Bitumen: the dangerous give-away

– by Steve Bramwell –

Big Oil’s mantra that “we have to get our oil to market” is untrue. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), effectively a ministry of propaganda for Big Foreign Oil in Canada, spends millions to convince you that what is good for Big Oil is good for Canada. This is why the mainstream media has spewed misinformation about the Canadian oil and gas industry. The corporate media is not about to lose this income by telling you the truth.

When foreign oil companies in Alberta bid for a tar sands lease, the winning bidder pays the bid price plus a yearly lease fee of $3.50 per hectare for a 15 year term, which can be extended. Once the money is paid, the oil companies are allowed to extract as much product as possible, at no cost other than the cost of extraction. Once extracted, the product is no longer owned by the Alberta government.

It is owned by the oil companies that extract it. The “we” is foreign oil companies. It is their oil and they want to get it to their market: the USA.

Norway nationalized its resources and gets so much value from its oil that they have a royalty fund worth over a trillion dollars. The Alberta royalty fund is close to bankrupt in comparison. Saudi Arabia builds beautiful cities and infrastructure with its oil wealth. In Canada we give away our resources in return for a few highly taxed jobs.

Huge wealth has come out of the tar sand area. What have Canadians received for it? Where are our free universities and fully funded hospitals? Where are the brand new highways and bridges? No, we have unemployment, homeless camps and food banks; we even have food banks at universities. Do they have them in Saudi Arabia?

Exporting our raw resources seems to be the only option our myopic governments want to entertain.

This is the deal that is being so vigorously promoted by Big Oil and the Federal government. Trudeau and his crew are spending up to $14 billion of your dollars for a pipeline that will enable the give-away of our resources and the offshoring of our jobs.

Alberta has the lowest royalty rates in North America, and while Alberta is almost bankrupt from 40 years of Conservative government, nobody is talking about raising the royalty rates. Why?

Why would foreign oil companies build upgraders and refineries in Alberta – and pay Canadian labour, higher royalties and taxes on profit – when they can avoid all this by pipelining the raw product out of the country? Not only are we allowing this, we are building them a pipeline to do it. This is beyond stupid when one considers the fact that Canada imports huge amounts of crude.

For 70 years we have been importing Saudi crude for use in the eastern refineries. In all that time none of the governments in place have seen fit to change that. Why? Is it because those governments are owned and operated by the big foreign oil companies that make huge profits extracting resources from Canada?

Dangerous goods

When the sand is removed from the tar sand in Fort McMurray, what is left is a tar-like substance called bitumen. To transport it through a pipeline it is diluted with natural gas condensate. This product contains benzene, hexane, pentane, toluene and other dangerous chemicals. Gas condensate is very explosive and the vapours can kill. Diluted bitumen, or dilbit, is not like the conventional crude we have been transporting by pipeline.

LINK: What is diluted bitumen and is it more dangerous than conventional oil? (video)

The proposed 1100 km Trans Mountain (TMX) pipeline expansion from Edmonton to Burnaby would add 12 pumping stations to the existing 23 for a total of approximately 100,000 horsepower of pumping capacity. The system would deliver 890,000 barrels per day through pipe with diameters up to 40 inches. The system would deliver dilbit at 98,000 litres per minute operating at a pressure of 900 pounds per square inch. A firehose operates at 130 psi and can reach 10 stories high. A breach in a 900 psi pipeline will spew explosive, toxic product hundreds of meters.

If the TMX storage tank farm is expanded it would hold up to five million barrels of dangerous dilbit. The facility is located in a heavily populated area 600 meters from Forest Grove Elementary School, and 1700 meters from Simon Fraser University which hosts up to 20,000 students/staff.

Five million barrels is 36 times the amount spilled from the Exxon Valdez, and 132 times the amount of crude oil product containing gas condensate that devastated Lac Megantic, Quebec.

The Burnaby Fire Dept has officially stated that an explosion, fire, or tank boil-over on Burnaby Mountain would be beyond their ability to contain. Trans Mountain has its own emergency response team that is located a safe distance away, in Kamloops. When Kinder Morgan owned the project, the response team was located in Texas.

An explosion, fire or toxic gas release at the Burnaby terminal has the potential to kill hundreds if not thousands of people. Why are we being asked to accept this risk just so foreign companies can make huge profits? Short answer is: we are not being asked, we are being told it is in the national interest. Another statement to add to the pile of lies.

Steve Bramwell is a retired oil sands worker and a 50 year member of International Electrical Workers Union Local 424, Edmonton

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