What is the 'Keystone XL Pipeline'

The Keystone XL pipeline is a proposed extension of the Keystone pipeline system that will transport oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in the United States. As of 2014, the Keystone XL pipeline will be developed by TransCanada Corporation, which has constructed several other pipelines between Canada and the United States since 2011.

In November 2015, President Barack Obama announced his administration will not be granting permits for the construction of this pipeline to further the commitment to fighting climate change. In his first week at the Oval Office, President Trump signed an executive order clearing the way for the pipeline project. The Republican party believes that construction of this pipeline will create more jobs and provide a boost to the economy. 

BREAKING DOWN 'Keystone XL Pipeline'

Keystone system transports diluted bitumen and synthetic crude oil from Alberta through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, to refineries located in Texas, Illinois, and Oklahoma. Keystone XL would run from the Hardisty Terminal in Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, and would pass through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Because the Keystone XL pipeline would provide a more direct route to refineries found in the United States, it will make the first phase of the Keystone less useful.

Canada has large reserves of oil locked in oil sands. This oil is considered heavy oil, which requires a different refining process from other types of oil. The production of heavy oil releases particulate matter, such as soot, as well as chemicals such as sulfides, hydrogen cyanide, and sulfur.

The first phase of the Keystone Pipeline, completed in 2011, is approximately 2100 miles long, while the proposed Keystone XL expansion is estimated to be over 1100 miles long. Keystone XL is estimated to be able to carry over 800,000 barrels of oil a day, bringing the capacity of the Keystone system to 1.1 million barrels per day.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has been criticized by environmental groups, politicians, and residents of states through which the pipeline is to pass. These groups have raised concerns of the proposed route’s proximity to the Sandhill region of Nebraska, as well as the Ogallala aquifer, which provides a significant portion of the water used to water crops in the United States. The bitumen carried by the pipeline to the United States will likely result in higher greenhouse gas emissions.

Proponents of the pipeline say that it will increase the supply of oil to the United States and that oil coming from a friendly neighboring country increases security.

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