Tar sands pipelines pose higher spill risks, enviros say

As pipeline companies transport larger amounts of corrosive crude oil to refineries such as BP Whiting, it comes with an increased risk of spills, environmentalists say. Canadian crude oil from tar sands is more viscous, corrosive and acidic. Current pipeline safety standards aren’t adequate to protect the public from spills, activists say, because the rules were set to deal with conventional crude oil that doesn’t wear as much on the lines. Oil industry representatives counter the pipelines are new and state of the art. “These products that come from west Canada have been transported for … upward of 40 years. They’re very similar to other crudes that have been moved in the United States,” said Peter Lydiak, pipeline director for the American Petroleum Institute. In a report released Wednesday, a coalition of environmental groups said the more corrosive oils need more pressure to move through the pipeline, which puts greater stress on pipelines. The Canadian government has said there’s no difference in failure rates for pipelines that carry tar sands compared to the ones that carry other products. But the report says due to internal corrosion, 16 times more leaks have happened in the Alberta pipeline system due to internal corrosion than in the United States. “It’s a bit like sandblasting the inside of the pipe,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, international program director with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “What we feel is that U.S. regulations have not kept up with the increasing amount of bitumen that’s come into the United States.” On July 26, an Enbridge pipeline that transports diluted crude between Sarnia, Canada to Griffith spilled more than 840,000 gallons of diluted crude oil into the Kalamazoo River near Battle Creek, Mich. The pipeline runs close to the Indiana Dunes. Less than two months later, in September, another Enbridge pipeline spilled in Romeoville, Ill. But Lydiak said the industry has been improving. “While there are these accidents … our numbers are going down and the amounts released are going down,” he said. In the past, most of the refining happened in Alberta, but refineries there are almost at capacity, Casey-Lefkowitz said. As a result, American refineries such as BP Whiting are being modified to be able to process more Canadian crude. Exports of diluted bitumen have increased almost five times to 550,000 barrels per day in 2010, according to the “Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks” report that the environmental coalition released Wednesday. It consists of the NRDC, the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club and the Pipeline Safety Trust. “It does have risk factors the conventional oil does not. The bitumen part of it has some of the most complex and nasty toxics associated with petroleum products,” said Ken Winston, public policy advocate for Sierra Club Nebraska. “Once it gets into the water, it accumulates into the food chain.” The coalition said it’s difficult to detect spills early because parts of the pipelines are located in remote areas. “They say we can detect a leak of 1 to 2 percent. That’d be 8,000 to 9,000 barrels a day that canleak into the (Ogallala) Aquifer,” said Jeremy Symons, senior vice president of the National Wildlife Federation. Lydiak said the industry uses corrosion protection additives in the oil to prevent leaks. Activists hope that the federal government will put the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas on hold until safety standards have been reviewed and possibly updated. ((17 FEB 2011))





Multiple independent lab tests are needed on the horrible things that live in the Tar Sands river.



About this entry