By Gary Houston, Vice President, Energy East Pipeline Project
There is an important choice before us all. That choice is about where we get the oil we need and how we choose to transport it. Oil is essential not only for transportation, but also as a key ingredient in thousands of articles we rely on, from smart phones and tablets to surgical equipment and clothing.
TransCanada’s own Keystone pipeline has safely transported roughly 830 million barrels through Saskatchewan since it began operating in 2010. During that time, the province has witnessed the rapid growth in the transport of crude oil by rail, with an increasing number of trains passing through cities and towns every day. Much of the oil in those tanker cars is destined for refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick. Why? Because those refineries are not connected to a Canadian oil supply by pipeline. In fact, most of the oil they process is imported from foreign suppliers using trains and ships.
Pipelines are the safest and most efficient way to move oil, especially large volumes over longer distances. Everyone who transports products like oil wants to see it done safely and efficiently. Energy East is a $12 billion project, which will help bring Western oil to eastern markets and provide an opportunity for those refiners to receive oil by pipeline. Energy East will support economic activity, here, in Canada, where natural resources are developed under some of the strictest environmental regulations in the world.
A recent report prepared by the independent firm Navius for the Ontario Energy Board points out that the oil already planned for pipeline transport will be produced anyway. In the absence of a pipeline, it will be transported by rail instead. “As a result, the project’s approval does not affect production from these resources. The pipeline simply changes the mode of transport for these resources from rail to pipeline,” the Navius study concludes.
This project will also generate significant economic benefits for Canada and more specifically, for the province of Saskatchewan. For example, according to a recent study from the Conference Board of Canada, Energy East will support more than 750 full-time direct and spin-off jobs in the province in the first few years alone. Additionally, municipalities and the provincial government will see a $350 million boost in tax revenues during construction and the first 20 years of operation, with Saskatchewan’s GDP growing by $2.7 billion over that same period.
It should be noted the Energy East Pipeline will carry many kinds of crude oil. That includes oil produced in Alberta’s oil sands. Contrary to what opponents of the project often claim, the diluent used to make diluted bitumen from heavy oil is itself a derivative of gasoline. The resulting “dilbit” behaves in a very similar way to other kinds of oil.
TransCanada is in the business of building and operating safe pipelines.
Our enviable safety record is the product of rigorously applied best practices, which begin with the design of our equipment, and continues throughout the lifecycle of our entire pipeline infrastructure. Our teams of safety specialists monitor pipeline activity 24/7 using real-time information which is relayed from thousands of sensors along the pipeline route. We place shut-off valves in strategic locations, and use thicker-walled pipe when traversing rivers and other waterways. We work hand-in-hand with communities to ensure local knowledge about pipeline safety. We establish emergency plans and provide specialized training to local first responders.
Consider our impressive safety track record: TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline which runs from Hardisty, Alberta, to Winnipeg and down to the U.S., has safely delivered more than 830 million barrels of oil since it went into service in 2010. Like Energy East, much of Keystone was converted from gas to oil service.
Energy East is a safer and cleaner way to move the oil we need every day, which will generate real economic benefits for Saskatchewan and all of Canada.