U.S. corrects Keystone study estimate of rail deaths, other errors

WASHINGTON Fri Jun 6, 2014 4:06pm EDT

A TransCanada Keystone Pipeline pump station operates outside Steele City, Nebraska March 10, 2014.  REUTERS/Lane Hickenbottom

A TransCanada Keystone Pipeline pump station operates outside Steele City, Nebraska March 10, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Lane Hickenbottom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The State Department on Friday corrected several errors it made in a key study evaluating the impact of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, including a understatement of how many people could be killed on railroad tracks if the project were rejected and oil traffic by rail increased.

The department said, however, these corrections had "no impact" on the integrity of the conclusions of the January report, which played down potential environmental consequences of TransCanada Corp's Canada-to-Texas project.

The Obama administration has not yet decided whether to approve the project.

The January report determined that blocking the controversial pipeline could increase oil train traffic and lead to an additional 49 injuries and six deaths per year, mostly by using historical injury and fatality statistics for railways.

That finding was a small element of a broader examination of how building the pipeline could impact climate change, endangered species, quality of life and other issues.

But the report mistakenly used a forecast for three months of expected accidents rather than full-year figures, officials said. The correct estimate of deaths should be roughly four times as large - between 18 and 30 fatalities per year.

Officials also revised a footnoted reference to how much electricity would be needed to power pumping stations along the route of the pipeline that would link Canada's oil sands region to Texas refineries.

Running at something less than full capacity, the pumping stations would not require as much electricity - and so tax power plants less - than originally reported.

Revising that footnote has no impact on the State Department's estimation of expected greenhouse gas emissions tied to the pipeline, a spokesperson said.

"It is common practice to publish an errata sheet that notes and corrects errors in voluminous technical documents such as environmental impact statements," the State Department said.

"The Department has reviewed each of the items listed in the errata sheet and has determined that they have no impact on the integrity of, or the conclusions reached in, the (final report)."

The State Department also published several dozen public comments that had not been included in the roughly 2.5 million it received and previously disclosed.

(Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Ros Krasny and Will Dunham)

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Comments (3)
RobDekker wrote:
Of course, there is no evidence that rail transport of Canadian bitumen would actually increase if the Keystone XL is not built.

In fact, if it would, why didn’t already ?

There is plenty of evidence that rail transport of our DOMESTIC light sweet crude from the ND Bakken is increasing, but these ultra-heavy bitumen from Alberta are a whole different story. For starters, you need special rail cars (with steam heated coils) to transport these bitumen, since they have the viscosity of peanut butter at room temperature and are as solid as a hokey puck at 50 F.

Which means Canadian tar sand bitumen are more costly to load, more costly to unload, and more costly to transport than our domestic light sweet crude.

As a result, State Department data shows that new tar sand projects are not profitable without the Keystone XL, and tar sand development will be held back by some 500 k bpd bitumen :
http://www.carbontracker.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Kxl-The-Significance-Trap_FINAL_03_03_2014.pdf

Which of course means that there will hardly be any increase in rail transport of Canadian bitumen if the Keystone XL is rejected, and thus these “rail deaths” will not occur.

Jun 07, 2014 4:59am EDT  --  Report as abuse
RobDekker wrote:
Of course, there is no evidence that rail transport of Canadian bitumen would actually increase if the Keystone XL is not built.

In fact, if it would, why didn’t already ?

There is plenty of evidence that rail transport of our DOMESTIC light sweet crude from the ND Bakken is increasing, but these ultra-heavy bitumen from Alberta are a whole different story. For starters, you need special rail cars (with steam heated coils) to transport these bitumen, since they have the viscosity of peanut butter at room temperature and are as solid as a hokey puck at 50 F.

Which means Canadian tar sand bitumen are more costly to load, more costly to unload, and more costly to transport than our domestic light sweet crude.

As a result, State Department data shows that new tar sand projects are not profitable without the Keystone XL, and tar sand development will be held back by some 500 k bpd bitumen :
http://www.carbontracker.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Kxl-The-Significance-Trap_FINAL_03_03_2014.pdf

Which of course means that there will hardly be any increase in rail transport of Canadian bitumen if the Keystone XL is rejected, and thus these “rail deaths” will not occur.

Jun 07, 2014 4:59am EDT  --  Report as abuse
morbas wrote:
Rail infrastructure redesign to wider gauge is needed. The present gauge is ad-hock, accommodating two abreast horses. This a standard defined by a Roman Empire 2,000 years-ago. The gauge was adopted only to accommodate existing carriage tooling. With heavier freight, and the demand for longer tank cars, unbalanced top heavy cars present derailment catastrophe in the waiting.
Congress must open up infrastructure projects to enable USA economics. Reduce/eliminate naval shipping that uses waste grade oil fuel. Switch to North/Central/South America Rail infrastructure to include a Trans-Bearing Strait route as a matter of efficiency. Re-Engineer rail gauge for reliability and speed. Make Truck/rail/freeway portals at interstate intersections, thus reducing fuel consumption and promoting local electric transport. Build national level canals for water distribution relieving drought by using excessive fresh water run of. We might then improve CO2 sequester by irrigating our mid plane deserts. One of the canal paths through the Rockies could be coupled with a SF to Denver Maglev 2G space ramp using a common power generation infrastructure. Thus promoting Maglev transit as a spinoff of Space Access Maglev launch capacity.
We should build on a strategic infrastructure designed to make USA a Global transportation hub, linking Americas (North Central South) to the old world. Not because this is easy or hard, because this will be our challenge, we must be willing to better mankind.

And what of sea transport environmental impact…

Look at North America less than 100ma-ago with no polar Ice. USA was two land masses Appalachia in the East and Laramidia in the West, separated by the Western Interior Seaway. For the life of me I do not understand why we are widening the Panama Canal to increase shipping.
Naval Cargo ships have little (to none) emission regulations. “In one year, a single large container ship can emit cancer and asthma-causing pollutants equivalent to that of 50 million cars. The low grade bunker fuel used by the worlds 90,000 cargo ships contains up to 2,000 times the amount of sulfur compared to diesel fuel used in automobiles.” The Guardian April 23,2009. Waste Oil is used to power the worlds 90,000 vessels.

morbas(i)

Jun 08, 2014 9:19am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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