Keystone XL —- NRDC report raises concerns —- crude oil and diluted bitumen not the same

NRDC report raises concerns about pipeline. There is a difference between crude oil and diluted bitumen (Dilbit) — a big one, according to a report, “Tar Sands Pipelines Safety Risks,” released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the National Wildlife Federation, Pipeline Safety Trust and the Sierra Club. Groups in opposition to the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline, extending from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, and from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland and Houston, have asked legislators to write new regulation for pipelines carrying Dilbit due to its toxicity, said Brittany McAllister, coordinator of STOP (Stop Tarsands Oil Pipelines). “Because Dilbit is many times more corrosive and acidic than conventional crude, these pipelines are much more likely to leak,” McAllister said. “If it were to sink into a water column, the cleanup would be much more difficult because Dilbit is heavier than water, unlike conventional crude.” “Tar Sands Pipelines Safety Risks” details the differences between crude and Dilbit with a chart. According to the report, Dilbit has a higher acidity, viscosity, sulfur content, pipeline temperature, pipeline pressure and more abrasives than crude, increasing “the rate of pipeline deterioration” and creating challenges for “clean efforts in rivers and wetland environments” if a spill occurs. “One thing that we found it that the concept of the difference between diluted bitumen and conventional oil is not something that has been really well explored in the United States,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, international program director at the NRDC and co-author of the report. “The companies keep saying ‘This essentially is just like oil, it’s not that different’ but what we were finding is that it is very different.” Authors of the report began collecting data last year. Finding experts that would talk on the subject was difficult, said Casey-Lefkowitz. “We weren’t finding a lot of experts in the U.S. that we could turn to who were able to comment on that,” she said. “Once you go to Canada basically you’re dealing with people who are very closely tied into the oil industry, the tarsands oil industry up there.” The Keystone pipeline extension, when built, will meet the regulations set for pipelines that carry crude. The walls will be .465-inch thick, the pipe will be 36 inches in diameter, it will lay four feet underground, and have six shut-off valves. In Texas, the pipeline will pass through 18 counties including Smith, Cherokee, Rusk, Nacogdoches, Angelina, Polk, Liberty, Harris, Hardin, and Jefferson counties. It will cross six major rivers throughout the U.S., including the Neches River in East Texas. Due to the characteristics of Dilbit, the pipeline will not be strong enough to withstand erosion, said STOP Founder David Daniel, a Winnsboro resident whose land will have the pipeline running under it. “It’s less than a half-inch thick and I’ve been raising questions, I’ve done a bit of welding, I’m not an expert on pipeline construction, but for me that seems pretty thin,” Daniel said in a previous interview. “In sections of the existing pipeline, 47 anomalies were detected and that indicates the pipe was expanding. To me, that’s an indication that the pipe’s not strong enough.” The pipeline must receive a presidential permit before construction can begin. Before the State Department approves the permit, McAllister said she hopes regulations are set that require the pipe walls to be thicker and that more shut-off valves be installed to reduce damage if a spill should occur. “Tar Sands Pipelines Safety Risks” calls attention to oil spills in Alberta, Canada between 2002 and 2010. In Alberta, there were 218, compared to 13.6 in the U.S., according to the report. “Internal corrosion caused more than sixteen times as many spills in the Alberta pipeline system as the U.S. system,” said the report. “The corrosive characteristics of Dilbit may account for the disparity between spill rates in the United States and Alberta hazardous pipeline systems.” In response to the report, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) of Alberta, Canada released a statement calling the report “misleading.” “The NRDC’s comparison of ERCB data with that collected in the U.S. is flawed, as it is selected data from a much broader array of ERCB pipelines than those included in the U.S. data as hazardous liquid pipelines,” said the statement. “Additionally, the NRDC did not recognize that the ERCB requires all incidents to be reported, regardless of whether or not any product is spilled, and also regardless of spill volume, whereas in the U.S. only spills of five barrels of liquid or more are required to be reported.” The ERCB statement was in reference to a draft of the NRDC report released in December. After reviewing the completed report released last week, the ERCB said that it had determined that “all of the key data and allegations that the ERCB expressed its concerns over are present in the final NRDC report and remain incorrect.” TransCanada Representative Terry Cunha said that Dilbit is similar to crude, and that the pipeline extension will meet requirements set by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). “In our opinion, the claims made in the report are wrong. Independent reviews by government, outside experts and others have repeatedly shown that the crude oil we are delivering is no different from oil already being shipped and refined in the U.S.,” Cunha said. “(FERC) regulations dictate such things as sediment and water content, temperature and the fact that the petroleum cannot contain sand, dust, dirt, impurities.” On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., STOP members and other East Texas residents will meet at the First Presbyterian Church, 411 S. Bolton St., in Jacksonville to discuss issues surrounding the Keystone pipeline. “We’ll be going over the procedure, getting a presidential permit, and discuss eminent domain, safety and water concerns,” McAllister said. To view the NRDC report, visit To view the ERCB statement, visit and click on “news releases.” ((24 FEB 2011))



click on “news releases”


















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