Could The Keysone Pipeline Project Become A Rail Project?


As TransCanada, the company that has been trying to get approval for the Keystone XL pipeline project (which is extremely important infrastructure for North Dakota oil development, especially in light of the recent train derailment in Casselton), waits for yet another State Department report they’ve announced the possibility of bridging the space between completed sections of the line with rail:

TransCanada Corp. could develop a rail bridge from Canada to Nebraska if the northern portion of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline continues to be held up by the U.S. government, president and CEO Russ Girling said Tuesday.

The Calgary-based company has ongoing dialogue with railways and oil companies about options to Keystone, and “if we need to bridge with rail, we will bridge,” Mr. Girling said in an interview.

“I don’t think we would ever stop pressing the pipeline option, but there is a point in time at which we would consider a rail option,” he said.

With the oil-driven spike in rail traffic leading to several high-profile incidents of train derailments, with varying degrees of tragedy, this isn’t exactly good news for those concerned with the safe transport of oil.

Like it or not, pipelines are safer than rail. Sure, pipelines spill too, but pipelines don’t derail causing fire balls and death.

Pipeline obstructionism is pushing oil transport to infrastructure that is inherently less safe.

That’s unfortunate, but unlikely to change, as these people are concerned with transport safety so much as they are with stopping the use of oil in general.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • JoeMN

    An inefficient truck, to rail head, to pipeline, to refinery configuration.
    Sounds like a government induced resolution to me.

  • yeppers

    Pipelines don’t derail, but some do explode and cause deaths. Most commonly, but no exclusively gas pipelines. Been some noteworthy oil pipeline explosions in the world.
    That said, clearly pipelines would have fewer such accidents for any given amount of oil transported as compared to rail.

  • R David Adams

    They only need approval to go over the international border, so stop at Portal, make a two pr three lane rail roundhouse with load and unload facility. One end of circle in Canada and the other in US. Load oil in Canada and Unload in US. Hook up lines to western NODAK and we have the pipeline without 0bama. Not as efficient as before but better than nothing!

  • Dakotacyr
    • Rob

      What’s not mentioned in that report is that most of the spills are tiny, and take place at junctions on the pipelines where such spills are prepared for, meaning there is no environmental impact.

    • tony_o2

      How many people died in the Quebec accident? How many people could have been killed, but luckily werent, when trains crashed in Alabama, Alberta and North Dakota?

  • awfulorv

    During World War II, to counter German subs, the big Inch pipeline, a 24″ line, from texas to Ill., later to Penn. was laid, and finished in about a year.
    The little inch, a 20″ line, was Laid, nearly alongside, a year later.
    They are still in use today, by the way.
    It is instructive that real men, who knew how to get things done during desperate times, chose pipelines over railroads, though there was plenty of trackage available.
    It is also indicative of the, nonsensical, political interference prevalent in our country today, that the XL Pipeline has sat rusting, and lives are being uneccessarily risked, because of the obstinacy of a no-nothing President, and his liberal base.
    But what can be expected from a man who has, sneeringly, and bizarely declared and, in the process, denigrated so many, by insisting that, “you never built that”?
    After all, he did require another countrie’s benevolent Dictator, Putin, to save him, after he had nearly stumbled, foolishly, across a red line. Another of his inane, and embarrassing, gaffes.
    Is it possible that , within this man’s mind, and affecting most of his supporters, is a mental block which has made those so afflicted, believe that nothing can, in fact, be built?
    That it’s better to whine until someone, tiring of the incessant whining, relents, and passes a bill which gives them what it is they yearn to have.
    Alas! that appears to be the status quo of todays brand of politics.

    • Oswaldo

      Better go easy on the Kool-Aid, Sir. Where is your logic? You say:
      “It is also indicative of the, nonsensical, political interference prevalent in our country today, that the XL Pipeline has sat rusting, and lives are being [unnecessarily] risked …, “

      Fortunately, it is precisely because the XL Pipeline has sat rusting that lives [and lands] are being spared, not risked.
      Would you like to see crappy Canadian tar sands, and potential carbon pollution from their possible expansion, flow across America’s heartlands for shipment to other parts of the world to somebody else’s benefit?

      • awfulorv

        If that were the case we would read of hundreds of oil spills per week, as there are thousands of miles of such lines buried throughout the country.
        Some have been there for a hundred years and, though prudence would suggest they be replaced, they still function as they were meant to. Your move…

        • Oswaldo

          All I can say is that we need that pipeline like a hole in the head. Of course, if Obama had been for the pipeline, you guys would have found gazillion reasons to oppose such a disastrous project.

          • Rob

            All I can say is that we need that pipeline like a hole in the head.

            Right. Why build pipelines when we can crowd the roads with trucks and the tracks with trains?