Pembina Institute Backgrounder, January 2013
>”The climate implications of the proposed Keystone XL oilsands pipeline
by Nathan Lemphers
At a Glance Canada’s oilsands industry is growing quickly, with plans to nearly triple production from 1.8 to 5.2 million barrels a day by 2030.
To realize this substantial growth, pipelines to export markets are essential. TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline from the oilsands to a new market on the U.S. Gulf Coast is the most significant proposal awaiting approval. If built, Keystone XL will be a key driver for oilsands growth.
Other alternatives to ship oilsands to the west or east coast of Canada will, for the short to medium term, play a less dominant role in accelerating oilsands development. These other proposals are smaller in pipeline capacity than Keystone XL, are in the very early stages of development, or face major public opposition. Regardless of whether other oilsands transport options move ahead, approval of Keystone XL will lead to substantial expansion of oilsands production and therefore an increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.
Filling Keystone XL with oilsands will cause a 36 per cent increase from current oilsands production, for which the higher upstream emissions alone will be equivalent to the annual emissions from 6.3 coal-fired power plants or over 4.6 million cars. This value will be higher when the additional emissions from upgrading and refining in the U.S. are considered.
In the absence of a credible plan for responsible development of the oilsands, including mitigating GHG emissions growth to a level that would allow Canada to meet its international climate commitments, the United States should not go ahead with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.