By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new study has backed an earlier finding by the U.S. State Department that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will have "no material impact" on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, a crucial factor the White House is expected to weigh when it decides whether to approve the project.
The report, produced by consulting and research firm IHS CERA Inc, after consultation with industry, policymakers and non-government organizations, found that without the pipeline, the use of alternate transportation routes would lead to oil sands production growth being higher or unchanged.
The conclusions were similar to those found in March by the State Department in its draft environmental impact review of the proposed 800,000 barrel per day pipeline.
TransCanada Corp's pipeline would transport oil sands crude from Canada's Alberta province and oil from the northern United States to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.
U.S. Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota and a supporter of the pipeline, lauded the conclusions drawn by IHS CERA.
"We have yet another study confirming what experts, including the administration's own State Department, have been saying for years: the Keystone XL pipeline project will have no significant impact on the environment," said Hoeven.
In a June 25 speech focused on climate change, President Barack Obama said the impact the pipeline would have on future carbon emissions would be a major factor in determining whether to approve it.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in April found the State Department review of the environmental impact of the pipeline "insufficient."
According to IHS CERA, Venezuelan heavy crude oil would likely fill the void for Texas refineries if Keystone was not approved. The report contends that Venezuelan crude and Alberta tar sands oil have roughly the same carbon footprint.
"Venezuelan heavy oil - and Venezuela - would be the number one beneficiary of a negative decision on Keystone," the study said.
As part of their efforts to persuade the United States to approve the pipeline, Canadian officials have often cited the claim that U.S. refiners would turn more to Venezuelan crude oil if Canadian supplies were less available.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici Editing by Ros Krasny, Toni Reinhold)