Keystone XL South was approved via a controversial Army Corps Nationwide Permit 12 and an accompanying March 2012 Executive Order from President Barack Obama. The pipeline, open for business since January 2014, will now carry tar sands crude from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas without the cloud of the legal challenge hanging over its head since 2012.
US department of state
With some analysts predicting the global price of oil to see another drop, many oil majors have deployed their parachutes and jumped from the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) projects rapidly nose-diving across the world.
As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, the unconvetional shale oil and gas boom is still predominantly U.S.-centric, likely to remain so for years to come.
“Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC have packed up nearly all of their hydraulic fracturing wildcatting in Europe, Russia and China,” wrote The Wall Street Journal.
“Chevron halted its last European fracking operations in February when it pulled out of Romania. Shell said it is cutting world-wide shale spending by 30% in places including Turkey, Ukraine and Argentina. Exxon has pulled out of Poland and Hungary, and its German fracking operations are on hold.”
Though the fracking boom has taken off in the U.S. like no other place on Earth, the U.S. actually possesses less than 10 percent of the world’s estimated shale reserves, according to The Journal.
Despite this resource allotment discrepency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently revealed that only four countries in the world have produced fracked oil or gas at a commercial-scale: the United States, Canada, China and Argentina.
Image Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Although TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has received the lion's share of media attention, another key border-crossing pipeline benefitting tar sands producers was approved on November 19 by the U.S. State Department.
Enter Cochin, Kinder Morgan's 1,900-mile proposed pipeline to transport gas produced via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of the Eagle Ford Shale basin in Texas north through Kankakee, Illinois, and eventually into Alberta, Canada, the home of the tar sands.
Like Keystone XL, the pipeline proposal requires U.S. State Department approval because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border. Unlike Keystone XL - which would carry diluted tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) south to the Gulf Coast - Kinder Morgan's Cochin pipeline would carry the gas condensate (diluent) used to dilute the bitumen north to the tar sands.
“The decision allows Kinder Morgan Cochin LLC to proceed with a $260 million plan to reverse and expand an existing pipeline to carry an initial 95,000 barrels a day of condensate,” the Financial Post wrote.
“The extra-thick oil is typically cut with 30% condensate so it can move in pipelines. By 2035, producers could require 893,000 barrels a day of the ultra-light oil, with imports making up 786,000 barrels of the total.”
Increased demand for diluent among Alberta's tar sands producers has created a growing market for U.S. producers of natural gas liquids, particularly for fracked gas producers.
“Total US natural gasoline exports reached a record volume of 179,000 barrels per day in February as Canada's thirst for oil sand diluent ramped up,” explained a May 2013 article appearing in Platts. ”US natural gasoline production is forecast to increase to roughly 450,000 b/d by 2020.”
Youth climate activists struck again last week, calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to stop the proposed Alberta Clipper pipeline that would “suck filthy tar sands into the U.S.” from Canada.
It's no wonder the State Department avoided any press attention over the latest US Climate Action Report released on Friday. (see this previous post for details).
You can find the whole report here - I've taken the liberty of highlighting some of the more interesting quotes that I'm sure the White House would love to sweep under the rug…