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Keystone XL Key facts about controversial pipeline

The State Department estimated the route would create 42,000 temporary jobs over a two-year construction period.

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The Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil from Canadian tar sands to US refineries, but was put on hold by former president Barack Obama over environmental concerns play

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil from Canadian tar sands to US refineries, but was put on hold by former president Barack Obama over environmental concerns

(AFP)

US President Donald Trump on Friday approved the construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline between Canada and the United States following years of bitter and politically-charged debate.

The move reverses a decision in 2015 by his predecessor Barack Obama to block the project, which was first proposed in 2008.

Here are key facts about the project:

Keystone XL was an expansion of TransCanada's existing system to funnel bitumen from Alberta's oil sands to refineries on the US Gulf Coast.

The portion blocked by the Obama administration was a $5.3 billion proposal to build a 1,179-mile (1,900 kilometer) pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska.

The pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day.

For many, the objections to the pipeline were a proxy for their fight against climate change. Environmental activists say Alberta's oil sands are the "dirtiest" oil on the planet.

Unlike traditional crude which gushes from a well, bitumen from the oil sands must be dug up or extracted by underground heating, essentially using steaming hot water to separate it from the sandstone before it can be refined.

This means more fossil fuels need to be burned as part of the extraction process, which further contributes to climate change.

It also takes vast amounts of water resources and results in huge ponds of polluted water and the strip-mining of once-pristine boreal forests.

The oil sands underlie 142,000 square kilometers (55,000 square miles) but the industry says only two percent of the surface area is affected by open pit mines.

Environmentalists argue that crude bitumen also contains a corrosive component, which makes pipeline ruptures or leaks more likely and carries greater health and safety risks.

TransCanada says Keystone would provide a $3.4 billion boost to US gross domestic product (GDP), including $55.6 billion in annual property taxes spread across 27 counties in three states.

The State Department estimated the route would create 42,000 temporary jobs over a two-year construction period.

Opponents note that less than 50 permanent jobs would be created for pipeline maintenance and argued that the project would kill more jobs than it creates by diverting investment away from more labor-intensive green energy alternatives like wind and solar power.

TransCanada argued that bringing another 830,000 barrels of oil a day from friendly, neighboring Canada would reduce US dependence on the Middle East and Venezuela by up to 40 percent.

TransCanada argued that buried pipelines are far safer for transporting oil than ships or trains and claims to have "one of the best safety records in the industry." It also notes that there are more than 2.6 million miles of oil and gas pipelines in the United States "that deliver 99.9998 percent of their products safely and reliably every day."

The pipeline would be equipped with 21,000 sensors that provide updates every five seconds via satellite and the ability to isolate a problem within minutes through remote-controlled valves.

Critics note the existing Keystone pipeline developed a dozen leaks in its first year of operation.

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