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February 8, 2021

How Will Ending Keystone Pipeline Expansion Impact The Environment?

As Connecting the Dots readers are aware, President Joe Biden recently revoked authorization for expansion of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

According to an analysis by the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance (EEIA), which MSCI is a member of, the decision will add at least 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year to the atmosphere. That is the equivalent of emissions from 490,000 automobiles.

How? Because not completing the project will force major quantities of Canadian crude oil onto the railways between Hardisty, Alberta, and the U.S. Gulf Coast refining complex. The distance from Hardisty to the complex is about 2,200 miles. According to the EEIA, replacing pipeline capacity with rail shipments would require 645 carloads of 620 barrels each per day, or more than six fully-loaded 100-plus car “unit trains.” At 4.86 tons of carbon dioxide emitted per carload, that amounts to 3,135 tons of carbon dioxide emitted per day. The trips would emit nearly 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year – and that is just to get the resource to the refining facility.

After a crude train unloads its cargo on the Gulf Coast, it must return empty to Hardisty to pick up the next load. EEIA estimates that the empty return trip would burn about one-third as much fuel as a loaded train going south.

The Keystone XL Pipeline, meanwhile, would have been built to operate entirely on renewable energy. At 400,000 barrels per day, it would have avoided diesel locomotive emissions of approximately 1.52 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. If the pipeline were operated at full capacity, that number would double to about three million tons of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere annually.

Learn more about EEIA here.