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State Department releases final environmental impact statement on Keystone XL Pipeline Project; analysis of GHG emissions

Comparison of the percent differential for WTW (well-to-wheel) GHGs from gasoline produced from WCSB oil sands using different production processes relative to gasoline produced from reference crudes. Source: FEIS, Appendix V. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of State (DOS) released the final version of the Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline project today. The FEIS is an environmental and safety analysis of the proposed project, developed to inform the decision, not a decision itself on TransCanada’s permit application to build a 1,700-mile pipeline from the oil sands in Canada to the Gulf Coast. The State Department will use the data in the FEIS along with additional input to determine whether the Keystone XL project is in the national interest.

As part of the analysis, DOS commissioned a detailed study of greenhouse gas life-cycle emissions that compared Canadian oil sands crude with other selected reference crudes. This study included a thorough review of recent scientific literature on greenhouse gas life-cycle emissions for Canadian oil sands crude including extraction, upgrading, transportation, refining, and combustion. In summary:

The study’s major conclusion was that, throughout its life cycle, oil sands crude is, on average, more greenhouse gas intensive than the crude oil it would replace in the US. However, the relative greenhouse gas intensity varies depending on (1) study design factors, such as the reference crudes selected for comparison with Canadian oil sands crudes (e.g., 2005 US average crude oil, Venezuelan Bachaquero, Middle East Sour, and Mexican Heavy) and the timeframe selected, and (2) study assumptions, such as the extraction method and the mix of crudes that would be transported by the pipeline.

For example, the Department of Energy’s National Environmental Technology Lab (NETL) study indicated that the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of gasoline produced from Canadian oil sands crude are approximately 17 percent higher than gasoline from the 2005 average mix of crude oil consumed in the US. The NETL study serves as a key input for analyses conducted by EPA and DOE.

In comparison, a study conducted by TIAX, LLC, found that the greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline produced from Canadian oil sands crude are only 2 percent higher when compared to gasoline from Venezuelan heavy crude, a type of crude oil that is similar to the crude oil that would be transported by the proposed Project and is currently refined in large quantities by Gulf Coast refineries.

The proposed Project is not likely to impact the amount of crude oil produced from the oil sands. However, for illustrative purposes, the DOS commissioned study estimated that incremental lifecycle US greenhouse gas emissions from displacing reference crude oils with Canadian oil sands crude oils imported through the proposed Project would be between 3 and 21 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. This range is equivalent to annual greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fuels in 588,000 to 4,061,000 passenger vehicles.

In addition, current projections suggest that the amount of energy required to extract all crude oils is projected to increase over time due to the need to extract oil from ever deeper reservoirs using more energy intensive techniques. However, while the greenhouse gas intensity of reference crude oils may trend upward, the projections for the greenhouse gas intensity of Canadian oil sands crude oils suggests that they may stay relatively constant.

Although there is some uncertainty in the trends for both reference crude oils and oil sands derived crude oils, on balance it appears that the gap in greenhouse gas intensity may decrease over time.


The pipeline. The proposed Keystone XL Project consists of a crude oil pipeline and related facilities that would primarily be used to transport Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) crude oil from an oil supply hub near Hardisty, Alberta, Canada to delivery points in Oklahoma and Texas. The proposed Project would also be capable of transporting US crude oil to those delivery points.

The US portion of the pipeline would begin near Morgan, Montana at the international border of the United States and extend to delivery points in Nederland and Moore Junction, Texas. There would also be a delivery point at Cushing, Oklahoma. These three delivery points would provide access to many other US pipeline systems and terminals, including pipelines to refineries in the US Gulf Coast region. Market conditions, noted the EIS, not the operator of the pipeline, would determine the refining locations of the crude oil.

The proposed Keystone XL Project would primarily transport crude oil extracted from the oil sands areas in Alberta, Canada. Oil sands comprise clay, sand, water, and bitumen. Bitumen is treated in several ways to create crude oil suitable for transport by pipeline and refining. The types of Canadian crude oil that would be transported by Keystone XL would primarily consist of synthetic crude oil and diluted bitumen.

  • Synthetic crude oil, similar to conventional crude oil, is created by upgrading bitumen (conversion into lighter hydrocarbons).

  • For pipeline transport, bitumen is diluted to reduce its viscosity by mixing it with a diluent, a light hydrocarbon liquid such as natural gas condensate or refinery naphtha. Dilbit is also processed to remove sand, water, and other impurities. The diluents in dilbit are integrally combined with the bitumen to form a crude oil that is a homogenous mixture that does not physically separate when released.

Both synthetic crude oil and dilbit are similar in composition and quality to the crude oils currently transported in pipelines in the US and being refined in Gulf Coast refineries, the EIS notes. The FEIS notes that the US refineries that are likely to receive oil transported by the pipeline are already configured to process heavy crude oil, and in the future would seek to continue processing heavy crude oil whether or not the proposed pipeline is constructed. The analysis in the EIS, including a DOE-commissioned study, indicates that Keystone XL would not likely affect the overall quality or quantity of crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast region, and, as a result, would not likely effect refinery emissions.

Project rationale. The FEIS defined the primary purpose of Keystone XL as providing the infrastructure necessary to transport WCSB heavy crude oil from the US border with Canada to delivery points in Texas in response to the market demand of Gulf Coast refineries for heavy crude oil. This market demand, said the FEIS, is driven by the need of the refiners to replace declining feed stocks of heavy crude oil obtained from other foreign sources with crude oil from a more stable and reliable source.

An additional purpose of Keystone XL is to transport Canadian heavy crude oil to the proposed Cushing tank farm in response to the market demand of refineries in the central and Midwest US for heavy crude oil.

The 58 refineries in the Gulf Coast District provide a total refining capacity of approximately 8.4 million bpd, or nearly half of U.S. refining capacity. These refineries provide substantial volumes of refined petroleum product, such as gasoline and jet fuel, via pipeline to the Gulf Coast region as well as the East Coast and the Midwest.

In 2009, Gulf Coast refineries imported approximately 5.1 million bpd of crude oil from more than 40 countries. The top four suppliers were Mexico, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. Of the total volume imported, approximately 2.9 million bpd was heavy crude oil similar to the crude oil that would be transported by the proposed Project; Mexico and Venezuela were the major suppliers. However, imports of heavy crude oil from these two countries have been in steady decline while Gulf Coast refining capacity is projected to grow by at least 500,000 bpd by 2020, with or without the proposed Project.


Alternatives. The FEIS considered three major alternatives to Keystone XL:

  • No Action: i.e., the potential scenarios that could occur if Keystone XL were not built and operated;

  • System Alternatives: the use of other pipeline systems or other methods of providing Canadian crude oil to the Cushing tank farm and the Gulf Coast market; and

  • Major Route Alternatives: other potential pipeline routes for transporting heavy crude oil from the U.S./Canada border to Cushing, Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast market.

No Action. The FEIS noted that here is an existing market demand for heavy crude oil in the Gulf Coast area, and that this demand is projected to increase and refinery runs are projected to grow over the next 10 years, even under a low demand outlook. A report commissioned by the Department of Energy (DOE) indicated that there would unlikely be an impact on demand for heavy crude if Keystone XL were not built.

Even if improved fuel efficiency and broader adoption of alternative fuels reduced overall demand for oil, demand for Canadian heavy crude oil at Gulf Coast refineries would not be substantially affected. At the same time, three of the four countries that are major crude oil suppliers to Gulf Coast refineries currently face declining or uncertain production horizons. As a result, those refineries are expected to obtain increased volumes of heavy crude oil from alternative sources in both the near term and further into the future. Implementation of the No Action Alternative would not meet this need.

If the proposed Project is not built and operated, Gulf Coast refineries could obtain Canadian crude oil transported through other new pipelines or by rail or truck transport. Other pipeline projects have been proposed to transport Canadian crude oil to the Gulf Coast area, and both rail transport and barge transport could be used to meet a portion of the need. In addition, the Gulf Coast refineries could obtain crude oil transported by marine tanker from areas outside of North America. Many of the sources outside of North America are in regions that are experiencing declining production or are not secure and reliable sources of crude oil, including the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, and South America.

As a result of these considerations, DOS does not regard the No Action Alternative to be preferable to the proposed Project.


System Alternatives. System alternatives would use combinations of existing or expanded pipeline systems, pipeline systems that have been proposed or announced, and non-pipeline systems such as tank trucks, railroad tank cars, and barges and marine tankers to transport Canadian heavy crude oil to Gulf Coast refineries. However, the report noted, none of the pipeline systems considered would be capable of transporting Canadian crude oil to Gulf Coast delivery points in the volumes required to meet Keystone’s commitments for transporting 380,000 bpd to delivery points in Texas.

While a combination of the pipeline systems considered could, over time, deliver volumes of Canadian oil sands crude oil in volumes similar to the volumes that would be transported by the proposed Project, that would not meet the near-term need for heavy crude oil at the Gulf Coast refineries, the FEIS concluded.

As a result of these and other similar and related consideration, the FEIS considered system alternatives either not reasonable or not environmentally preferable.

Major Route Alternatives. The FEIS considered 14 major route alternatives, but eliminated them from further consideration after analysis.

Next. The Department of State now begins a 90-day consultation period with eight cooperating federal agencies before making a decision on the Presidential Permit that would be required to allow the project to proceed. During late September and early October, the Department also will host a series of nine public meetings around the United States to give individuals an opportunity to voice their views on whether granting or denying a Presidential Permit for the pipeline would be in the national interest.

(Some 2,000 protestors seeking to prevent the pipeline from being built are providing their input early in the form of several weeks of civil disobedience in front of the White House.)

The overall proposed Keystone XL Project is estimated to cost $7 billion. If permitted, it would begin operation in 2013, with the actual date dependant on the necessary permits, approvals, and authorizations.




The libtard Greens have so tied up the Environmental Impact Statements with so much RED tape that nothing can be built. It even rose up and bit the Obama, when he had to admit: "the Shovel-ready Projects weren't so shovel-ready."

Many knowledgeable people have said the USA could NEVER build the Interstate Highway System today. You would never get the EIS statements approved.

I recently viewed a program on the Discovery Channel that discussed rebuilding and expanding the Hoover Damn. Recall it was built back in the 1930s in just four years. But these engineers, without batting an eyelash, thought it would take a minimum of 15 years JUST to get an EIS approval for really doing nothing more, than expanding an already existing damn and existing reservoir!

It is well past time to clean house at the EPA and force some changes and simplify the EIS process. It would also be a good idea to require five regulations must be repealed for every new one issued.

As for red tape of the State Department opinion. Why is it even necessary at all?


ExDemo - I disagree .... a congress & white house, with enough political will, can do a lot. I agree with your comments about the EPA though.


I'm all for it. We've got to get this economy jump-started. This, and Gulf oil are needed now. BEVs and FCVs are coming, but not soon enough. We have to ramp up oil production in our country and import from friendly countries - and WTH was Obama thinking when he kept Exxon out of the Gulf and gave contracts and money to the Marxist government in Brazil so that they could tap it? The man makes some weird decisions. It certainly wasn't an environmental decision, since Brazil would be doing the exact same thing in the Gulf that we would. This guy makes me scratch my head.


ExDemo, your insulting comments about liberals are ignorant. If it weren't for the EPA - an organization formed under Richard Nixon - thousands more Americans would be dying every year from chemical pollutants and carcinogens, and our economy would be hampered with millions of acres of undevelopable land and unusable waterways. Apparently you think you should have no protection from pollution. Thankfully, the adults in the United States (Progressives and some Democrats) recognize the need to manage our country for the benefit of all people, for the long term.

I think the pipeline should be built, because the alternative is a pipeline to Vancouver and then tankers to China. Stopping the pipeline will not stop the mining of sand bitumen in Canada.

It will be built, and it will be built safer and better because of the EPA.


Hoover Dam is just above critical shortage water levels. If you think that expanding the dam will magically increase the flow of water into Lake Mead, it doesn't say much about you (that's positive; "delusional" and "insane" are not positive adjectives).


Did building the dam in the first place magically increase the flow of water into Lake Mead?


"If it weren't for the EPA . . thousands would be dying"

NO. This is no more rational than;
"If it weren't for Richard Nixon thousands would be dying"

"It will be built, and it will be built safer and better because of the EPA."

Or maybe - because of Richard Nixon?

Here's the plan, thanks to the EPA.

1. The application for a permit was filed back at the end of 2008.
2. The State Department filed a draft EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) in April of 2010.
3. There was a 90-day comment period on that draft, which closed in July of 2010.
4. The State Department then issued a supplemental draft in April of this year.
5. There was a 45-day comment period for that, which closed in June.
6. The US Department of State issued a Final EIS for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in mid-August.
7. The next step is a 90-day review period where interested federal agencies, such as, but not limited to, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, will provide their views on whether issuance of a Presidential Permit would be in the national interest.
I assume the 2,000 protestors (who do NOT have a childlike faith in the EPA) who are providing their input in the form of several weeks of civil disobedience are following the approved process.

. . Fortunately all the thousands of bureaucrats involved in this fiasco are just "more good green Jobs".

8. During September, the State Department will host public meetings in the capitals of each of the six states through which the proposed pipeline would pass.
9. Then additional meetings in the Sand Hills region in Nebraska
10. And another along the Gulf Coast near Port Arthur, Texas.
11. This will be followed by a final public meeting in Washington, DC.
12. The State Department said it expects to make a decision on whether to grant or deny the permit before the end of the year, but will not make a decision until it has completed this process (I am not holding my breath).

It's just a simple GD pipeline !

It’s not like they don’t already know pretty much ALL there is to know about oil pipelines.


The State Department is involved because it involves multiple countries working together with agreements, treaties, and so forth. That's called diplomacy, and it's what the State Department does.



Please do not engage in use of defamatory words like "libtard".

You come across as every bit as much a buffoon as left wingers who sling around defamatory rhetoric like "racist" and "teabagger".


It is difficult to increase to increase water available at a given dam or reservoir but it is possible by re-routing other rivers in the area.

One other way to better use the existing hydro power is to over equip the hydro power sites and use the excess power generating capabilities for higher peak demands and make better use nearby wind turbines as base loads. That is possible to do due to hydro inherent variable output capabilities and ease of storing unused power in its water reservoirs.

Similar combined set-ups will be done in the dear future to maximize the use of available wind power (close to 100%) and also to maximize hydro production by keeping the water reservoirs as full as possible. Full reservoirs increase the water pressure at the turbine heads and increases to power production capabilities (per ton of water used). This way, while you have not really increased the water volume, you have increased the hydro and wind e-power produced. It is a win-win solution. Areas with both Hydro and Wind potential could maximize both sources.


"the State Department will host public meetings in the capitals of each of the six states through which the proposed pipeline would pass."

That does not involves multiple countries.
That does not involve working together with agreements, treaties, and so forth.
That's called bureaucracy, and it's what the State Department does.

Then additional meetings in the Sand Hills region in Nebraska.
And another along the Gulf Coast near Port Arthur, Texas.
This will be followed by a final public meeting in Washington, DC.

No other countries, no treaties - just bureaucracy.

For a simple pipeline.


The crude is going to be extracted and sold anyway, so better to use it on the same continent than ship it thousands of miles away, and in the process burning a lot of very dirty bunker fuel.


The only reason Nixon created the EPA was because he wanted to be liked by the Democrats. It was a radically different historical context within which the EPA was created also...other than the Vietnam War being a mess, the US was at its industrial and military peak, and a lot of wealth had been created by American industrial might in the period leading up to Nixon after World War II. When things are going well, liberalism flourishes because of the politics of class envy and guilt. FDR's New Deal (liberalism when things were bad) would have been a colossal failure had it not been for WWII.


ToppaTom, ejj, your ignorance is breathtaking.

Toppa, you assert no other countries are involved in this project. Do you have enough brains to remember that the project involves CANADIAN bitumen from tar sands? And you complain about bureaucrats ruining everything because "It’s not like they don’t already know pretty much ALL there is to know about oil pipelines." Are you so mindlessly opposed to government that you don't recognize that a pipeline can kill people if it is not done properly? Do you remember the Washington State teenagers who were burned alive in a raging inferno when a Williams pipeline from Canada failed and filled their play area with gasoline? And did you even think about how many private citizens will have their private property involuntarily taken when a pipeline is built? It doesn't float in the air on fairy dust.

It's called a democracy, Toppa, people have constitutional rights in their privte property. I would think that as a right winger, even in your idiotic rage, you would recognize that.

As for ejj, you seem to think that Richard Nixon had no love for his country or that chemical pollution was not a real problem. What would you think if your children were dying of cancerous tumors from living near an oil refinery? Or if all the lakes in your state were dying because of acid rain, and there was no longer any fishing in your state? The EPA has prevented these and many other harms. And yes, it was created by liberals, who think that private citizens should not be harmed by large, polluting corporations without the right to try to stop it and protect themselves, their property and their children? What do you believe?



I will apologize for calling them "libtards". They are simply leftwing fools and bureacrats, interested in nothing but their own paychecks and aggrandizement.

Canada wants the pipeline; we want the pipeline. The State department shouldn't have been involved any more than to determine what Canada wanted.

The EPA has grown fat and ridiculously bloated with red tape, now its only product. Our national Air and Waters are largely clean, except for a few pockets like metro Houston and metro Los Angeles.

We should be looking forward to an National Celebration on completing that achievement, done largely and accomplished by the early work of the EPA. Those efforts merely needed time to accomplish and bring to fruition.

Formed for a valid reason, all sanity within EPA has vanished lately, when you can have certifiable criminals like Lisa Jackson, Carol Browner, John Holdren and Ken Salazar doing patently illegal things while being influential in its decisions. Meanwhile the current EPA chases will-of-the-wisps, like demands for wants cleaner than clean water, and wastes billions accomplishing nothing.

Ralph Nader, hardly a right winger, has said any bureaucracy created has a useful life expectancy of only twenty years before it is captured or becomes senescent, and becomes a detrimental force.

The EPA is forty years old, or twice as long as is useful, according to Nader. I actually like his recommendation. That is that we close the agency in question, and reconstitute whatever is proved necessary in those two years. With a further proviso, that none of the former insiders are eligible to return to their former posts.


A country without the EPA.stories http://gerdludwig.com/


The EPA should be gutted, given a shoe-string budget and staffed primarily with entry level employees fresh out of college. Promotion opportunities should also be extremely scarce. Afterwards the agency would essentially be rigged to be an agency that trains people to go into the private sector to work for consultants. New funding should only go to streamlining internal processes and procedures via technology, automation, etc.


According to a very recent worldwide survey, over 75% care a lot about the environment we live in. Only about 22% have not yet realized that pollution is bad for livings creatures. The 80/20 split is a worldwide phenomena. That is human nature with all its defective parts. Not much can be done about it. Let's hope that increased pollution levels will not make it worst.


Thanks to the EPA, we now have trout living in rivers and streams which were once unsafe for human contact.

If you think the EPA should be shredded, you should first breathe the toxic air and drink the poisonous water in e.g. China. For a year. If you survive and haven't changed your mind, I'll listen to you.


A year ago, the Gulf oil spill still hadn't been cemented shut.

America, what a memory..


Would the same funds ($7B to $10B) invested into large diameter trans-mountain pipelines to the West Coast, for exports to Asia, be a wiser investment? It could fix Canada's current high trade imbalance with Asian countries.

Trans-mountain pipelines would require many tunnels trough many rocky mountains. Asian labor (50,000 or so) may be required for 5 to 7 years. The time required could be reduced with 100,000+ people. The new access roads could become part of a new trans-mountain highway or railroad. Of course, new fiber cables and DC power cables could also use the same route.

Considering all does possibilities, trans-mountain pipelines plus other facilities would be more beneficial to Canada's economy.


"Thanks to the EPA, we now have trout living in rivers and streams which were once unsafe for human contact."

This is just a pipeline.

There are no fish in it.

This approval is NOT about treatirs or other countries for it to cross.

It's a simple pipeline -

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