TransCanada has big new plans for moving oil around, and you won’t like them

Grist | February 20, 2015 | Column by John Light

TransCanada, the company pushing the Keystone XL plan, is cooking up some new projects. Watch out.

Shutterstock | Shutterstock

First: A pipeline going in the other direction. This one would move oil from North Dakota, where drilling is booming, up to Canada. The company hopes it will be particularly appealing since the alternative method of moving that volatile crude is by rail — and, unfortunately, the trains keep blowing up. From the Associated Press:

TransCanada Corp.’s proposed $600 million Upland Pipeline would begin near the northwestern North Dakota oil hub of Williston and go north into Canada about 200 miles. At peak operation it would transport up to 300,000 barrels of oil daily, connecting with other pipelines including the Energy East pipeline across Canada. …

TransCanada hopes to have the Upland Pipeline operating in 2018, pending approval from the U.S. State Department, North Dakota’s Public Service Commission and Canada’s National Energy Board. The company plans to submit an application to the State Department in the second quarter of this year. …

TransCanada spokesman Davis Sheremata on Thursday said the company can’t speculate on whether it might run into similar problems with Upland [as it has with Keystone]. Company President and CEO Russ Girling last week told analysts and reporters that he hopes the drawn-out Keystone XL process is “an anomaly.”

And though the pipelines-are-safer-than-trains angle is a major selling point for this new project, the company is hedging its bets: TransCanada “will probably enter the rail business in some form or fashion in the coming months,” said its CEO, Russ Girling, in a speech earlier this month. From the Canadian Financial Post:

Facing increased pressure from rail cutting into its business, while the Keystone XL pipeline remains under unending American review, TransCanada Corp. said it is planning to diversify into the oil-by-rail business within months, improving its customers’ ability to connect to its sprawling North American pipeline and storage network. …

TransCanada’s move to include rail in its arsenal has become necessary as rail companies Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. enjoy a windfall from the oil transportation business. TransCanada’s competitors, including Kinder Morgan Inc. and Enbridge Energy Inc., are also building rail capacity to get around pipeline infrastructure constraints.

That oil-by-rail side business would just be a temporary solution until Keystone gets built, Girling said.

Both new efforts could face heavy opposition. Environmental activists are getting good at making big oil infrastructure projects into political sinkholes, and oil trains are coming in for particularly virulent criticism these days. Opposition to Keystone might no longer be an “anomaly,” as Girling described it; try the new normal.

Do you like this post?

Showing 3 reactions

commented 2015-02-23 14:31:39 -0500 · Flag
That’s awesome! The US DOT statistical analysis of fuel by rail explosions mostly likely covered past event rates and haven’t considered Kinder Morgen or Enbridge from entering the mix, nor TransCanada.

DOT cited the sheer volume of fuel being transported as a key element and yet we exponentially add more as fast as possible…

Maybe we can get up to 20 explosions per year!!
@PAUSEnergy tweeted this page. 2015-02-23 13:18:16 -0500
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy posted about TransCanada has big new plans for moving oil around, and you won’t like them on PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy's Facebook page 2015-02-23 13:18:16 -0500
TransCanada has big new plans for moving oil around, and you won’t like them
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.