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Enbridge Oil Spill Worries British Columbia Pipeline Critics

Environment  (tags: pollution, tar sands, oil spill, oil sands, Alberta, Canada, Enbridge, Harper Government, energy, environment, ecosystems, politics, conservation )

- 2155 days ago -
An oil spill on an Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin has critics in B.C. questioning the safety of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

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Michael O (176)
Monday July 30, 2012, 5:22 am
About 1,200 barrels (190,000 litres) seeped out of an Enbridge pipeline in Wisconsin, which was delivering Canadian crude to Chicago-area refineries. According to Reuters, Enbridge plans to replace the leaky Wisconsin oil pipeline Monday, though it is not clear when the line will restart.

About 300 million litres of heavy crude spilled from a ruptured Enbridge pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in 2010. Investigators with the U.S. Transportation Safety Board released their findings earlier this month and ripped into the company, noting it did nothing for 17 hours after oil started gushing and that it knew about small cracks in the pipeline for five years.

While officials with Enbridge say the situation in Wisconsin is being treated as a top priority, that doesn't reassure environmental groups and native communities that have staunchly opposed the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal.

“I think the U.S. and Canadian authorities that regulate the pipeline should immediately suspend operation permits and licensing and conduct a full scale inquiry into the operations and safety practices of Enbridge,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix is heading to Terrace, B.C., on Monday to meet with aboriginal leaders about the pipeline. He also plans to visit Kitimat, the western terminus for the Northern Gateway, where 500,000 barrels of oil a day would be loaded aboard tankers and shipped overseas.

For Dix, the Wisconsin spill shows yet again just how risky a pipeline through British Columbia could be.

“This just builds on other evidence that this is not in B.C.'s economic or environmental interest and shows the folly of attempting to sacrifice environmental risk for B.C. money,” he said.

The pipeline must pass a National Energy Board review, which is currently underway. B.C. will get its chance to cross-examine Enbridge this fall.

“We need to be assured by the company, the National Energy Board and authorities on the coast that there are systems in place that will be able to minimize the risk and response to risks without the taxpayer being left with a problem,” said B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake.

The review is expected to wrap up sometime in 2013.

The $5.5-billion, 1,177-kilometre Northern Gateway project would bring bitumen to Kitimat from the Alberta oilsands. The company recently announced a slate of safety improvements, including thicker pipe and better monitoring, that pushed the project's pricetag by $500 million to $6 billion.

Northern Gateway is at the centre of an argument between B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Alberta Premier Alison Redford over how to fairly divvy up the project's risks and rewards.

Julie P (154)
Monday July 30, 2012, 7:03 pm
"Bitumen Is Toxic, Flammable,
Corrosive, And Abrasive"

"The bitumen shipped by pipelines is diluted 70/30 with natural gas condensate, pentanes plus gasoline, or
naphtha. Both the bitumen and the diluents are toxic, and with a low flash point and high vapour pressure, can be easily ignited at any temperature above 0ºF. Despite being diluted, the resultant mixture may be
over 40 times as viscous (thick) as conventional crude, and requires operating pressures 2.5 times as high. The temperature of a normal crude pipeline is around 100ºF; of a bitumen pipeline 158ºF. Pipeline stresses are therefore considerably higher.

Internal corrosion and wear on pipelines carrying diluted bitumen may well be considerably higher than
with conventional crude. The bitumen has high concentrations of chloride salts which, given the high
operating temperatures, are likely to increase stress corrosion of pipeline steel. Diluted bitumen has a sulphur content five to ten times that of conventional crude, and is fifteen or twenty times
more acid. To add to the wear factor, it contains significant amounts of sand. Conventional crude oil has none...

reportable Alberta pipeline spills attributed to ‘internal corrosion’ per 10,000 miles of pipeline are sixteen times as high as roughly equivalent measurements for US pipelines. This is despite the fact that over half the pipelines in Alberta have been laid within the last twenty years (to serve the rapid growth of tar sands extraction), while most US pipelines aremore than forty years old. To add to the ‘mystery’ of the Kalamazoo rupture, older pipelines are manufactured from steel of less strength, and may have poorer coatings and corrosion protection...

The supertankers which would carry the diluted bitumen from Enbridge’s proposed Kitimat terminal to
Asian markets were originally designed to carry conventional crude, and so it would be reasonable to
question whether they, too, could suffer corrosion damage. Should a spill occur, bitumen, unlike crude oil,
is heavier than water, and would therefore sink and be particularly difficult to clean up (similar to the oil from
BP’s Mocambo well in the Gulf of Mexico). On shore, it might solidify, blacktopping beaches.
Enbridge continues to insist that oil spills from tankers are the responsibility of ship operators."
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