The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

More on Oil Sands...

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted June 4, 2009

A couple of days ago, the Sierra Club posted on The Hill's blog, questioning whether it's safe to bring more Canadian oil sands crude oil into the United States via pipeline. I posted a comment to this post last night, and today on this blog, I'm providing additional information to set the record straight. Simply put, the Sierra Club post grossly exaggerates the risks and ignores the benefits of transporting oil derived from Canada's abundant oil sands to the United States. And it mischaracterizes the pipelines that carry this much-needed oil to American consumers.

First, it's important to note that there's nothing new about Canadian oil sands oil coming into the United States. It's been transported to this country for decades and currently accounts for more than 1 million barrels a day of U.S. oil imports. Having a supply of oil from our friendly neighbor to the north is critical to our nation's energy security. Use the player below to hear more about Canada's abundant deposits of oil sands and why they're important to the United States.

Before the oil sands-derived crude oil enters a pipeline, it must first meet quality specifications established by the pipeline and approved/posted by the federal government. These conditions ensure that the oil does not harm the pipeline's integrity or present a potential safety problem. Once in the pipeline, crude oil from the oil sands has characteristics like any other heavy crude from around the world.

Also, pipelines are constructed to strict standards. Both industry and government regulators inspect pipelines routinely, and pipeline operators must adhere to stringent maintenance requirements. Pipelines generally are positioned underground where they do not interfere with farming or other surface activities. They are regarded as one of the safest modes of transportation.

A number of unions have voiced their support for the oil sands pipeline projects because these projects create jobs and opportunity for workers on both sides of our northern border. In the United States, Enbridge's Alberta Clipper pipeline, which is expected to begin construction this week, will create 3,000 U.S. jobs through the end of 2009. At its construction peak this year, Keystone's $12 billion pipeline will employ 5,500 workers--3,000 of which will be in the United States.

As API noted, concerns about the climate impact of oil sands are excessive. And as I mentioned in a previous post, a new study by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) found the "well to wheels" greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the oil sands are comparable to other sources of crude oil processed in the United States. Furthermore, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)--a division of the Department of Energy--reports that Canada is responsible for only 2 percent of global GHG emissions, and only 4 percent of those emissions are attributable to oil sands.

Read more about oil sands and how it's transported by pipeline.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.