The Keystone Pipeline SystemThe Keystone Pipeline System moves bituminous and synthetic crude oil from Canada's oil sands production sites in Alberta to refineries in the U.S. Midwest and further to storage and distribution facilities in Cushing, Oklahoma and Texas. It is owned by the Canada-based oil and gas transporting giant TC Energy and has been partly operational since 2010, with an average daily outflow throughput of around 550,000 barrels. The Keystone pipeline network is made up of three functional phases, with Keystone XL being the proposed fourth phase. It would see oil moved via a more direct route from Alberta to Nebraska as well as connecting to the Bakken oilfield that lies between.
The role of pipelines in North America's oil industryThe gross output of U.S. pipeline transportation amounts to over 50 billion U.S. dollars every year. Pipelines are the most common mode of moving crude oil from extraction sites to refineries and distribution centers. They are also the preferred way of trading oil across the continent. Petroleum outflow from PADD 2 (comprising states in the U.S. Midwest, including refinery hubs in Oklahoma, Illinois, and Nebraska) stands at around 1.3 billion barrels, with total petroleum shipments from PADD 2 at 1.7 billion barrels.
Aside from the inherent risk of spillages, concern over the Keystone XL project largely centers around the role of oil going forward; particularly the commitment to oil sands production, which is the most polluting form of oil production. As President Biden has the U.S. rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and many countries increase their efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, the benefits of investing in an additional pipeline for the already existing Keystone Pipeline System have been debated for the last ten years.