No Keystone pipeline? No problem, Alberta will just go north to the Arctic Ocean
They may stop the Keystone XL pipeline, but that won't stop the oilmen of Alberta from trying to get the stuff out of the ground and to market somewhere. They will roll barrels of the stuff down the highway by hand if they have to, or do something equally ridiculous: ship it north to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean. There is some logic to this; after thirty years of negotiating, agreements were reached with native peoples to build the Mackenzie Valley pipeline to carry natural gas south, but nobody needs that right now, so why not carry bitumen north?
There are a few technical problems, as noted by the CBC:
According to Bob Page, director of the Enbridge Centre for Corporate Sustainability at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, building a pipeline on Arctic terrain presents enormous technical and financial challenges. Moving viscous heavy crude oil requires a heated pipeline, he said. “And the thermal shadow around that pipeline tends to melt the permafrost, so if you don’t elevate it then you’ve got to do special design specifications,” he said.
Then there is the small matter of Arctic ice, but the whole world seems to be doing its best to solve that problem. More at the CBC.
Then there is the latest idea floated by the editors at the Winnipeg Free Press: Build a pipeline to the existing port at Churchill, Manitoba, on Hudson Bay. They write:
The Port of Churchill might have a role in solving the oil industry's need for bitumen export routes. Churchill is a whole lot closer than Montreal and a whole lot better developed as a port than Inuvik in the Mackenzie delta. Its shipping season is short, but the mechanics and the economics of shipping through Churchill are well-understood. At the moment there is no pipeline to Churchill -- but the Northern Gateway, Keystone XL and Mackenzie Valley routes, too, are only lines on a map at the moment.
After all, in a few years the ice will be a minor inconvenience.
Lastly, there is the proposal from a Native-run business to build a rail line and pipe from Fort McMurray to Valdez, Alaska to take advantage of existing infrastructure.
"Valdez has seen oil tanker traffic since the 1970s; this proposal would simply mean replacing the declining supply of Alaska crude with a new supply of Alberta crude. We believe this approach has a greater chance of obtaining social license from local communities than other competing scenarios," said Chief Ronald Kreutzer of Fort McMurray First Nation.
Killing Keystone isn't the end of the tar sands; they are just getting started.