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The construction of the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline in Sumner, Tex. (TONY GUTIERREZ/AP)
The construction of the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline in Sumner, Tex. (TONY GUTIERREZ/AP)

Keystone pipeline: Highlights of environmental review Add to ...

OIL SANDS DEVELOPMENT

A single project like the Keystone XL pipeline would speed up the pace of development of Alberta’s oil sands only under a very narrow condition, the report said.

If U.S. oil prices fell to about $70 a barrel, around $27 less than today, long-term constraints were put on new pipelines, and transportation costs were higher as a result, “there could be a substantial impact on oil sands production levels,” the study said. Essentially, the report confirms the State Department’s draft study in March that said the oil will get to market with or without Keystone.

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OIL SANDS EMISSIONS

Due to the energy-intensive production, oil sands crude emits about 17 per cent more greenhouse gases than average oil refined in the United States, the study said. In addition, Canadian crude is 2 to 10 per cent more greenhouse-gas intensive than heavy oil from Mexico and Venezuela currently refined in Texas and Louisiana.

The study did not say the pipeline would not contribute to greenhouse-gas emissions, but that trains, an alternative, pollute more than pipelines.

OIL BY RAIL

Lengthy delays on the proposed pipeline have contributed to a rapid increase in the movement of crude oil by rail. The report estimates railways could ship 1.1 million barrels of Canadian crude per day by the end of 2014.

Approval of Keystone could hurt unit train terminal operators and rail companies like Canadian Pacific and Canadian National. But the report notes railways could have trouble meeting demand in the short-term if U.S. and Canadian regulators toughen safety regulations on tank cars.

ENDANGERED SPECIES

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services identified 11 federally protected species that could be affected by the pipeline. The American burying beetle is the only species is likely to be hurt, the study said. Government workers have taken steps to remove populations from the 1,400 kilometre path of the project.

SPILLS

If oil from a large spill enters a river or a lake, the impact could be “very large, potentially affecting soil, wildlife, and vegetation,” the study said. Heavy oil in a river or stream can be released gradually, it added.

With files from Reuters

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