The tar sands network is growing, and yet another pipeline company has put forward a proposal to get Alberta’s dirty and dangerous crude to the ocean, so it can be shipped overseas in supertankers.
Tar sands network
As TransCanada awaits the less-than-certain fate of the Keystone XL pipeline, it has devised a new plan to turn an aging natural gas pipeline in Canada into a tar sands pipeline headed east. TransCanada has proposed that the Energy East Pipeline would transport tar sands from Alberta, through Ontario and Quebec, and as far as New Brunswick’s Irving Oil Ltd. refinery and port of Saint John.¹
According to the Council of Canadians’ primer on the subject, TransCanada wants to convert its Eastern Mainline pipeline, which currently transports natural gas. The pipeline could carry up to 850,000 barrels per day eastward. 80 percent of the pipeline (between Saskatchewan and Quebec) already exists. It would need to be extended in the west to connect the pipe to Hardisty, Alberta, and in the east, where it would be extended to either Montreal, Quebec City, or Saint John. All these are port cities that can help the industry get its cargo to international markets.²
Pipelines to grow the network
Like the Pegasus pipeline, which flooded Mayflower with crude oil, the Eastern Mainline pipeline arose in the 1950s. It transported a substance – namely tar sands in their raw state – that was thicker than the material for which it was originally designed. A study carried out by the National Petroleum Council, on behalf of the US Department of Energy, showed that there are many pipelines that operate outside their design parameters. However, pipelines are most at risk of integrity problems in the future, due to the nature of their operation.³
Like other pipeline projects, this one would create significant risk of oil spills. Furthermore, it would provide little oil to Eastern Canada and do little to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. So, we can only imagine that most of it will be sold to the highest bidder and sent overseas.
It will make oil companies even richer and more powerful, but what will be the increased damage to the climate?
¹ A Canadian perspective on the Keystone XL pipeline, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/environment_energy_resources/publications/trends/2012_13/july_august/a_canadian_perspective_on_the_keystone_xl_pipeline/
² Special Report: A Canadian family’s ‘Plan B’ to pump tar sands oil, https://www.eleconomista.es/empresas-finanzas/noticias/5657698/03/14/Special-Report-A-Canadian-familys-Plan-B-to-pump-tar-sands-oil.html
³ TransCanada abandons Energy East, Eastern Mainline projects, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41488956