Limited Export Capacity Behind Big Push For Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

Elvert Barnes/CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the reasons why there's been such a big push by TransCanada and the tar sands industry more broadly for the approval of the proposed and embattled Keystone XL pipeline, stretching from Canada to Texas, goes beyond the immediate profits of the pipeline and onto a much bigger issue: A coming shortage of pipeline capacity in Canada.

As The Globe and Mail reports, a new report from energy consultants Purvin & Gertz shows that if Keystone XL is not built, existing tar sands pipeline capacity will be maxed out sometime between late 2013 and early 2016.

And even if Keystone XL...does enter service, Canada will likely be left scrambling for more capacity by some time between 2016 and 2018 [...] That suggest other options will also be needed, including Enbridge Inc.'s Flanagan South line, which would allow more Canadian crude to flow into southern US markets, and potentially its Northern Gateway pipe, which would bring oil to the Canadian West Coast for export.

All of this just adds additional context to the Keystone XL debate, somewhat contradictory to the rhetoric about the pipeline being crucial for US energy security in that it will bring oil into the nation from perceived natural allies rather than perceived culturally unfriendly nations in the Middle East.

Clearly, as John Laumer (and others) has pointed out, this has been about exporting tar sands oil from the start, as much or more than domestic energy security, and will be to the last.

Tags: Canada | Global Climate Change | Oil | Tar Sands | United States