In some respects the Keystone XL project has been about more than just building a pipeline to carry toxic tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The controversial plan also has served as a sleight-of-hand trick for an industry that has quietly built other pipelines in recent years.
In fact, the U.S. system of oil pipelines has grown in size by nearly 25% over the past 10 years, according to the Associated Press. This expansion has resulted in more than 11,600 miles of pipeline being laid, much of it in the western half of the country. Compare that to Keystone, which would stretch only 1,179 miles.
Keystone’s oil carrying capacity would be dramatically less than what’s now flowing through many states as a result of the new pipelines. “About 3.3 million barrels per day of capacity have been added since 2012 alone — five times more oil than the Canada-to-Texas Keystone line could carry if it’s ever built,” AP’s Henry Jackson wrote.
New pipelines have gone into operation in North Dakota, Wyoming and Texas, while portions of Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota may also see new pipelines in the near future.
As the pipeline network expands, regulators have been almost powerless to ensure that pipelines already in existence are safe.Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed a sweeping update of safety rules for pipelines, according to EnergyWire. As might be expected, the agency is facing opposition from the oil industry.
One of the most important provisions of the proposal is to change the way a pipeline’s maximum pressure, on which the capacity to move fluids is based, is measured. It could also mandate replacement of a pipeline that isn’t up to standards.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley