Keystone Oil Pipeline

From Global Energy Monitor
This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.

The Keystone Pipeline System is an oil pipeline system in Canada and the United States, commissioned in 2010 and now owned solely by TC Energy. It runs from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta to refineries in Illinois and Texas, and also to oil tank farms and an oil pipeline distribution center in Cushing, Oklahoma.[1] The pipeline garnered substantial attention when a planned fourth phase, Keystone XL Oil Pipeline, attracted growing environmental protest, became a symbol of the battle over climate change and fossil fuels, and in 2015 was rejected by then President Barack Obama. On January 24, 2017, President Donald Trump took action intended to permit the pipeline's completion.

Three phases of the project are in operation. They are:

  • The Keystone Pipeline (Phase I), delivering oil from Hardisty, Alberta, over 2,147 miles to the junction at Steele City, Nebraska, and on to Wood River Refinery in Roxana, Illinois, and Patoka Oil Terminal Hub (tank farm) north of Patoka, Illinois, completed in June 2010.[2]
  • The Keystone-Cushing extension (Phase II), running 291 miles from Steele City to storage and distribution facilities (tank farm) at Cushing, Oklahoma,[3] completed in February 2011.[4]
  • The Gulf Coast Extension (Phase III), running 487 miles from Cushing to refineries at Port Arthur, Texas was completed in January 2014,[5][6] and a lateral pipeline to refineries at Houston, Texas and a terminal will be completed mid-2016, going online the following year.[7]

The proposed Keystone XL Oil Pipeline (sometimes abbreviated KXL, with XL standing for "export limited"[8]) Pipeline (Phase IV) would essentially duplicate (though along a shorter route and with a larger-diameter pipe) the Phase I pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta, and Steele City, Nebraska.[9] It would run through Baker, Montana, where American-produced light crude oil from the Williston Basin (Bakken formation) of Montana and North Dakota would be added[1] to the Keystone's throughput of synthetic crude oil (syncrude) and diluted bitumen (dilbit) from the oil sands of Canada. After more than six years of review, President Barack Obama announced on November 6, 2015, his administration's rejection of the fourth phase. On January 24, 2017, President Trump signed presidential memoranda to revive both the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline and Dakota Access pipelines. The memorandum is designed to expedite the environmental review process.[10]

The first two phases have the capacity to deliver up to 590,000 barrels of oil per day into the Mid-West refineries.[3] Phase III has capacity to deliver up to 700,000 barrels of oil per day to the Texas refineries.[11] By comparison, U.S. oil production averaged 9,400,000 barrels of oil per day in the first half of 2015, with gross exports of 500,000 barrels of oil per day through July 2015.[12]


The pipeline runs from Hardisty, Alberta, to Port Arthur and Houston, Texas.

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Project Details

  • Operator: TC Energy
  • Owner: TC Energy
  • Parent company: TC Energy
  • Capacity: 700,000 barrels per day
  • Diameter: 36 inches
  • Length: 2,151 miles
  • Status: Operating
  • Start year: 2010


The Keystone Pipeline system consists of the operational Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III, the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project. A fourth, proposed pipeline expansion segment Phase IV, Keystone XL, failed to receive necessary permits from the United States federal government in 2015. Construction of Phase III, from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Nederland, Texas, in the Gulf Coast area, began in August 2012 as an independent economic utility, sidestepping the requirement for a Presidential Permit because it does not cross an international border.[13] Phase III was opened on 22 January 2014,[11] The Keystone XL Pipeline Project (Phase IV) revised proposal in 2012 consists of a new 36-inch pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta, through Montana and South Dakota to Steele City, Nebraska, to "transport of up to 830,000 barrels per day of crude oil from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta, Canada, and from the Williston Basin (Bakken) region in Montana and North Dakota, primarily to refineries in the Gulf Coast area."[1] The Keystone XL pipeline segments were intended to allow American crude oil to enter the XL pipelines at Baker, Montana, on their way to the storage and distribution facilities at Cushing, Oklahoma. Cushing is a major crude oil marketing/refining and pipeline hub.[14][15]

Operating since 2010, the original Keystone Pipeline System is a 2,151-mile pipeline delivering Canadian crude oil to U.S. Midwest markets and Cushing, Oklahoma. In Canada, the first phase of Keystone involved the conversion of approximately 537 miles of existing 36-inch natural gas pipeline in Saskatchewan and Manitoba to crude oil pipeline service. It also included approximately 232 miles of new 30-inch diameter pipeline, 16 pump stations and the Keystone Hardisty Terminal.[16]

The U.S. portion of the Keystone Pipeline included 1,084 miles of new, 30-inch diameter pipeline in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.[16] The pipeline has a minimum ground cover of 4 feet.[17] It also involved construction of 23 pump stations and delivery facilities at Wood River and Patoka, Illinois. In 2011, the second phase of Keystone included a 298-mile extension from Steele City, Nebraska, to Cushing, Oklahoma, and 11 new pump stations to increase the capacity of the pipeline from 435, 000 to 591,000 barrels per day.[16]

Additional phases (III, completed in 2014, and IV, rejected in 2015) have been in construction or discussion since 2011. If completed, the Keystone XL would have added 510,000 barrels of oil per day increasing the total capacity up to 1.1 million barrels per day.[18]

The original Keystone Pipeline cost US$5.2 billion with the Keystone XL expansion slated to cost approximately US$7 billion. The Keystone XL had been expected to be completed by 2012–2013; however, construction was ultimately overtaken by events.[18]


While the project was originally developed as a partnership between TC Energy and ConocoPhillips, TC Energy is now the sole owner of the Keystone Pipeline System, as TC Energy received regulatory approval on August 12, 2009 to purchase ConocoPhillips' interest.[19]

Certain parties who have agreed to make volume commitments to the Keystone expansion have the option to acquire up to a combined 15% equity ownership.[18] One such company is Valero Energy Corporation.[20]


Phase 1 (complete)

This 2,147-mile pipeline runs from Hardisty, Alberta, to the junction at Steele City, Nebraska, and on to the Wood River Refinery in Roxana, Illinois, and Patoka Oil Terminal Hub (tank farm) north of Patoka, Illinois.[21] The Canadian section involves approximately 864 km (537 mi) of pipeline converted from the Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline and 373 km (232 mi) of new pipeline, pump stations and terminal facilities at Hardisty, Alberta.[22]

The United States section is 1,379 long.[22] It runs through Buchanan, Clinton, Caldwell, Montgomery, Lincoln and St. Charles counties in Missouri, and Nemaha, Brown and Doniphan counties in Kansas before entering Madison County, Illinois.[23] Phase 1 went online in June 2010.[2]

Phase 2 (complete)

The Keystone-Cushing pipeline phase connected the Keystone pipeline (phase 1) in Steele City, Nebraska, south through Kansas to the oil hub and tank farm in Cushing, Oklahoma, a distance of 291 miles. It was constructed in 2010 and went online in February 2011.[4]

Phase 3a (complete)

The Cushing MarketLink pipeline phase started at Cushing, Oklahoma, where American-produced oil is added to the pipeline, then runs south 435 miles to a delivery point near terminals in Nederland, Texas, to serve refineries in the Port Arthur, Texas, area. Keystone started pumping oil through this section in January 2014.[5][6][24] Oil producers in the U.S. pushed for this phase so the glut of oil can be distributed out of the large oil tank farms and distribution center in Cushing.

Phase 3b (complete)

The Houston Lateral pipeline phase is a 47-mile pipeline to transport crude oil from the pipeline in Liberty County, Texas, to refineries and terminal in the Houston area. This phase was constructed 2013 to 2016 and went online in 2017.[7] It added 700,000 barrels per day of transport capacity.[25]

Phase 4 (planned)

Main article: Keystone XL Oil Pipeline
XL Dissent: 398 Youth Arrested at Anti-Keystone XL Pipeline Protest at White House

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline starts from the same area in Alberta, Canada, as the Phase 1 pipeline.[17] The Canadian section would consist of 526 km (327 mi) of new pipeline.[26] It would enter the United States at Morgan, Montana, and travel through Baker, Montana, where American-produced oil would be added to the pipeline; then it would travel through South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would join the existing Keystone pipelines at Steele City, Nebraska.[27] This phase has generated the greatest controversy because of its routing over the Sandhills in Nebraska.[28][29][30]

On 6 November 2015, the project of Keystone XL was rejected by the Obama administration after more than six years of review and initial approval by the Obama State Department.[31] In the wake of Obama's decision, aides to then President Elect Donald Trump were reportedly looking for the easiest way(s) to countermand it.[32]


TC Energy proposed the project on February 9, 2005.[33] In October 2007, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada asked the Canadian federal government to block regulatory approvals for the pipeline, with union president Dave Coles stating "the Keystone pipeline will exclusively serve US markets, create a permanent employment for very few Canadians, reduce our energy security, and hinder investment and job creation in the Canadian energy sector."[34]

The National Energy Board of Canada approved the construction of the Canadian section of the pipeline, including converting a portion of TC Energy's Canadian Mainline gas pipeline to crude oil pipeline, on September 21, 2007.[35] On March 17, 2008, the United States Department of State issued a Presidential Permit authorizing the construction, maintenance and operation of facilities at the United States and Canada border.[36]

On January 22, 2008, ConocoPhillips acquired a 50% stake in the project.[37] On June 17, 2009, TC Energy agreed that they would buy out ConocoPhillips' share in the project and revert to being the sole owner.[19] It took TC Energy more than two years to acquire all the necessary state and federal permits for the pipeline. Construction took another two years.[38] The pipeline, from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, to Patoka, Illinois, United States, became operational in June 2010.[23]

On June 3, 2011, PHMSA issued TC Energy a Corrective Action Order (CAO), for Keystone's May 2011 leaks.[39] On April 9, 2016, PHMSA issued a CAO to TC Energy, for a 16,800 gallon leak in Hutchinson County, South Dakota, on April 2.[40]

On December 7, 2022, approximately 14,000 barrels of tar sands oil spilled from the Keystone system into a creek in Washington County, Kansas, causing TC Energy to temporarily shut down the pipeline. The spill was larger than all 22 previous reported spills from the pipeline combined. Environmental advocacy groups warned of the difficulty in containing the particular type of oil involved, also known as diluted bitumen, which may not respond to conventional containment methods. Neighboring farmland was also affected by the spill.[41][42][43]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 United States Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (2013-03-01) Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the KEYSTONE XL PROJECT Applicant for Presidential Permit: TC Energy Keystone Pipeline, LP (SEIS) , United States Department of State. Report. Retrieved on 2013-03-17.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Keystone Pipeline Starts Deliveries to U.S. Midwest".
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Keystone Pipeline". Calgary, Alberta, Canada: TransCanada Corporation. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-17. {{cite web}}: Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Keystone's Cushing Extension Begins Deliveries to Oklahoma".
  5. 5.0 5.1 "TransCanada Receives Final Key Gulf Coast Project Permit Construction Set to Begin this Summer".
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Gulf Coast Project Begins Delivering Crude Oil to Nederland, Texas".
  7. 7.0 7.1 "operations". transcanada.
  8. Rapier, Robert (19 November 2013). "There's No Stopping the Oil Sands Train". Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  9. ":Keystone XL Pipeline: About the project". TransCanada.
  10. Mufson, Steven (January 24, 2017). "Trump seeks to revive Dakota Access, Keystone XL oil pipelines". Washington Post. Washington, DC. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  11. 11.0 11.1 completing the pipeline path from Hardisty, Alberta to Nederland, Texas."US leg of controversial Canadian oil pipeline opens". Space Daily. 2014-01-22. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  12. "Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook". Energy Information Administration. Retrieved 8 November 2015. {{cite web}}: Text "US Energy Information Administration" ignored (help)
  13. "Gulf Coast Pipeline Project". TC Energy. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  14. Broder, John M.; Krauss, Clifford (28 February 2012). "Keystone XL Pipeline". The New York Times. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
  15. Broder, John M.; Krauss, Clifford (28 February 2012). "Keystone XL Pipeline". The New York Times.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 "Keystone Pipeline". A Barrel Full. 2012-03-02. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Hovey, Art (2008-06-12). "TransCanada Proposes Second Oil Pipeline". Lincoln Journal-Star. Downstream Today. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 "TransCanada, ConocoPhillips To Expand Keystone To Gulf Coast". TransCanada. Downstream Today. 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Keystone Pipeline System". TransCanada Corporation. Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  20. "Valero: Prospective Keystone Shipper". Valero Energy. Downstream Today. 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
  21. "Canada-US link gets green light". Upstream Online. NHST Media Group. 2008-03-14. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
  22. 22.0 22.1 "TransCanada: Keystone Construction to Begin in Spring". TransCanada Corporation. Downstream Today. 2007-10-30. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Newton, Ken (2010-06-09). "Oil Flows Through Keystone". St. Joseph News-Press. Downstream Today. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
  24. "TransCanada begins Keystone pipeline in Texas". Fox News. 2014-01-22.
  25. Petroleum & Other Liquids, Movements, Energy Information Administration, June 4, 2020
  26. "NEB Okays Keystone XL". National Energy Board. Downstream Today. 2010-03-11. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
  27. "Keystone Pipeline System". TransCanada. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  28. VanderKlippe, Nathan (2011-12-24). "The politics of pipe: Keystone's troubled route". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved 2012-12-09.
  29. (November 10, 2011) Media Notes on Keystone XL Pipeline Project Review Process: Decision to Seek Additional Information . Washington, D.C.: U.S.State Department. Report. Retrieved on March 22, 2012.
  30. (2001) Level IV Ecoregions of Kansas and Nebraska . Report.
  31. "Obama administration rejects Keystone pipeline".
  32. "Trump Aides Eye Reviving Keystone by Rescinding LBJ's Order". 23 November 2016 – via
  33. (February 9, 2005). "TransCanada Proposes Keystone Oil Pipeline Project". TransCanada Corporation. {{cite web}}: Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  34. "Union calls on Ottawa to block Keystone". Upstream Online. NHST Media Group. 2007-10-24. Retrieved 2010-07-22.
  35. "TransCanada: Keystone Construction to Start Early Next Year". TransCanada Corporation. Downstream Today. 2007-09-21. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
  36. "State Dept. Grants Keystone Permit; Work To Start In Q2". TransCanada Corporation. Downstream Today. 2008-03-17. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
  37. "ConocoPhillips Acquires 50% Stake in Keystone". ConocoPhillips. Downstream Today. 2008-01-22. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
  38. O'Connor, Phillip (2010-06-08). "TransCanada's Keystone pipeline ready for flow, but is the market there?". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  41. Guardian staff and agency (9 December 2022). "Keystone pipeline leaks 14,000 barrels of oil into creek in biggest spill yet". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 February 2023.
  42. Diaz, Jaclyn (17 December 2022). "The Keystone pipeline leaked in Kansas. What makes this spill so bad?". NPR. Retrieved 7 February 2023.
  43. "Milepost 14 Incident". TC Energy. 7 December 2022. [/web/20230207170940/ Archived] from the original on 7 February 2023. Retrieved 7 February 2023. {{cite web}}: Check |archive-url= value (help)

External resources

Wikipedia also has an article on the Keystone Pipeline. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.

External articles