How the Keystone XL pipeline would help the US, and why some oppose it

How much oil will the pipeline transport, and who gets it?

The existing Keystone pipeline is currently carrying an average of 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) to Illinois refineries, short of its capacity of 590,000 bpd, according to TransCanada. The proposed “XL” extensions will be capable of transporting an additional 700,000 bpd, boosting the network’s overall capacity to 1.3 million bpd, says company spokesperson Terry Cunha.

For the American market, the increased capacity could mean an additional 255 million barrels of oil per year imported from Canada, already America’s largest single foreign supplier at 720 million barrels in 2010.

The companies that harvest the crude from the oil sands and pay TransCanada for its transport – Marathon, Shell, Conoco Phillips, Valero, and Suncor among others – say the extension would give them greater access to domestic markets and allow them to ship a higher volume of oil.

Before Thursday’s delay, TransCanada had expected oil to start flowing in 2013.

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