The twists and turns of North America’s oil & gas pipelines

The US and Canadian governments have been desperate to build new pipelines to ferry oil and gas from offshore developments for decades and at every twist and turn they have been met by legal challenges and protests thwarting their plans. We map out the development of some key oil and gas pipelines on the continent.

Used to transport liquids and gases over long distances, oil and natural gas pipelines play a substantial role in the energy economy. Despite the fact that North America consumed around 1.02 billion metric tons of oil and around one trillion cubic meters of gas in 2019, according to Statista, rising environmental concerns and public scrutiny have obstructed the construction of many new pipelines.

With a new decision forcing the Keystone XL to abide by an environmental review process; another court ruling forcing the Dakota access pipeline to shut down for an environmental review; and the total cancellation of the long talked about Atlantic Coast pipeline, we take a look at existing and axed pipeline projects across North America. 

Express 

The Express pipeline transports light, medium, heavy, and super-heavy crude oil from western Canada to refineries in the US Rockies region, with its transportation points being located between Hardisty, Alberta and Casper, Wyoming. The Canadian and US sections of the Express pipeline connect at the Canada-US border near Wild Horse, Alberta.

The Express pipeline first became operational in 1997, after which Canadian operator Alberta Energy, Calgary, acquired a 50% interest in the ‘Express pipeline system’.

The pipeline was then extended in 2015 with the construction of an additional storage tank at Express’ existing crude oil facility in Hardisty, Alberta. By the end of 2017, the pipeline’s regulated assets included 439km of pipeline length and various auxiliary infrastructure. The current capacity of the Express pipeline is 280,000 barrels per day.

The US section of the Express pipeline is currently owned and operated by Express Pipeline and is regulated by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

Keystone 

The Keystone pipeline system, owned by TC Energy Corporation, opened in 2010. The pipeline transports crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta to refining markets in the US Midwest and US Gulf Coast. The Canadian portion runs east from Hardisty across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, before crossing the Canada-US border near Haskett, Manitoba into North Dakota.

The pipeline sparked controversy when a planned construction of its fourth phase, Keystone XL, sparked environmental opposition, driven by anger over the role that fossil fuels extraction plays in climate breakdown. In 2015, Keystone XL was temporarily delayed by then President Barack Obama.

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