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Tar sands crude flowing through Northeast Texas

The pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas Gulf Coast began operating in January 2014.
Wikimedia Commons
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The Oklahoma-Texas part of the project was completed in Dec. 2013.

Tar sands crude oil is now being transported through Northeast Texas.

The Canadian company TransCanada, which operates the Keystone XL pipeline, has confirmed that tar sands crude oil is now flowing through Keystone XL's southern leg, now rebranded the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project. The company confirmed the pipeline activity in its 2014 first quarter earnings call.

The route runs from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas Gulf Coastr. It enters Texas near the Fannin-Lamar County line and passes between Paris and Sulphur Springs as it continues through the region. It was completed in December 2013.

“(The pipeline) does have the ability to take the domestic lights as well as any heavies that find a way down to the Cushing market, so it is a combination of the heavies and the lights,” TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said. “I just don’t know what the percentage is.”

Industry terms describe tar sands crude as “heavy” crude oil. When asked how much of each type was flowing through the southern leg of Keystone XL, Girling said “I don’t have that exact mix.”

TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard has made public statements that the public should not expect to know details about what flows through the pipeline.

“I am not able to provide you the specific blend or breakdown as we are not permitted (by our customers) from disclosing that information to the media,” Howard said. “There are very strict confidentiality clauses in the commercial contracts we enter into with our customers, and that precludes us from providing that.”

Keystone XL's northern leg, often referred to in national stories simply as Keystone XL, was also discussed during the earnings call. That part of the project requires federal approval because it crosses an international boundary.

The Obama administration has delayed a final decision on the project, most recently on Apr. 18, when President Barack Obama said that the federal government will wait until after a state-level lawsuit involving the project in Nebraska has been resolved. That will likely delay a final decision until after the November elections and possibly push the process into 2015.

“In our view this delay is inexplicable,” Girling said. “The first leg of our Keystone system took just over 600 days to review and approve. Now after more than 2,000 days, five exhaustive environmental reviews and over 17,000 cases of scientific data, the review process continues to be delayed.”

TransCanada is investigating the logistics of moving tar sands crude through the U.S. by rail.

“Our customers have asked us to look at a rail bridge between Alberta and U.S. points,” Bill Taylor, TransCanada's Executive Vice-President and President of Energy, said. “I’d say that since the delays, the intensity of those calls has gone up quite substantially. … You know a lot of the tankage is already in place so it’s a matter of building rail sidings and those kinds of things which aren’t overly complicated and we have spent some time engineering those things.”

Mark Haslett has served at KETR since 2013. Since then, the station's news operation has enjoyed an increase in listener engagement and audience metrics, as well recognition in the Texas AP Broadcasters awards.