As oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s sunken Deepwater Horizon rig, half a continent away a major new pipeline is delivering the first supplies of crude to refineries in Illinois. With the consistency of heavy molasses, the raw oil took about three months to travel some 1,073 miles.
The pipeline is the first step in a $12 billion TransCanada Corp. project that aims to more than double the capacity of oil that can be piped into the U.S from Canada, just as Americans are looking for alternatives to offshore drilling and oil from the Middle East. Oil extracted from Alberta’s tar sands — deposits of dense, sticky sand, saturated with a viscous form of petroleum — account for about 20 percent of U.S. crude imports. The newly opened pipeline, known as Keystone I, is part of a network that, when completed, will wind 3,800 miles underground through three provinces and eight Great Plains states before terminating in Texas.