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Keystone XL pipeline leaking controversy

Keystone XL pipeline partners want to complete the northern leg of Keystone XL, from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska. In Montana, KXL is stockpiling pipe and building roads, including a road to a pump station site in Circle. A large company is set to bring in 150,000 cubic yards of gravel for a man camp, pipe storage and roadways.

Looking at new information, Montana District Judge Brian Morris recently ruled to stop KXL construction on federal lands until further review.

KXL would be a 1,666-mile keystone holding together certain refineries and certain foreign-owned producers of dilbit, refineries capable of processing dilbit or crude oil. The largest such refinery is Motiva; it is wholly owned by Saudi Aramco, which is owned by the government of Saudia Arabia. Dilbit is composed of about one part of natural gas condensates, selected for their high content of non-polar solvents, and two parts of tarry bitumen.

Those refineries would purchase refinery feedstock perhaps $20 a barrel cheaper in Alberta than in Texas.

KXL would daily pump 830,000 refinery barrels (42 gallons) a day of Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) grade, heavy, sour crude oil through a 285-mile-long pipeline in Montana. According to the KXL final supplemental impact statement, most of that WCSB would be dilbit.

Consider the proposed KXL pump station immediately below Fork Peck Dam, the pump station that has never been in the news. The pump station where five electricity-consuming pump motors would surge 36-inch diameter pipeline pressure from about 300 psi to 1,600 psi, to impel non-polar solvent-dissolved bitumen (dilbit) up a steep, very tall, rocky hill and on to the pump station in Circle.

In Montana, 21 KXL shutoff valves, and each of the 29 KXL 6,500 hp pump motors, would be remote controlled from Calgary. All KXL pump stations other than Fort Peck would discharge pressure at 1,300 psi.

Ask state legislators that KXL:

  • Pump stations adjacent to underwater crossings of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers be staffed.
  • Owners provide the governor with real-time pressure readings. A pressure drop may indicate a partial seam split,or weld failure at a joint. Longitudinal pipe seams are not welded together by welding rod-penetrating adjacent edges. The lengthwise edges are joined by passing a high current through the adjacent edges.
  • Provide us with periodic corrosion, pitting and dent findings from internal pipe examination derived by standard means.
  • Not locate the Emergency Response Base for Montana in South Dakota, as now proposed. Locate the all-season, all-terrain equipment, water craft, breathing apparatus and trained contract personnel right here in Montana.
  • Pay for, rather than not pay for, gravel “borrowed” from Montana to construct roads and to pad the bottom of the trench.
  • Inform us how many KXL common carrier conveyed barrels of dilbit are refined for export.
  • Pay a fair, transparent, transit tax to the state of Montana.

Please remember that producing dilbit emits more CO2 than does producing crude oil. Please remember that refining dilbit and managing dilbit refining waste emits more CO2 than does refining crude oil, which produces comparatively little waste. My figures indicate over 10,000 pounds of CO2 would be emitted to power one KXL pump for one hour with coal-fired electricity. I'm figuring that over 1.5 million pounds of CO2 would be emitted per hour to power KXL pump motors from Hardisty to the Port Arthur seaport with coal-fired electricity.

Ask our governor about KXL-related CO2 emissions, how KXL mercury emissions would impact Montana fisheries, if Aramco will own part of KXL or much of the dilbit pumped through Montana. Aramco, the world’s most profitable organization.

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Bob Williams of Stevensville formerly worked at an oil refinery in Billings, and has spent many hours studying Keystone XL pipeline documents, environmental impact statements and Montana Department of Environmental Quality regulations. 

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