Skip to content

Tar sands bitumen “re-exported” to Europe via the United States

There are news reports today about how tar sands crude from Canada is being “re-exported” to Europe and Asia via the United States. Currently about 25,000 barrels a day are exported this way, but it is anticipated that number could grow to 600,000 barrels per day in two years.

Keeping the Canada-European Union ‘free trade’ agreement in mind, shipments of this kind have already been made to Spain and Italy this year as well as to Switzerland.

How is this done? Both by rail and pipeline.

Bloomberg reports, “Canadian oil producers, facing delays on new export pipelines [including the TransCanada Keystone XL and the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines], are poised to reap higher prices in Europe and Asia as growing rail deliveries to the U.S. are sent overseas, according to FirstEnergy Capital Corp.”

And the Globe and Mail adds, “The volume of such exports could explode over the next six months as deliveries begin on Enbridge Inc.’s Flanagan South pipeline… Enbridge said last week it expects to commence shipments on the conduit as soon as December. The pipeline would carry roughly 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) of mostly heavy crude from Chicago to Cushing, Okla., where the oil would be transferred to other pipelines for shipment to the U.S. Gulf Coast.”

While the article doesn’t make the link, tar sands bitumen from Alberta could make it to the starting point of the Flanagan South pipeline in Chicago via the Enbridge Line 67/ Alberta Clipper pipeline to Wisconsin and from there the Enbridge Line 61 to Illinois. The Flanagan South pipeline itself crosses the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and hundreds of smaller tributaries.

Given Northern Gateway and Keystone have been stalled, “some companies have sought U.S. government licences to re-export Canadian crude from U.S. shores. The shipments are rare but permitted under U.S. rules so long as the oil is not mixed with that country’s crude. …A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Commerce said it doesn’t reveal names of companies with permits to re-export crude.”

It is clear that corporations are seeking every way possible to export tar sands bitumen, including recent shipments to Europe via the St. Lawrence River, a recently proposed 100,000 barrels per day Arctic Gateway pipeline to Tuktoyaktuk and the Arctic Ocean and, of course, via the TransCanada Energy East pipeline.

The Council of Canadians is opposed to tar sands export pipelines and the “re-exporting” of tar sands bitumen through the US via rail and pipeline.