oil-price-war-tests-canadian-energy-producers-years-long-drive-to-cut-costs [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021].
  24. Barrel of Monkeys now worth more than a barrel of Alberta oil | CBC News. (n.d.). CBC. [online] Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/bitumen-wcs-wti-oil-1.5511386.
  25. Denchak, M. (2019). What Is the Keystone Pipeline? [online] NRDC. Available at: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/what-keystone-pipeline.
  26. Chen, R. (2019). Everything You Need To Know About Pipelines—And Why They’re So Controversial. [online] Chatelaine. Available at: https://www.chatelaine.com/news/gas-oil-pipelines-in-canada/.
  27. Anon, (n.d.). Demanding Renewables Not Pipelines, Environmentalists are Heading to Albany. [online] Available at: https://indypendent.org/2018/04/demanding-renewables-not-pipelines-environmentalists-are-heading-to-albany/ [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021].
  28. Nrcan.gc.ca. (2017). Crude oil facts | Natural Resources Canada. [online] Available at: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-data/data-analysis/energy-data-analysis/energy-facts/crude-oil-facts/20064.
  29. Nickel, N.W., Rod (2019). Trudeau’s oil pipeline tarnishes his climate credentials ahead of Canadian election. Reuters. [online] 6 Sep. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-canada-election-energy/trudeaus-oil-pipeline-tarnishes-his-climate-credentials-ahead-of-canadian-election-idUKKCN1VR0EC?edition-redirect=uk [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021].
  30. Tomareva, A., Kozlovtseva, E.Y. and Perfilov, V.A. (2017). Impact of Pipeline Construction on Air Environment. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, [online] 262. Available at: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1757-899X/262/1/012168/pdf [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021].
  31. Tomareva, A., Kozlovtseva, E.Y. and Perfilov, V.A. (2017). Impact of Pipeline Construction on Air Environment. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, [online] 262. Available at: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1757-899X/262/1/012168/pdf [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021].
  32. Tomareva, A., Kozlovtseva, E.Y. and Perfilov, V.A. (2017). Impact of Pipeline Construction on Air Environment. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, [online] 262. Available at: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1757-899X/262/1/012168/pdf [Accessed 21 Jan. 2021].
  33. Nrcan.gc.ca. (2015). Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Concerning Federally-Regulated Petroleum Pipelines in Canada | Natural Resources Canada. [online] Available at: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/our-natural-resources/energy-sources-distribution/clean-fossil-fuels/pipelines/faqs-federally-regulated-petroleum-pipelines-canada/5893.
  34. Auburn.edu. (2013). Oil Pipelines and Spills – Climate, Energy, and Society – College of Liberal Arts – Auburn University. [online] Available at: https://cla.auburn.edu/ces/energy/oil-pipelines-and-spills/.
  35. Auburn.edu. (2013). Oil Pipelines and Spills – Climate, Energy, and Society – College of Liberal Arts – Auburn University. [online] Available at: https://cla.auburn.edu/ces/energy/oil-pipelines-and-spills/.
  36. Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016). Progress towards Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target – Canada.ca. [online] Canada.ca. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/progress-towards-canada-greenhouse-gas-emissions-reduction-target.html.
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