September 22, 2012
RE: Kinder Morgans response to townhall meeting
Kinder Morgans response to a planned townhall meeting is to claim that the company has a good safety record for shipping diluted bitumen (tar sands diluted with a cocktail of toxic hydrocarbons) and that diluted bitumen is no more corrosive than other types of crude oil (Burnaby Now, September 19, 2012).
Both of Kinder Morgans claims deserve close scrutiny.
First, Kinder Morgan has declined to provide details on spill incidents in the past decade, but National Energy Board data show there have been nine leaks on the pipeline since 2002, which spilled a total of nearly 4,800 barrels of oil.(1) The major incidents were at Sumas tank farm in 2005 and at the Burnaby terminal in 2009. Evacuations took place in Burnaby in areas near Government Road in 2009 and Forest Grove in 2010.
Second, diluted bitumen is derived from tar sands which is relatively solid at room temperature. This solid matter must be super heated, mixed with toxic cocktail of hydrocarbons and placed under intense pressure in order to transport it by pipeline. While it is true that some industry groups maintain that diluted bitumen is not anymore corrosive than conventional crude, many science based studies, have shown that diluted bitumen is more abrasive and thus more likely to cause increased risk of damage to pipes and related infastructure.(2)
In fact, refiners have found that tar sands derived crude contains significantly higher quantities of abrasive quartz sand particles than conventional crude. These studies maintain that the combination of chemical corrosion and physical abrasion can dramatically increase the rate of pipeline deterioration.
This is not to mention the problem of trying to clean-up diluted bitumen when, not if, spills occur. The main problem is that when the solvents used to transport tar sands dissipate, the resulting heavy oil tends to sink. If spilled bitumen is not located and cleaned up within hours of a spill, the heavy oil sinks in water and/or soil making it virtually impossible to remove. This was amply demonstrated in the recent massive spill near Kalamazoo, Michigan. (3)
I urge everyone to learn more and discuss the facts. The planned Townhall Meeting on October 10, 2012 at Confederation Park will help shed more light on heavy oil.
2) Crude Oil Quality Association, Standard Handbook of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering, Planning Ahead for Effective Canadian Crude Processing, the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.
Burnaby residents opposed to Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion are holding a meeting to inform the public about the company’s plan to more than double oil shipments from Alberta to Burnaby.
“If you live in Burnaby, you are either directly affected by this proposed pipeline expansion or you know somebody who is,” said Mary Hatch of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion in a press release.
Kinder Morgan is planning to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline, increasing capacity from 300,000 barrels of oil per day to 750,000. The line was built in the 1950s and transports various types of oil products, including diluted bitumen, a blend of solid petroleum and condensate. The residents’ group stated that bitumen poses an increased risk in the event of an oil spill because the condensate evaporates and the bitumen sinks to the ocean or river floor.
“We want to see the threat of toxic spills reduced, not increased,” said Karl Perrin, a member of the group. “Hosting a town hall meeting allows us to get some very knowledgeable people in front of concerned Burnaby residents.”
The group also raised concerns about increased tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet and Kinder Morgan’s plan to double capacity at the tank farm on Burnaby Mountain, as well as higher temperatures and pressures required to ship the diluted bitumen. Roughly a third of Kinder Morgan’s current shipments is bitumen diluted with condensate or synthetic crude, but the company can’t say how much it plans to move through the lines in the future if the expansion plan is approved. Kinder Morgan’s engineering director Michael Davies likened the transport of diluted bitumen to other forms of heavy crude.
“We haven’t seen any unusual corrosion or have had and other problems with
diluted bitumen,” Davies said. “At pipeline temperature, it’s not more acidic or corrosive than conventional crude oil.”
The first town hall meeting will be held Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. at Confederation Seniors’ Centre, at 4585 Albert St. Speakers will include Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Burnaby-Douglas MP Kennedy Stewart, Mayor Derek Corrigan, Mary Hatch from the residents’ group, and Ben West and Sven Biggs from the Wilderness Committee and Tanker Free B.C.
BROKE was recently formed by local residents, some of whom were directly affected by the 2007 Kinder Morgan pipeline spill.
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