Keystone XL Crude Oil Pipeline, Hardisty, Alberta, Canada

Keystone XL Pipeline

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Keystone XL Pipeline is a new 1,897km-long crude oil pipeline being planned by TransCanada. The new cross-border pipeline will run from Hardisty in Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, in the US. The pipeline is expected to cost approximately $7bn to construct.

The pipeline will transport crude oil from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) and Bakken supply basin to the existing Keystone Pipeline at Steele City for further delivery to US refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The pipeline project will help the US to reduce its natural gas imports from the Middle East and Venezuela. It is expected to create about 20,000 jobs during the construction and manufacturing phases.

The construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2013, for scheduled completion in late 2014 or early 2015.

Developing the cross-border crude oil pipeline

"The Canadian portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline will include a roughly 529km-long pipeline segment."

The Keystone XL pipeline was proposed by TransCanada in June 2008. The Presidential Permit application for the project was submitted to the US Department of State (DOS) in September 2008.

The project received approval from the National Energy Board (NEB) of Canada in March 2010. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the project was issued in August 2011.

The Presidential Permit application was, however, denied by the DOS in January 2012. TransCanada resubmitted the application in May 2012.

The project is awaiting the DOS' approval, which is essential for constructing a cross-border pipeline between Canada and the US.

Route of Keystone XL through North America

The Canadian portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline will include a roughly 529km-long pipeline segment. The pipeline will originate at Hardisty and will continue through Alberta towards the south, before entering into the Canada / US border at Monchy, in Saskatchewan. It will enter the US at Morgan on Montana's border and pass through South Dakota, as well as Nebraska, where it will be connected to the existing Keystone Pipeline at Steele City.

The pipeline is opposed by environmental groups and routing in the Nebraska area has become controversial, as the proposed route includes the Sandhills region and Ogallala Aquifer in the state.

Nebraska's Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) is currently evaluating the alternative route for Keystone XL Pipeline to avoid the Sandhills. The alternative route will be determined by the end of 2012 or early 2013.

Construction and infrastructure of the Canadian / US pipeline

The pipeline's construction will involve the burial of 36-inch diameter segments with a minimum depth of cover of two metres. The pipeline will have a permanent right-of-way with a width of 15m.

"The pipeline project will help the US to reduce its natural gas imports from the Middle East and Venezuela."

An 18m space will be left as a temporary workspace. Additional temporary work space will be created to ensure smooth pipeline construction at road and rail crossings, existing pipeline corridors, river crossings and other major locations.

The inspection of all welds will be carried out using non-destructive examination equipment. Piping used in the project will be covered with a corrosion resistant protective coating. The pipeline sections will be pressure tested with water before operations start. The project will implement environmental protection plans to re-establish the vegetation on the passage once the construction is complete.

There will be above-ground facilities to support the pipeline operation. The above ground infrastructure will include 26 pump stations to ensure the free flow of crude oil through the pipeline. The project will also involve the construction of an alternative terminal and delivery points.

Keystone XL Pipeline operations

Keystone XL will have an initial capacity of 700,000 barrels a day (bbl/d) with a further capacity to transport 830,000bbl/d. The new pipeline will increase the total capacity of Keystone Pipeline to 1.3Mbpd.

TransCanada has signed long-term contracts with a number of suppliers to transport more than 500,000 barrels a day through the pipeline.

The pipeline will be continuously monitored using supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and leak detection systems. The pumps and valves will be remotely controlled from a computerised control centre, manned 24 hours a day. The pipeline will be equipped with 21,000 data transmitters for observing the pressure and oil flow.

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