590,000 barrels of tar sands oil every day; 215,350,000 barrels of tar sands oil every year, for 50 years


Since the Trans Mountain Pipeline and Tanker Project was proposed in 2009, global concern over the climate crisis has grown exponentially. Almost every sector of industry in Canada has adapted their future plans to take climate change into account -- but oil and gas is lagging behind.

New major projects like the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline and tanker project are evaluated according to industry predictions for future demand. When Trans Mountain was first proposed, its proponent, Kinder Morgan, used an overly optimistic and quickly outdated analysis of increased future demand for oil and gas. That analysis is the lone economic justification for building a new tar sands pipeline in a rapidly escalating climate crisis. These "demand scenarios" for the Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project assumed continuous growth of the global market for crude oil, both light and heavy, even as extreme weather events displace people around the world. 

The analyses produced by the oil and gas industry assume that global action to restrain fossil fuel burning and pull carbon and other greenhouse gas pollution out of the atmosphere will fail and the climate will warm 3 or 7 degrees. Trans Mountain only makes sense if we are willing to concede that the future is catastrophic climate change. The consequences of an increase of the global earth temperature of 4°C are devastating. A world that has warmed 3 or 4 degrees Celsius is a world of unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods in many regions, with serious impacts on human systems and ecosystems. 

No Climate Test for TMX

The last major project assessed by the National Energy Board before its dissolution for corruption and regulatory capture by industry, the Energy East pipeline, proposed to run from Alberta to the Maritimes, was to have been subject to an assessment of its climate impacts, a climate test. In 2017, the NEB ordered a larger evaluation of climate change impacts by Transcanada, now TC Energy. In the letter announcing the review, the NEB said Canada’s greenhouse gas law and policies are relevant to the public interest because they may have an impact on existing and potential markets and the availability of oil and gas to the proposed pipelines. TMX was exempted from any climate test, when it was first proposed and after its approval was quashed by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2018 when the "Reconsideration Panel" was reassessing the project. 

Upstream Climate Pollution From Trans Mountain

Upstream: the megatons of climate pollution resulting from mining and transporting the bitumen and petrochemical diluents within Canada. Upstream greenhouse gas production accounts for about one-third of a barrel’s overall pollution cost. Industry has said they are working to reduce that by 15-20% with on-the-ground emission reduction measures, but will not address the downstream effects - the remaining two thirds. Upstream effects from TMX have been studied by Environment and Climate Change Canada, although their assessment has been widely criticized for using industry's flawed future consumption assumptions. (Ecojustice)

Even despite those flaws and likely undercounting, ECCC's 2016 results show 13,000,000 to 15,000,000 metric tons, 13-15 Megatons (Mt), of new climate pollution per year generated by TMX. (These are rough estimates because of the mix of products shipped along the line.) 

According to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, that's equal to putting + 2.7,000,000 new cars on the road for a year. 

Downstream Climate Pollution From Trans Mountain

Downstream: to the climate pollution released outside of Canada, when the end product is used primarily by burning. 

  • During initial hearings on the Trans Mountain pipeline, the National Energy Board rejected applications to evaluate both upstream and downstream climate impacts of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, deciding to consider only the emissions resulting from construction and operation of the pipeline. They refused to fully consider upstream emissions from the oil sands (upstream emissions generally refer to the extraction process including processing, handling, transportation) or downstream emissions, when the products are refined and combusted. 
  • During the “Reconsideration” process in 2018/2019, the NEB again rejected applications from civil society groups to report on TMX’s emissions, demanding a full accounting of upstream climate pollution emissions as well as downstream emissions and the commensurate climate impacts.

To date there has been no formal government accounting of downstream climate impacts and Trans Mountain’s contributions to climate pollution aren’t officially “known”. But a 2014 study Dr. Mark Jaccard of Simon Fraser University commissioned by the City of Vancouver on the total carbon cost of the TMX calculated the carbon emissions of the entire Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project with the proposed expansion to be 71,100,000 metric tons (71.1 Mt) of Co2e annually.

According to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, that would be like adding 15,095,541 passenger vehicles driven for one year.

The global consensus is now no new oil and gas projects if we wish to have a livable world

The latest IPCC special report states that we need to reduce GHG emissions by 50% by 2030, which is still considered by many climate analysts to be insufficient. According to some of those analysts, to have a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C we must at least stay below 415 parts of permissible carbon in the atmosphere. As of August 2021, the count is 412.77ppm. The least we could do is to cancel the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline and tanker project.