Keystone pipeline East - Portland Pipeline could carry tar sand crude thru whites

Help Support

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Super Moderator
Staff member
Sep 3, 2003
Reaction score
Gorham NH
Many hikers may not know that a major oil pipeline goes east to west across NH through the Northern Whites along RT 2. It has been there for 60 years (since WW2) and was originally used to supply oil from tankers in Portland Me to refineries in Quebec province. The most obvious signs are the pumping stations in Lancaster Shelburne and Waterford.

The southern ME papers have had recent articles about the Portland Pipeline possibly carrying crude oil fromt he tar sands in western canada

IMHO, the major point of the opposition to the effort is the attempt to put the "genie back in the bottle" by restricting access of tar sand crude to the world market. Realistically, I believe that the crude will find a way to market somehow, if not by pipeline it will go by railcar or in tractor trailer tanker and given that choice, I think the pipeline is the better option if its well managed.

Disclaimer - I am quite familiar with the right of way as my driveway is on top of it and own the land in part of the right of way. I dont get any revenue from it but it keeps my view clear to the south and keeps the shade off my solar panels. I do drive a car that burns fossl fuel and my house is heated with a combination of wood and oil so ultimately I would like to contunue to be able to use oil until a economically viable alternative becomes available. Given the prevalence of rock at shallow depths and the rural nature of the area I dont see natural gas being an option anytime soon.
The Canadians will sell their oil to willing buyers. Now that President Obama has refused it for fear of upsetting his environmentalist supporters, the Canadians are quite likely to sell it to China, so there will be more pollution from the tankers that take it there from British Columbia, and more pollution from burning it in "dirtier" furnaces and engines than are likely used here. The USA is downwind of China, by the way...
Meantime, there is a move afoot to build a pipeline on the same route, where the permits are already approved, but turn it west in North Dakota to tap the enormous output of the Bakken formation for US Gulf coast refineries. The US State Department has no say at all in the matter of domestic pipelines.
Whatever crude oil travels the Portland pipeline is like for export to Europe, as there is no refinery in Maine and the nearest US refineries are in north NJ and already supplied by other routes. Of course if the Canadians refine it first, there is a new supply of gasoline and # 2 heating oil for New England. Expect Irving to be heavily involved.
Tthe safety record for pipelines in the USA is far better than for trains and trucks, which travel on the land's surface with other traffic, weather impacts, etc.
The fact that most hikers have no idea the Portland pipeline exists is proof that we have no dog in this fight as hikers.Thus I would think this thread should naturally be a short one.
I'm not an oil/crude expert by any means but what I have seen and read of the subject in local news sources is that the local opposition is to the pumping of the more corrosive tar sand crude, rather than "traditional" crude and the fear of increased likelihood of a leak. Whether there is merit to the fear of increased risk I cannot say but wanted to point out the statements being made.
For those wondering, oil itself is not corrosive; the problem with tar sand oil is that huge amounts of water are used to extract it. Producers try to separate the water at the wellhead (this causes a huge environmental problem: giant lakes of oil-contaminated water on the surface) but inevitably some of the water mixes in with the oil, leading to increased risk of rusting the pipe. (Actually, chemically pure water won't cause rust either, but this is real-world groundwater with plenty of ions in it.)

Not sure I can say this without straying into politics, but the Keystone pipeline is far from dead. The Administration had planned to delay a decision until after the election, which also gave the pipeline sponsors time to amend their plan to avoid a sensitive watershed. Congress forced them to give an immediate yes-or-no response to the plan as it existed, in order to make an election issue out of it. Not surprisingly the answer was no. Given the amount of money at stake, I doubt the pipeline sponsors will be deterred; they'll re-file their application (with a few changes) and I expect it will be approved this time.