Bitumen behaves badly

Oil industry position ignores dangers of transporting diluted bitumen

(Editor’s note: Due to a technical glitch in production, a portion of this letter was not included in the May 15 print edition of the Gazette. The letter will be run in its entirety May 22)

Editor,

In a letter to this paper Greg Stringham, on behalf of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, makes assertions about the behavior of diluted bitumen (dilbit) in salt water that are at best half-truths.

He states that dilbit floats on salt water and that it is no more dangerous at sea than other types of oil. That is wrong. It is more dangerous at sea, and infinitely more so than refined fuels like diesel and gasoline.

What Stringham doesn’t mention is that the same report from Environment Canada that he quotes from, goes on to say that dilbit sinks in seawater when there is sediment present. Another study by a top U.S. environmental chemist, Jeff Short, says the same thing. It was filed by the Gitxaala Nation to the National Energy Board in March 2013, so Stringham is well aware of it. That study says animal and plant matter like plankton, as well as sediment, cause the dilbit to sink.

Our entire coast has sediment and plankton in abundance. All our rivers are glacial and full of silt. Plankton is omnipresent, which is why the whales are here, and shallow seas like Hecate Strait throw up huge amounts of sediment from the bottom in storms.

Dilbit will sink in our waters if there is a spill and it will harden up like caulking material on beaches and the intertidal zone. The intertidal zone includes large mud flats in the midcoast because the tidal range is more than 20 feet there. How would we ever get them clean again?

Stringham also says our Canadian oil industry is interested in the Kitimat refinery idea. That is news to me. I have talked to all the companies and there is no interest whatsoever. That is why I am spearheading the project.  It will keep dilbit out of tankers and provide an enormous value-add for BC.

Canada’s oil industry needs a west coast pipeline. Coastal First Nations, the Yinka Dene First Nations, Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Terrace, Smithers, the provincial and federal NDP, the federal Liberals, the provincial and federal Green Party, many blue collar unions and the majority of folks in B.C. are against Northern Gateway’s idea of putting dilbit in tankers.

A refinery is economically viable. Why is it so hard for our oil industry to see that the way forward is to build a green refinery which will cut greenhouse gases by 50%, create thousands of jobs, generate billions of new annual taxes, and gain acceptance for a safe pipeline?

David Black

Kitimat Clean, Black Press

 

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