Former Pipeline Safety Chief: Keystone XL "Best Option" for Petroleum Transport

May 07, 2013, 17:15 ET from United Transportation Advisors, LLC

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The former head of the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) at the U.S. Department of Transportation said today that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest and should move forward at a joint hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy & Subcommittee on Environment of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

"The Keystone pipeline system is clearly within the national interest of the United States," said Brigham McCown of United Transportation Advisors, LLC, and former acting administrator and deputy administrator of PHMSA.  "And based on the available information and plans for construction – the completed Keystone system would be the safest pipeline ever built in this country.  And looking at all other possible modes of transportation, pipelines represent the best option when it comes to moving large volumes of energy products over great distances."

When completed, Keystone system would deliver more than 1.1 million barrels of oil per day to U.S. refiners; more than the U.S. imports from Venezuela (579,000 bpd) or Saudi Arabia (1.0 mln bpd).  The U.S. is already home to more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines providing needed energy resources to every corner of the country every hour of every day.

In his testimony, former acting administrator McCown outlined several key points to the Members in attendance:

1.     The Keystone Pipeline System Has Already Been Largely Approved and Built.

  • Three of the four phases of Keystone have already been approved.
  • Two of the three phases are already operational.
  • Phase three will become operational by the end of 2013.

2.     Pipelines Are The Safest Form of Transportation, Bar None.

  • While all modes of transportation are relatively safe, pipelines are the preferred method for transporting large volumes of energy products over great distances.
  • The Department of State (DOS) studies have confirmed that "spills associated with the proposed Project that enter the environment are expected to be rare and relatively small."

3.     Keystone is the Safest Pipeline Ever Proposed & Built.

  • The Department of State correctly concludes "the incorporation of the 57 Special Conditions will result in the project having a degree of safety over any other typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system." (4.13-64)

4.     Despite Claims To The Contrary, Oil Sands Crude Is No Different Than Other Conventional Heavy Crude Oils.

  • Multiple studies by Canadian, British and American entities have all concluded that Canadian dilbit mixtures have similar, and in some cases even a lower corrosivity score than crude oils from Mexico, Columbia, and California.[1]
  • Crude derived from oil sands has been transported by pipeline since 1968[2].
  • Diluted bitumen has been transported for over 25 years.
  • U.S. Government safety data has not found a single instance of a pipeline release (spill) caused by internal corrosion from Dilbit.[3]

5.     Canada's Oil Sands Will Continue to be Developed.

  • Despite the growth of U.S. oil production, the Canadian oil sands will play a critical role in supplying the U.S. energy demand.
  • Rail and vessel currently assist pipelines in bringing oil to markets and that trend will continue.

6.     Environmental Concerns Related to Phase Four Have Already Been Thoroughly Vetted and Addressed.

  • Threats to Ogallala Aquifer are misplaced. Pipelines have safely transported crude and refined products over the aquifer since at least 1953.
  • Multiple environmental studies by U.S. Government and University of Nebraska experts have all concluded the pipeline will not threaten the ecological stability of the region.
  • Executive Order 13337 was intended to expedite, not hinder cross-border permits.

"From both a safety and NEPA point of view, this has been the most scrutinized, and carefully reviewed pipeline project in our nation's history," McCown said.  "I am confident that, if approved, this pipeline will offer a level of protection above what the law requires and I am satisfied this pipeline will improve the security, welfare and safety of our nation as a whole."

For more information on Keystone XL visit

[1]  See Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, "Comparison of the Corrosivity of Dilbit and Conventional Crude" September 2011; Battelle Memorial Institute, "Diluted Bitumen-Derived Crude Oil: Relative Pipeline Impacts" July 20, 2012; CEPA & Penspen Integrity, "Dilbit Corrosivity" February 21, 2013.

[2] Id.

[3] Id. See also, Lidiak P, "Diluted Bitumen; What it is, pipeline transportation and impact on pipelines" Presentation to TRB Panel, July, 2012. 

SOURCE United Transportation Advisors, LLC