Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

“Increased B.C. tanker traffic will be safe”

with one comment

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This is the claim by Canada’s Transport Minister Marc Garneau, which is examined in a CBC documentary. There is no commenting permitted under the article on the web page.

So I posted this to facebook instead

I read the article, I listened carefully to the video report. There were many references to “products” “diesel” and even “Alberta oil”. But what will be coming down the pipeline and will be shipped on the tankers – and transhipped to super tankers somewhere offshore – is diluted bitumen. And that is not a “product”. It is not even crude oil. It is heavy tar mixed with sand that has had about a quarter of its volume added with natural gas liquids. Diluted bitumen. In a spill the diluent evaporates, and tar sand sinks. It has been years since the Kalamazoo river spill – and that is far from clean. No one in this documentary talks about dilbit.

And dilbit sinks. It is not recoverable and pollutes for a long time. And we need answers that are appropriate to the problem. Talking about diesel – or even bunker C, the guck that spilled in our harbour recently from a bulk grain carrier – is not relevant. The risks of a dilbit spill have not been presented or assessed in this report. How can they say it will be safe?

And just in case you think that because dilbit sinks it won’t be an issue, let me remind you of this

Not enough is known about the impact oilsands bitumen could have on ocean plants and animals to assess the risks of moving it through marine environments, according to a new study.

“Basic information is lacking or unavailable for several key sources of stress and disturbance, making it impossible to carry out a complete risk assessment,” said the paper, which draws its conclusion from an examination of more than 9,000 papers on oil and the environment.

The paper has been peer reviewed and will be published next month in the journal Frontiers in the Ecology and Environment. Although it has been shared with the federal government, it has not been publicly released.

That was in the Vancouver Sun on November 30

I did write to the West Coast Marine Response Corporation, and this is what I got back

We did discuss diluted bitumen with the CBC, but that portion of the interview was not included in their final edit.

The body in Canada that is responsible for looking into the fate and behaviour of hydrocarbons in the ocean is Environment Canada. They published a report in 2013 on the topic, which you can read here: https://www.ec.gc.ca/scitech/6A2D63E5-4137-440B-8BB3-E38ECED9B02F/1633_Dilbit%20Technical%20Report_e_v2%20FINAL-s.pdf

For WCMRC comments on diluted bitumen, I would refer you to our submission to the TMX panel, you can read that document here: http://wcmrc.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/TMX-Ministerial-Panel-WCMRC-Presentation-August-16-2016.pdf

I have just started reading the first of those reports, and was surprised to read

A diluted bitumen blend spill occurred in 2007 from a pipeline operated by Kinder Morgan into Burrard Inlet, Burnaby, B.C. (TSB, 2007). The product spilled was Albian Heavy, a blend of synthetic crude oil and heavier oil sands product. Approximately 224 cubic metres of oil were released, with 210 cubic metres being recovered (TSB, 2007). Oil escaped under pressure from a pipeline rupture. Spilled oil migrated through the sewer system into Burrard Inlet where it began to spread on the water. Approximately 15 000 m of shoreline were affected by the spill.

An assessment of the spill clean-up and environmental impacts was commissioned by Kinder Morgan five years after the spill (Stantec Consulting Ltd., 2012b). The report of that assessment indicated that spill response operations were effective at removing oil from the environment and in limiting the short- and long-term effects of the spill. Oil was recovered by skimming and booming, as well as by flushing and removal from the affected shorelines.

Though shoreline intertidal zones were oiled, most marine sediments had only a small increase in measured PAH concentrations, with 20 of 78 monitored sites exceeding water quality guidelines (Stantec Consulting Ltd., 2012b). Levels of extractable hydrocarbons and PAHs for surface water quality requirements were met in 2007. Subtidal marine sediments were monitored through 2011, with most samples having levels of PAHs below the water quality requirements. Those subtidal sediment samples that did exceed the maximum regulated PAH levels appeared to be caused by sources other than the spill. Based on these observations, only trace amounts or less of oil from the 2007 spill appear to have remained in the marine harbour sediments.

and from the conclusions

This work demonstrates that, in waters where fine- to moderate-sized sediment is present, these oils are at risk to sink, when there is a high degree of mixing energy available. However, the effects of different mixing regimes, including current flow, on oil-sediment interactions have not been examined in the present work. Comparisons to meso-scale testing in lower mixing energies by other researchers have revealed some differences between, for example, water-uptake by oils. Testing in the wave tank described in Chapter 5, moderate mixing of the oil-sediment aggregates, resulted in a suspension of the materials. Available mixing energy factors seem to have an influence on the fate of the formed oil-sediment aggregates. While the present work illustrates some of the forms that these oils may possibly adopt following a spill, more work is needed to understand the mechanisms and rates of formation of these states, and to understand the factors that govern the transitions between these fates. [emphasis added]

Written by Stephen Rees

December 6, 2016 at 9:27 pm

One Response

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  1. With the Inlet Drive oil spill, a few houses, yards and streets were covered from the windblown geyser of oil from the ruptured pipe. Several households were moved out for weeks while crews cleaned all the outdoor surfaces. And, of course, the storm sewers were the conduits that guided the oil to the sea.

    This illustrates that land spills can impact more than just the immediate area around a break in a pipe.

    Alex Botta

    December 8, 2016 at 4:11 pm


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