Diluted bitumen unsafe in any waters and should be banned

bitumen

Bitumen, the product being extracted from the Northern Alberta and Saskatchewan Tar Sands operations, is similar to bunker crude. It also must be heated to be pumped. To make it flow in a pipeline a thinning agent is added.

The faulty logic of Trudeau’s Kinder Morgan Pipeline approval

by Merv Richie

For many years now the British Columbian population has endured news, commentaries and protests regarding the prospects of petroleum products being piped across the province and shipped by tankers from West Coast ports. Missing from the debate, including the recent decisions by the government of Justin Trudeau, is the various types of product and the present day dangers the coast faces now with all vessels.

The Nathan E. Stewart, which ran aground and sank at Bella Bella on October 13, 2016, highlights these dangers. Almost every vessel, from small fish boats to dry goods freighters has all their fuel uncontained. The MV Rena, which struck a reef and broke up spoiling the beaches of New Zealand five years ago, was a dry goods freighter. Everyday there are approximately 15 similar freighters moored in English Bay, each with an average of 3 million litres of Bunker Crude in their keel holds. Only 3/4 of an inch of steel separates the bunker fuel from the open ocean and our waterfront. A full 45 million litres or as much as the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. All of this bunker crude and all fuel in almost all vessels waits to be spilled. The Nathan E. Stewart is our wake up call to demand fuel containment in all BC waters.

Most common of the refined petroleum products are diesel and gasoline. Besides the dozens of other products refined from crude oil the remaining sludge, a dirty sulphurous residue, is bunker crude. This is stored as ballast in the ‘keel hold’ at the bottom of all freighters. The consistency is such that it cannot be pumped without heating. When cold, it is like tar; in fact it is exactly the same substance we mix with gravel to pave our road surfaces. All freighters run on this filth after they leave populated harbours.

Bitumen, the product being extracted from the Northern Alberta and Saskatchewan Tar Sands operations, is similar to bunker crude. It also must be heated to be pumped. To make it flow in a pipeline a thinning agent is added. This is where the term Dil-Bit comes from; diluted bitumen. The thick bitumen is diluted with a product called ‘condensate’. Condensate is a very toxic and explosive gas. It is a by-product of wet natural gas wells. Commonly called ‘white gas’ it contains hydrogen sulfide, methanol, ethynol, cyclohexane, naphthene, benzene, toluene, xylenes and ethyl benzene. This product is being imported into Canada by ship and by rail from Kitimat to Alberta for the present pipeline system.

Therefore, we have a variety of substances to consider along with the manner in which these substances are transported. Each has their own hazards and management issues.

When the Lac Megantic disaster happened, the tragic explosion of a runaway train carrying oil, the product was not just oil. It was a mixture of oil and gas. Most adults understand one cannot light a litre of 10W30 engine oil. But if one was to add a bit of gasoline to the bottle we would essentially be creating a bomb. One wouldn’t want to stand too close when lighting it. That is exactly what was on the rails at Lac Megantic: bombs, crude oil mixed with gas.

What happened at Kalamazoo Michigan from the ‘Dil-Bit’ was a different result from the same mixture. When the Enbridge pipeline burst, a spray of pressurized ‘Dil-Bit’ hit the atmosphere. The local population suffered the effects of the toxicity. The suddenly aerosolized poisons of the condensate created neurotoxins.

Dil-Bit therefore is nothing short of an extremely explosive toxic nerve gas bomb.

Raw crude oil, without any added or present gases is difficult to transport by pipelines; for bitumen it is impossible. The added difficulty for Canadian bitumen is the corrosive sediment remaining after initial processing. The life of the pipelines is substantially reduced due to increased wear, much like sandpaper, the bitumen presents.

Transporting bitumen by rail car is not dangerous as long as it is not diluted or heated; shipped cold and raw. Bunker crude is shipped this way today. A derailment would see the product simply stay where it spilled even if a rail car broke open. A fully refined product, Dil-Bit or condensate would pollute flowing freely, vaporize or even ignite.

All these products are loaded onto vessels plying our waters completely un-contained. The rail cars or pipelines fill storage tanks next to the waters or are emptied directly into the vessel at port. This in itself presents a variety of potential for spillage. At Kitimat the condensate is reportedly spilled regularly. Tank farms are known to spring leaks including the one Kinder Morgan operates at Burrard Inlet, and spills occur while filling vessels. In fact most pleasure craft and fishing vessels are filled until the overflow spills out into the waters. All of these hazards and spillages could be resolved by a demand for containment by our governments.

In 1965 Ralph Nader wrote Unsafe at Any Speed. It was a critical examination of the Automobile Industry’s refusal to consider adding safety features such as seat belts. The industry, Nader detailed, sacrificed the lives of thousands by their combined refusal to address the very real and obvious hazards. A clear analogy is obvious here. The automobile industry complained loudly against regulation of their product, arguing the extra costs would bankrupt them or make their product unaffordable. Now safety is one of the auto industries greatest advertising features, adding airbags and protection devices wherever possible.

The petroleum and marine shipping industry could achieve the same result. Just as was required for the auto industry, regulations and changes will need to be enforced.

All vessels must be required to be retrofitted to have their fuel stored in removable containers. In the case of freighters, the rail cars presently delivering bunker crude could be redesigned to be detached from the rail bed, just as containers are today. These could then be lowered into refabricated holds on the vessel. A Panamax freighter would likely require 30 of these removable tank cars. Each could be connected to the fuel system by an electrically operated solenoid valve such that in the case of loss of power or impending disaster, the valves would secure the fuel. The very same fuel containment system must be made mandatory on all vessels. Sealed, removable fuel modules.

Just like a family going out for boating trip on a boat with a small outboard motor, the fuel is generally carried on board in a specially designed fuel tank. The hose is connected and with a couple squeezes on the fuel ball, the motor is ready to start.

Presently most vessels are unsafe in any waters. While there is justifiable outrage at Prime Minister Trudeau’s approval of the Kinder Morgan expansion plans, there is the opportunity to address the dangers present today.

If we demanded an immediate change to all fuel containment systems having bunker fuel and crude or bitumen transported cold and raw in detachable rail cars, sealed from the point of production to the destination, loaded in the same manner as ‘Sea Can’ containers are today, the dangers would be greatly reduced. An added benefit would be the reduced need for importing condensate to make toxic nerve gas and bombs. Dil-Bit needs to be completely banned. j

The Nathan E. Stewart was a wakeup call, as is the still-leaking Queen of the North; and the MV Bovec balancing on a reef off Prince Rupert in 2000 is similar to the MV Rena in New Zealand. British Columbia is just lucky to not have a disaster on its shores. And this is long before more tanker traffic arrives.

Resistance to Arctic drilling worth remembering

standing before an oil rig

From activists who scaled Shell’s rig in April or who stopped one of Shell’s ships this July, to the millions of people all over the world who signed petitions, paraded with polar bears, shared stories and helped organize for real environmental justice, this is YOUR victory.

I’m standing between Shell and the Arctic – join me

by Audrey Siegl

» Audrey Siegl, a Musqueam woman from BC, is a First Nations artist, activist, renowned public speaker and a drummer and singer. In the photo above, she stands in a Greenpeace rhib launched from the MY Esperanza holding her arm out in front her, defiantly signalling Shell’s subcontracted drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, to stop.

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Issues that demand connection and action

Thanks to donations from readers, DeSmog Canada was able to send photographer Garth Lenz to the Peace to capture the ongoing construction and the landscapes and lives that stand to be affected by Site C Dam.

Connecting the dots

by Bruce Mason

Corporate media may be denying or ignoring their existence, but the world is awash in unprecedented, existential crises: from Syria to Standing Rock, global climate tipping points, to so-called trade deals that enable greedy elites to prevent action, from international anti-nuclear arms initiatives, to the ugly, unwelcome return of the Cold War. The army of so-called mainstream media journalists, increasingly irrelevant and nearing extinction, are paid to prop up the multi-national corporate agendas. Instead of calling it mass media, the more accurate moniker is corporate media.

We turn your attention instead to independent social media; just type the headlines below into your search bar.

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A journey into the heart of darkness that is Site C Dam

by Bruce Mason

» It’s absolutely essential to understand as much as you can about Christy Clark’s increasingly controversial Site C Dam. We’re all on the hook for nine billion, at the very least, but most likely for much more. $9,000,000,000+ for the most expensive, unnecessary and destructive project in BC’s history. Our children and grandchildren will also bear the costs down the line of this greedy elite theft from our public commons.

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Toad People World Premiere

image toad people

Presented by
the Wilderness Committee
www.wildernesscommittee.org

» Wednesday, November 30, 6:30-9PM
At SFU Woodward’s, 149 W. Hastings St., Vancouver
Tickets $10 – order at toadpeople.brownpapertickets.com


What does it take to save a species? A film about hope, community and the struggle to save species at risk in BC. We are thrilled to announce the world premiere of our hotly anticipated documentary film Toad People. We hope you will save the date in your calendars and join us there.

Toad People is an inspiring documentary about communities across BC fighting to protect species at risk, such as the western toad and barn owl. This film isn’t just about people standing up for toads. People living in BC know we have remarkable wildlife no other province boasts: killer whales, grizzly bears, barn owls and badgers.

Many people don’t realize that BC has no standalone endangered species legislation. With the provincial election around the corner, now is the time to change that.

After Vancouver, we’re hitting the road to screen Toad People in interior BC, Vancouver Island and northern BC.

www.facebook.com/events/1807844426161211/

The predator we need to control is us!

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki

 

portrait of David Suzuki

• Humans are the world’s top predator. The way we fulfil this role is often mired in controversy, from factory farming to trophy hunting to predator control. The latter is the process governments use to kill carnivores like wolves, coyotes and cougars to stop them from hunting threatened species like caribou – even though human activity is the root cause of caribous’ decline.

Predation is an important natural function. But as the human population has grown, we’ve taken over management of ecosystems once based on mutually beneficial relationships that maintained natural balances. How are we – a “super predator” as the Raincoast Conservation Foundation dubs us – aligning with or verging from natural predation processes that shaped the world?

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Site C and LNG: a tenuous relationship

say no to Site C

Site C would be BC’s most expensive infrastructure project ever. Its debt funding will be loaded onto the shoulders of our children. It needs a convincing business case and, so far, that case is anything but convincing.

by Eoin Finn B.Sc., Ph.D., MBA

The relationship between the LNG industry and the Site C’s power is tenuous at best. To date, four LNG plants – LNG Canada, Kitimat LNG, Woodfibre LNG and now Pacific NorthWest LNG – have received export licenses and environmental certificates from Canada’s Governments. Only one – the small-scale Woodfibre plant in Vancouver’s Howe Sound – will use grid electricity to power its liquefaction process. All the much-larger plants will each burn about 10 percent of their gas intake to power the minus 162oC refrigeration process. If built, they would together add about 30 million tonnes to BC’s annual carbon emissions – a 50 percent increase. Upstream emissions would at least double that.

When I first settled in Vancouver in 1978, I went to a Canadian Club lunch. The guest speaker was BC Hydro’s CEO, who sternly warned the audience that, unless he got the OK to build three nuclear plants, the coal-fired Hat Creek and the Site C dam, we would in future have to munch on sushi in the dark. That was my introduction to “hydronomics”, and the engineers who want to keep on building dams – proving that, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

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Canadians want climate plan, not fracked LNG

by Bruce Mason

 

• On October 2, when Canada’s environment ministers met in Montreal, they were made aware of how Canadians view key climate issues. Topping the list: the majority (66%) of Canadians support an effective climate plan to meet targets.

The new public opinion research revealed a substantial majority of respondents (70%) believe climate change is a significant threat to Canada’s economic future. It also found that 60% support a price on carbon emissions everywhere in the country.

The survey of 1,000 Canadians, conducted by Nanos Research for Clean Energy Canada, was released as federal, provincial and territorial environment ministers gathered to prepare for a First Ministers’ Meeting on climate change later this year.

“The public is sending a clear signal. They’re tired of bickering among politicians,” reported Merran Smith, Clean Energy’s executive director. “Canadians want to see provinces do their part, but they also want the federal government to pick up the slack if provinces don’t deliver necessary results.”

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Monsanto tribunal in The Hague

For an increasing number of people from around the world, Monsanto today is the symbol of industrial agriculture. This chemical-intensive form of production pollutes the environment, accelerates biodiversity loss, and massively contributes to global warming.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Monsanto, a US-based company, has developed a number of highly toxic products, which have permanently damaged the environment and caused illness or death for thousands of people. These products include:

  • PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), one of the twelve Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) that affect human and animal fertility;
  • 2,4,5 T (2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid), a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant, Agent Orange, which was used by the US Army during the Vietnam War and continues to cause birth defects and cancer;
  • Lasso, an herbicide that is now banned in Europe;
  • and RoundUp, the most widely used herbicide in the world, and the source of the greatest health and environmental scandal in modern history – this toxic herbicide is used in combination with genetically modified (GM) RoundUp Ready seeds in large-scale monocultures, primarily to produce soybeans, maize and rapeseed for animal feed and biofuels.

Monsanto promotes an agroindustrial model that contributes at least one third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions; it is also largely responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction and declining biodiversity, and the displacement of millions of small farmers worldwide. This is a model that threatens peoples’ food sovereignty by patenting seeds and privatizing life.

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The power of one – saying no to salmon farms

The nations of the Dzawada’enuxw

The nations of the Dzawada’enuxw have been uniting and travelling down the coast of Vancouver Island locking arms with other nations in their quest to remove salmon farms from their traditional waters, sometimes called the Broughton Archipelago.

They have said “No” for almost 30 years to the salmon farms using their territories. But somehow, Canada, BC and the Norwegian/Japanese salmon farmers decided to ignore them. So today, one third of the BC salmon farming industry has made themselves at home in Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw territory.

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