Could Northern Gateway oil pipeline give us Saudi Albertia?

FORMER CIBC ECONOMIST Jeff Rubin always looks at the big picture.

When he says that a review panel’s endorsement Thursday (December 19) of Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline is an “important victory” for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he puts it into a broad perspective.

“For Stephen Harper to fulfill his dream of the country becoming an energy superpower, we’re going to need four or five pipelines like this,” Rubin told the Straight by phone from Toronto.

As Rubin notes in this year’s updated version of his 2012 book The End of Growth, Alberta’s daily oil production of about 1.9 million barrels is projected to double by 2020, reaching five million barrels in 2030.

Combined with other sources, Rubin writes, this projected 2030 production will push Canada’s daily production to about six million barrels, up there with Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Rubin indicated to the Straight that this increased production will require, at the very least: Northern Gateway, with its daily capacity of 525,000 barrels; Kinder Morgan’s planned twinning of its Alberta to B.C. pipeline (890,000 barrels); TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the U.S. (830,000 barrels); TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Eastern Canada (1.1 million); and Enbridge’s planned reversal of its Line 9 pipeline in Canada (240,000).

However, Rubin said he doesn’t expect all this pipeline capacity to be built amid public opposition.

“To use the parlance of my former business, I’d short that trade,” Rubin said. “The chances of that happening are worth betting against.”

In The End of Growth, Rubin also notes that demand in the U.S., which buys about two-thirds of Canada’s oil, is down.

Even China, the intended market for oil from Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan’s twinned pipeline, is not a sure bet.

“If China’s economy stops growing at its current clip,” Rubin writes, “maybe it won’t need to import oil from the tar sands.”

Harper government cutting more than $100 million and 500 jobs at DFO, against advice from water-protection experts

OTTAWA — More than $100 million in cuts are underway at the federal department in charge of protecting Canada’s water and oceans, despite recommendations from top bureaucrats that it needs to increase spending for both environmental and economic reasons.

According to internal federal briefing notes obtained by Postmedia News, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is eliminating about 500 jobs at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans related to Coast Guard services, patrols to stop illegal fishing activities as well as scientific research to promote conservation, protect endangered species and prevent industrial water pollution.

The cuts, part of the federal government’s efforts to eliminate its deficit, cover 26 different areas of the department which has a workforce of about 10,000 employees. The downsizing also includes the shutdown of federal libraries and millions of dollars in reductions to climate change adaptation programs. In total, the department estimates it will cut about $80 million per year from its budget by 2014-15, and over $100 million per year in the following fiscal year.

But the cuts coincide with internal advice from top bureaucrats that the government should instead be increasing its spending in the department to protect both economic and environmental interests, particularly for Coast Guard services which are facing cuts equivalent to about $20 million by 2014-15 and 300 full-time jobs.

“Rising marine traffic, technological changes, climate change impacts (such as fluctuating water levels), and extended shipping seasons are among the factors expected to continue to place increased demands on Coast Guard services,” said briefing notes prepared for the department’s deputy minister Matthew King in December 2012. “For example, there are demands for increasing icebreaking services on the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the Great Lakes, for extending Marine Communications and Traffic Services, aids to navigation and ice breaking services in the Quebec North and Arctic for additional environmental response as well as search and rescue capacities in selected areas.”

The department is in the process of eliminating the equivalent of about 96 full-time positions and slashing spending by about $6 million in its Marine Communications and Traffic Centres which provide “distress and safety call monitoring” and other services to ensure safe and efficient movement of marine vessels.

The department’s restructuring also follows a shift in its mandate from the Harper government’s 2012 budget, which introduced what it described as “responsible resource development” by eliminating a series of environmental laws and replacing them with new ones that significantly reduced federal oversight on industrial development.

Those changes revamped a longstanding water pollution prevention law, the Fisheries Act, that required the protection of all fish habitat, replacing it with a new law that only requires the protection of water when humans are nearby.

In the midst of the overhaul, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea told Parliament in a recent report that her department was on the right track.

“It is my sincere belief that our work will enable us to fulfill our vision, which is to advance sustainable aquatic ecosystems and support safe and secure Canadian waters while fostering economic prosperity across maritime sectors and fisheries,” she said in her department’s performance report for 2012-13.

The department is also significantly reducing surveillance patrols of fishing activities off the coast of Newfoundland as part of the government’s activities within the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, cutting the equivalent of about $4.2 million and 23 full-time positions.

The department told Postmedia News that these cuts to NAFO were based on several positive developments in recent years, including a 90 per cent drop in the number of serious cases of non-compliance by foreign fishing vessels since 2005, from 29 cases to 10 cases in 2011.

Other cuts to scientific research at the department include :

• $1 million in cuts and seven jobs eliminated through the closure of conservation and protection offices.

• $1.5 million in cuts and about 14 job losses resulting from the transfer of the Experimental Lakes Area, a system of lakes near Kenora in western Ontario where scientists have studied the impacts of industrial pollution on water for decades.

• $1.7 million in cuts and 27 job losses following the elimination of an in-house research program examining biological impacts of contaminants, pesticides and the oil and gas industry, and turning instead toward a “small advisory group” to “outsource” research needs.

“Since the announcement, media attention has focused on the capacity of the department and its scientists to provide adequate and timely advice to the government on the potential effects of accidental spills of contaminants, especially oil, gas and diluted bitumen, into the environment,” said the briefing material prepared for the deputy minister, that was marked “secret.”

Scientists from other departments, such as Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada, were also doing some new research in recent months on the behaviour of diluted bitumen, the product from Canada’s oilsands industry, in water to help oil companies prepare for environmental disasters.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

Original source article: Harper government cutting more than $100 million and 500 jobs at DFO, against advice from water-protection experts

Pipeline or Not, Lots of Canadian Crude Oil is Headed to the US

Environmentalists mistakenly think that blocking the Keystone pipeline will prevent crude oil, produced from Canada’s oil sands, from being extracted and from being conveyed into the US to be refined into gasoline, asphalt, and other products that are important to the transportation and manufacturing sectors. Their ultimate goal is to stop all development of the Canadian resource.

The oil spilled, as a result of a train derailment on Tuesday, highlights their misguided efforts.

News flash: Canada is developing their abundant oil sands and the crude oil is already being shipped to the United States—albeit in a more costly and less safe mode.

Early Wednesday morning, 14 cars of a 94-car mixed-freight train, derailed near Parker Prairie, MN. The Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) train was carrying oil from Western Canada to Chicago—though CPR does ship to refiners along the Gulf of Mexico, the Northeastern US and Eastern Canada. Of the 14 cars, one ruptured and, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the accident spilled as much as 26,000 gallons of crude oil (one car can contain 550 barrels (or about 23,000 gallons) of oil and trains often carry 80-150 cars). Two other cars had some leakage—though due to the frozen ground, “there’s no threat to ground or surface water” and there were no injuries.

The CPR train carrying Canadian oil to the US is part of a growing trend, as producers and refiners have turned to railroads to make up for a lack of pipeline capacity. It is estimated that, as Canadian production rises, “rail shipments of western Canadian crude had leapt about 150% to roughly 150,000 barrels a day in the last eight months.” The Wall Street Journal recently stated: “Pipeline or not, lots of Canadian crude oil is headed to the US.” It reported that, this year, more than 200,000 barrels a day will be shipped to the Gulf Coast refining hub, and called the increased use of railroads “an end run around the much-delayed pipeline”—which would more than quadruple capacity to 830,000 barrels a day. The March 11 article says: “Some oil industry executives and analysts, meanwhile, have raised concerns about rail accidents involving carloads of crude oil.” Despite, a decade-long drop in accident rates, Tuesday’s derailment/spill highlights Keystone’s importance—though a Keystone approval could hurt Obama supporter Warren Buffet’s recent purchase of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad that carries about 25% of the Bakken’s oil and “can ship higher volumes from North Dakota or Alberta in the future.”

The use of rail for Canada’s “stranded” crude oil is not new. Calling it a “pipeline on rails,” in February 2011, the Globe and Mail reported: “Although pipelines continue to carry the overwhelming majority of Canada’s oil production, both Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. have begun using their rail networks to deliver crude.” Rail does offer several advantages for transporting Canadian crude. As the National Post, in 2009, points out: “Geopolitically, the rail option opens up the world markets for producers but also allows Canadian oil producers to bypass protectionism as well as the fickleness of environmental politics south of the border.” Oil crossing the international border via rail doesn’t require State Department approval.

Pro-pipeline pressure on the Obama administration is mounting. During the weekend’s Senate budget votes, 17 “moderate and conservative Democrats sided with Republicans on the Keystone pipeline.” Addressing the vote, the Wall Street Journal states: “The Senate vote is symbolic since the budget outline lacks the force of law. Still, the vote reflects the growing bipartisan consensus that a private investment creating tens of thousands of jobs trumps the scare tactics of environmentalists.”

Worry over “contamination from spills” is one of the “scare tactics” used by environmentalists to oppose the Keystone pipeline—yet pipelines are universally accepted as safer than transport by rail or truck (trucks bring the crude oil from the drilling site to the rail terminals).

Another “scare tactic” is to debunk the law of supply and demand; the ability of more resource to lower prices at the pump. On my own Facebook page, a “friend” posted the following: “My question, which neither you nor anyone else has answered is: If producing more oil here lowers prices as Marita says it will, why are we exporting it and why are prices so high?” From Bloomberg Businessweek, here’s an explanation. In short, Edward Morse, head of commodities research at Citigroup Global Markets, predicts that due to increased supply “$90 will be the new ceiling for oil prices rather than the floor it’s been in recent years.” The North American supply, he says, will result in a steep drop in oil imports “from OPEC’s biggest West African members” and “those barrels will have to find another home. The surplus African oil could end up competing with Mideast suppliers for customers in India, China, Europe, and Korea. As the global competition heats up, oil prices the world over will probably drop.”

In a few weeks, the State Department will be holding a pipeline hearing, a “listening session,” in Grand Island, NE. News reports state: “The meeting will give the public a chance to weigh in on the environmental impact of the proposed project.” Four State Department reviews have given the pipeline environmental clearance and, most recently, acknowledged that Canada will continue to extract its rich resource as “the oil sands are absolutely essential to maintaining the future living standards of Canadians,” and “pipeline or not, lots of Canadian crude oil is headed to the US”—though now coming via a “pipeline on rails.” As Wednesday’s little spill spotlights, those who really care about the environment support the Keystone pipeline. (Those unable to attend the April 18 hearing, can submit comments by emailing:

– See more at:

Police seize Irving Oil records in probe of Lac-Mégantic disaster

One of Canada’s most prominent business families has become entangled in an investigation of the Lac-Mégantic, Que., derailment after federal investigators seized records from the Irving Oil headquarters in New Brunswick.

Inspectors from Transport Canada executed a search warrant on Wednesday on the company’s Saint John facility in an ongoing investigation of the accident, which killed 47 people last July. The train was hauling crude oil to Irving’s refinery when it crashed, causing massive explosions that destroyed several downtown blocks.


Ottawa to designate crude oil as highly dangerous
Lac-Mégantic freight service set to resume next week
Quebec honours Lac-Mégantic first responders

Video: Survivors retell the last moments inside Lac Mégantic’s Musi-Café

Video: From the U.S. to Lac-Mégantic: Inside the massive growth of oil by rail

Video: Christmas trees lit for Lac-Megantic victims

Video: How oil from the U.S. Bakken formation decimated Lac-Mégantic
A Globe and Mail investigation has documented how oil from the Bakken formation, which straddles North Dakota and parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, is much more explosive and corrosive than regulators and the industry thought, and that warning signs about the oil were ignored. On Thursday, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt told The Globe that Ottawa will implement new safety and testing measures for shipping crude oil by rail.

Court documents filed in support of the search warrant indicate Irving is under investigation to determine whether it followed safety and security rules for importing dangerous goods and whether those goods were accompanied by proper documentation.

The Transportation Safety Board said this fall that the oil that exploded in Lac-Mégantic was more volatile than the paperwork for the train suggested. Federal regulations say that when dangerous goods are brought into Canada, domestic importers are responsible for ensuring safety rules are followed. Penalties for contravening the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act are up to two years in prison or $50,000 for a first offence.

A spokeswoman for Irving confirmed the company had received requests from government investigators about their operations. “We continue to fully co-operate with them, complying with all requests for information. Operations remain normal,” Samantha Robinson wrote in an e-mail.

Irving Oil, a private New Brunswick company owned by the Irving family, operates Canada’s largest refinery, with a capacity to process up to 320,000 barrels of crude daily. In recent years, it has been a major buyer of Bakken oil from North Dakota, which is prized for its light qualities and sometimes discounted prices.

Irving buys most of its Bakken crude from intermediaries such as Miami-based World Fuel Services Inc. and Massachusetts-based Global Partners LP. Both World Fuel and Global Partners buy the oil from North Dakota producers and contract railways to transport it across North America. World Fuel sends Bakken crude to New Brunswick via three separate railways and Global ships the oil on rails to Albany, where it is loaded on to tanker ships that travel to the port of Saint John.

World Fuel Services is the company that purchased the oil, arranged transport and sold it to Irving. The company has not been served with search documents. A spokesman said World Fuel has provided extensive documentation to Transport Canada, including additional documents that are beyond what the department has asked for, to assist the investigation.

The court documents contain new revelations about how Irving dealt with the crude oil it was importing by rail in the months before the Lac-Mégantic crash. According to the documents, Irving regularly received oil tank cars from Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway with paperwork that suggested the oil was not particularly volatile. However, the company returned the empty tank cars to the shipper with a different, more volatile classification for the residual oil inside them.

The court documents do not detail who was responsible for changes to the paperwork.

The court records also offer insight into the scope of the Transport Canada investigation of the Lac-Mégantic accident. At least nine departmental officials are investigating possible violations of federal regulations, and another four RCMP officers are assigned to help Transport Canada with its work, according to the documents.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail last month, Irving Oil chief executive officer Paul Browning said the company was working with federal regulators “to make sure that we understand the new regulations” that call for crude oil to be tested before and after it is transported through Canada.

“So this is really a question of what we are doing to ensure that hazardous materials that get moved by rail are increasingly getting safer and safer over time. So what we’re doing is working with the rail industry and regulators to make sure that we’re all learning the lessons from Lac-Megantic, and other opportunities to learn. We’re making sure we’re supporting them in implementing new regulations and procedures to respond to those learnings,” Mr. Browning said.

With a report from Rheal Séguin.

Northern Gateway not worth the risk to BC’s wild salmon

For Immediate Release: December 17, 2013

New report: Northern Gateway not worth the risk to BC’s wild salmon

Sidney, British Columbia – A new report by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation says the consequences to salmon from Northern Gateway’s proposed oil tankers and Kitimat oil terminal are not worth taking. The report, Embroiled: Salmon, Tankers and the Enbridge Northern Gateway Proposal, explores the connections between the oil industry’s proposed activities and how those activities can adversely affect salmon. A recommendation is looming any day now on the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal by the federal Joint Review Panel (JRP).

“Much of what we know about the adverse effects of marine oil spills on salmon comes from the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the two decades of research that followed it. There are many pathways and exposure routes for oil to reach young salmon – the most vulnerable life stage,” said lead author and Raincoast fisheries ecologist Misty MacDuffee. “Importantly, these risks are not just from a large oil spill, they are from the industrial activities that accompany oil tankers and degrade essential salmon habitat.”

The report examined the risk from the Northern Gateway marine component only; it did not examine pipeline spill risks, which are additional to these findings.

“More than 5,000 spawning populations of wild salmon come from the watersheds that surround the tanker routes between Kitimat estuary and Haida Gwaii. These salmon are grouped into 250 irreplaceable biological units,” said Raincoast biologist and report co-author Andy Rosenberger.
“They represent 58% of the Pacific salmon on Canada’s West coast and are the backbone of our remarkable coastal ecosystems, the iconic wildlife that rely on these fish, and the basis of multi-million dollar economies in eco tourism, salmon-based tourism and the salmon resource sector.”

The report examines how Enbridge failed to assess the potential impacts to these fish, and did not undertake a risk assessment suitable to determine ecological, social or economic consequences. Further, Enbridge dismisses any consequences to wild salmon based on superficial reviews and flawed studies that collected no empirical data on salmon.


Raincoast Report Author Contacts: Misty MacDuffee 250-818-2136 (, Andy Rosenberger 250 889-2830 (, Dr. Paul Paquet 306-376-2015 (

Download the report at


Imperial Oil’s 2002 Material Data Sheet (MDS) reveals that dilbit contains light naphtha, natural gas condensate and bitumen. It then warns that the substance contains polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PNAs). Prolonged and/or repeated skin contact with certain PNAs has been shown to cause skin cancer.

High vapour concentrations may cause headaches and dizziness “and other central nervous system effects including death.” It also warns that benzene may be absorbed through damaged skin and may cause “blood or blood producing system disorder and/or damage.”

On its 2013 MDS oil sands producer Cenovus reveals that its heavy crude and diluent mix contains “paraffins, naphthalenes, aromatic hydrocarbons and small amounts of sulphur and nitrogen compounds mixed with condensate.”

“Explosive accumulations can build up in areas of poor ventilation,” notes the MDS.

The toxicity of the diluent is so great that “vapour may cause irritation of eyes, nose and throat, dizziness and drowsiness. Contact with skin may cause irritation and possibly dermatitis. Contact of liquid with eyes may cause severe irritation/burns.”

Due to presence of benzene, “long term exposure may increase the risk of anemia and leukemia. Repeated skin contact may increase the risk of skin cancer.”

The MDS advises response teams to don “positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus, supplied air breathing apparatus or cartridge air purifying respirator approved for organic vapors where concentrations may exceed exposure limits (note: cartridge respirator not suitable for hydrogen sulfide, oxygen deficiency or IDLH situations).”

MEG Energy’s MDS for “dilbit” or diluted bitumen is perhaps the most dramatic. It warns respondents dealing with a spill to “Evacuate all unnecessary personnel. Stay upwind. Eliminate all ignition sources. Use personal protection recommended in Section 8. Isolate the hazard area and deny entry to unnecessary and unprotected personnel. Don full-face, positive pressure, self-contained breathing apparatus.” – A.N.

The odd looking rocks, coated with sediment, looked like lava rocks or asphalt and road tar, observes Ritter, a facility engineer who spends his spare time observing life on the river. He’s worried the waterway, once a haven for nature and playground for locals, has become a toxic “ongoing science project.”

It’s an experiment British Columbians have reason to closely watch, given pressing questions in this province about what happens to bitumen when it is dumped into flowing fresh water, and whether dispersants normally used in ocean settings help at all, or even make matters worse.

Legacy of diluted bitumen spill

Ritter wasn’t the only one disturbed by the strange rocks. The “tar patties” also caught the attention of Michigan public health authorities.

A 2012 report recorded the stubborn presence of oil along the river banks and bottom.

“Some of the oil in the floodplains and riverbank areas weathered and became asphalt-like tiles on the soil. These asphalt-like tiles, also called “tar patties,” range from being soft and clay-like to hard, similar to an asphalt parking lot. It is possible that oil may leak out from these tar patties and could get on the skin of people handling them.”

No one doubts the weird tar balls are a legacy of the costliest onshore oil spill in U.S. history, its price tag topping $1 billion and climbing.

The rupture of the pipeline carrying diluted bitumen sickened hundreds and led Calgary-based firm to buy out some 150 homes along the Kalamazoo River.

The spill just “overwhelmed residents” says Ritter. It also forced an unprecedented and seemingly endless cleanup.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly ordered Enbridge back to the contaminated river to dredge and excavate for submerged oil — even three years after the original accident.

The latest cleanup order must be completed by the end of December. Moreover the project has expanded to include the purchase of the entire Ceresco dam where oil backed up due to the way diluted bitumen behaves in flowing water.

A special kind of mess

Heavy bitumen presents new and unique challenges for policy makers and regulators whose protocols largely deal with cleaning up conventional light oil, a very different petro product.

The Kalamazoo bitumen spill’s aftermath is causing many experts to observe that existing laws and policies crafted to deal with conventional oil spills are not only based on outdated science but don’t adequately protect exposed workers, the general populace or the environment.

For starters bitumen is just too thick to move through a pipeline and too heavy to float on top of water.

Due to its gooey character, the low-grade crude must be diluted and mixed with solvent-like condensate often produced by the hydraulic fracturing of shale oil and gas deposits. The condensate or diluent, the petroleum equivalent of paint thinner, makes its easier for bitumen to flow through a pipeline. U.S. condensate exports to Canada have grown 1,000 per cent in the last two years.

Most condensates like many petroleum distallites used for hydraulic fracking are highly carcinogenic because they contain benzene and n-hexane.

During the Enbridge spill the volatile and toxic petroleum distillates in the condensate flash evaporated into the air, the fumes making hundreds sick. Meanwhile, the bitumen grew heavy and sank to the river bottom.

In other words dilbit behaved much the same way Imperial Oil’s 2002 Material Data Sheet on dilbit said it would: “Product will submerge after a few days of weathering.”

The sheet added that, “If allowed by local authorities and environmental agencies, sinking and/or suitable dispersants may be used in unconfined waters.”

Dispersants deployed?

Given the tar rocks they were turning up, Ritter and other citizens along the river wondered: Did Enbridge use dispersants like Corexit deployed during the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico to sink the bitumen?

Ritter says that he saw companies dumping something that looked like sand into the river during the cleanup and “other stuff that looked like white laundry detergent and stunk like a herbicide.”

Or did the diluted bitumen sink from its own weight and form balls in the sediment once the solvent evaporated, creating a cleanup horror show?

So with funding from a local physician Ritter gathered some tar balls and sent them off to small lab called Analytical Chemical Testing in Mobile, Alabama for testing earlier this year.

Volleyball and melon sized tar balls pulled from the new first public access point installed by Enbridge along the Kalamazoo River, just 450 metres downstream from where the Talmadge Creek enters the river.

While the chemist ran his analysis, the physician did a CT scan of the rocks and found a black substance at the core, then concentric rings of sand and the black substance. The rocks crumbled when rubbed together and left an oily sheen on the water surface.

The lab’s chemist Bob Naman also made an interesting discovery: he found some compounds such as 2-butoxyethanol identical to compounds “produced from mixing Corexit compounds with crude oil as in the BP Oil spill of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico.”

“Corexit is a hazardous substance,” says Naman.

The controversial dispersant, which behaves like a paint thinner, was designed by Imperial Oil engineers in the 1980s to help wash machinery coated in oil.

It was first used during the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster and later widely deployed with much controversy in the Gulf of Mexico by boats and planes during the monster BP spill in 2010.

In the Gulf Corexit kept the spill out of public view by breaking apart the oil sheen and pushing the oil below the sea surface, where it poisoned sea life, says Naman.

But there is no record of Enbridge using Corexit, a product largely used for large ocean spills, during their chaotic response to the spill in Michigan.

Riki Ott, a trained marine toxicologist, educator and activist, offers another intriguing reading of the lab findings.

She donned hip waders last summer and accompanied Craig Ritter to the river. She couldn’t believe the size of the tar balls they found everywhere: “They were like lava rocks.”

She thinks that paint thinner-like diluents used to thin bitumen for pipeline transport may act and behave a bit like Corexit because diluents are industrial solvents like dispersants.

“These products basically contain petroleum distillates and share some of the same toxic ingredients and properties,” adds Ott.

Corrosiveness compounded

In the absence of good science on the behavior of dilbit spills, the mystery of the tar rocks raises another important question.

To date all the policies and regulations that government use to respond to freshwater and marine oil spills are based on data on the behavior of light oil, which clearly floats on water.

None are based on the behavior of unconventional hydrocarbons such as diluted bitumen, toxic fracking fluids (diesel and kerosene) or Bakken’s fracked oil, which turns out to be much more flammable and explosive than normal crude. A train derailment spilling Bakken crude incinerated 47 people in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic earlier this year.

Bakken tight oil and Alberta’s bitumen also contain high amounts of hydrogen sulfide, a corrosive substance that is also a deadly neurotoxin.

Recent Alberta research suggests that heating bitumen formations up to 260 degrees in order to pump out the stubborn substance to the surface may change its chemical composition as well as its corrosiveness.

Noted the report: “Crude corrosivity will be influenced by its thermal (heating) history. More work is needed to understand when corrosivity is enhanced.” Moreover mixing bad crudes such as bitumen with light crudes “may actually make matters worse due to reducing the content of thermally-labile sulphur and so losing the protection of iron sulphide film formation.”

Yet oil spill prevention and response laws and policies are geared for conventional light oil “spills that occur at sea, on the surface, with conventional oil — and mostly in temperate and tropical areas,” explains Ott.

“It is specious to argue that physical containment and recovery, dispersants and bioremediation will work in subarctic and Arctic conditions because of constraints on physical parameters such as weather, temperatures, darkness, ice and more.”

“It is also specious to assume that the same laws and policies, based on science conducted for conventional spills, will offer any measure of protection for deepwater spills — or spills of unconventional oil (dilbit).”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Enbridge initially said its pipeline break poured 819,000 gallons of diluted bitumen into the river.

As of last May, the company had recovered 1.15 million gallons of crude.

Ott adds that there is really no way to respond to an oil spill on a moving river.

“The crude moves and gets backed up behind dams. We’re way over our heads in all of this.”

Clean up enters fourth year

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that “about 180,000 gallons of Line 6B oil (plus or minus 100,000 gallons) remain in the river bottom sediment” and it has ordered Enbridge to remove the recoverable oil (about 12,000-18,000 gallons) by dredging. But EPA to date has said nothing about the tar patties.

Meanwhile health authorities have recommended that, “People should avoid contact with residual oil from the July 2010 Enbridge pipeline release.”

The remaining 162,000-168,000 gallons of oil can’t be recovered right away without causing significant adverse impacts to the river.

“Instead, it must be carefully monitored and collected over time using traps that gather contaminated sediment. Future oil recovery will depend on whether the crude eventually moves to the areas with these sediment traps.”

Ritter says the thing that bothers him most has been the industry’s negligence and lack of transparency about the nature and behavior of unconventional hydrocarbons.

“We’re living in a science project on this river.”

Enbridge, which is proposing to build a series of billion-dollar pipelines carrying dilbit or condensate across North America, says the Line 6B spill was “unprecedented for the company.”

The company did not reply to a Tyee email and phone query prior to deadline.

NEWS RELEASE – PIPE UP Network: Residents highlight risk to local economy

For immediate release

Residents highlight risk to local economy, lack of jobs, and toxic spills as Kinder Morgan makes official application to build new pipeline

Lower Mainland, BC – The other shoe has dropped. Now there are two active applications to build tar sands pipelines across BC. Kinder Morgan’s proposal to add a new 540,000 barrel-per-day pipeline was submitted to the National Energy Board on December 16. PIPE UP, a network of residents of Southwestern BC, finds the application consistent with what BC residents have heard from the company in the past year-and-a-half and thinks British Columbians will want to be heard about how these projects could change their way of life.

“They want to turn BC into a carbon corridor,” said Chilliwack resident Michael Hale. “This tar sands project exposes BC residents to all the risks of bitumen transport with few benefits. The question is: ‘Should we put communities, ecosystems, and coastal industries at risk so that Kinder Morgan can make huge profits at our expense?’”

Abbotsford resident Lynn Perrin stated: “I’ve been reading through the company’s enormous submission and don’t find their claims credible. There are pages and pages on the alleged economic benefits of the pipeline. I had to look hard to find it, but there are less than 100 permanent jobs in BC after construction is completed. The small number of permanent jobs is not worth the risks to school children, aquifers, rivers and wetlands.

“The company’s claims sound very similar to the ones made by Enbridge in their submission for the Northern Gateway project. That submission has been analyzed by economists such as Mark Lee of Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Robyn Allan, former head of ICBC. Both conclude that there are ‘no net benefits for BC’. We need to take these warnings seriously,” said Perrin.

“What community in BC wants to contend with the horror of a bitumen spill?” said Aldergrove resident Susan Davidson. “I think that a criterion for a world class spill response would be no spills at all. By that I mean not only no pipeline spill, but also no tanker truck spill and no rail spill. Of course the companies cannot meet that standard. We have seen the horrors of the tar sands spills in Burnaby in 2007, Kalamazoo Michigan in 2010 and Mayflower Arkansas earlier this year. The Trans Mountain Pipeline has had 80 spills over its lifetime. That is more than one per year (there were two spills this year).

Davidson offered the following advice to the BC Government: “Listen to the people. Don’t allow shipment of this dangerous stuff through BC. We need an energy plan for BC that meets our energy needs sustainably, ensures prosperity for all and preserves our magnificent environment.”


Members of the PIPE UP Network have spent the past year-and-a-half educating themselves and their neighbours on the pros and cons of the transport of oil sands diluted bitumen. PIPE UP will be filing for intervenor status in the National Energy Board hearings to raise concerns that relate to transporting the toxic heavy oil product through places within their communities.

For more information or for interviews, please contact:

Susan Davidson, Aldergrove (604) 857-1400
Michael Hale, Chilliwack (604) 799-3391
Lynn Perrin, Abbotsford (604) 309-9369

PIPE UP Network

Kinder Morgan files formal application for Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

A second pipeline proposal to transport oil to Asia was officially launched on Monday when Kinder Morgan filed a project application for its $5.4-billion Trans Mountain expansion.

The project would nearly triple oil capacity to 890,000 barrels annually and bring about 400 more tankers a year into Burrard Inlet (up from about 80) if it is approved by the National Energy Board and subsequently by the federal government.

The 1,150-kilometre pipeline will carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands, starting in Edmonton, through Jasper and across B.C. to the company’s Westbridge Terminal in Burnaby.

Kinder Morgan says nearly three-quarters of the proposed expanded pipeline’s length across most of the province will follow the existing right-of-way where the pipeline was first built in the 1950s. About 17 per cent of the route, and virtually all the way through the Lower Mainland west of Fort Langley, will deviate from the current line, but would follow other existing utility corridors or infrastructure.

Kinder Morgan is promising enhanced tanker safety in its more-than-15,000-page submission, and says it is continuing discussions with First Nations, whose support is critical to large infrastructure development projects in B.C.

The twinning of Kinder Morgan’s existing pipeline has already seen years of pushback from First Nations, environmentalists and community groups concerned about the potential for spills along the pipeline and from tankers. Both Vancouver and Burnaby’s city councils have voiced opposition to the project.

The project would create about 90 permanent jobs, and employ 4,500 people at the peak of construction.

The National Energy Board must review the application and accept it as complete before an assessment and public hearings could begin next year. Any decision would likely be delivered in early 2015 because of the federal Conservatives’ new legislated, tightened timeframe for a review and decision within 15 months.

If approved, construction could begin in 2015, and the pipeline would be operating in 2017.

“It’s a very exciting day for us here,” said Kinder Morgan president and CEO Ian Anderson. “There have been many, many hours preparing what turns out to be eight volumes of the application. We expect it is likely one of the largest applications the (Energy Board) has ever received.”

He said the company’s proposal — and work that will continue during the review — should satisfy B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s five conditions to support heavy oil pipelines in the province. Those conditions include passing an environmental review, creating world-leading marine and land spill prevention and recovery systems, addressing First Nations’ rights, and the province receiving a fair share of economic benefits.

Enbridge’s proposed $6.5-billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline in northern B.C. has already completed hearings, and the National Energy Board is expected to deliver its findings before the end of the month. The B.C. government has said the Northern Gateway project does not meet its five conditions.

Reports commissioned by the B.C. and Canadian governments have raised concerns about the adequacy of tanker safety in British Columbia. Earlier this month, a federal panel concluded Canada’s oil spill response lacks federal leadership and isn’t prepared for disasters in high-risk areas, including southern B.C.

Kinder Morgan is proposing measures to increase tanker safety, including filling in gaps in tug escort between the Burnaby terminal and the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca off the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

It is also recommending the Canadian Coast Guard create an exclusion zone for vessels around oil tankers in transit, perhaps 500 metres, as is done in countries such as the United Kingdom. It would lessen the risk of collisions, said Mike Davies, Kinder Morgan’s senior director of marine development.

Finally, Kinder Morgan recommends increasing funding to the industry-supported Western Canadian Marine Response Corp. to cut response times in the Salish Sea and the Vancouver harbour in half. In the Salish Sea, for example, it would reduce the response time to a spill to about 36 hours, said Davies.

The Salish Sea encompasses the coastal waters between the southern tip of Vancouver Island and the northwestern tip of the U.S., an area already identified as particularly at risk by the federal panel because of its proximity to tankers sailing to and from Washington State.

Kinder Morgan says it has signed 46 letters of understanding, capacity funding or other agreements with First Nations, most of them in British Columbia. But Anderson acknowledged none deliver “explicit” or “final” support for the project. Discussions are continuing with First Nations, he said.

The Trans Mountain project — similar to Northern Gateway — is meant to open up new markets in Asia for heavy oil from the Alberta oilsands. Canadian oilsands producers are almost entirely reliant on the U.S. market.

The announced formal filing to the National Energy Board was immediately welcomed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

“Bolstered market access for Canada’s energy is critical to create jobs and provide economic benefits for all Canadians,” association vice-president Greg Stringham said in a news release.

Environmental groups condemned the project application, pointing to municipalities that oppose the project and the more than 130 First Nations that have signed on to the Save the Fraser Declaration opposing “tar sands” export pipelines across B.C.

“We will be going over the application with a fine-tooth comb in the weeks ahead, but needless to say this is not the Christmas present that most people in B.C. want,” said ForestEthics Advocacy campaigner Ben West.

“The movement against these pipeline is already huge. Kinder Morgan has seen years of protest and they hadn’t even filed their proposal yet. If they think they will have an easier time getting approved than Enbridge, they have another thing coming.”

B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said the province expects to seek intervener status in the application process, taking a similar approach to their assessment of Northern Gateway.

She said it is too early to say whether the project will meet B.C.’s five conditions.

“We are encouraged by Kinder Morgan’s willingness to work with us to satisfy the conditions, and the kind of outreach efforts they’ve been engaged in with B.C. communities. We think all of that bodes well. Nevertheless, there is still a great deal of work to be done as we go through the review process,” Polak told reporters Monday.

Under the Conservative government, timelines have tightened on oil pipeline reviews since Northern Gateway’s application.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said the National Energy Board review will still allow for public comment and participation, including by aboriginal peoples.

“Our government has been clear: We will only allow energy projects to proceed if they are found to be safe for Canadians after an independent, scientific environmental and regulatory review,” Oliver said in a statement.