Transport system can handle diluted bitumen

Contributed to Black Press
Greg Stringham
Vice President of Oil Sands
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
May 07, 2014
Continued safe marine and pipeline transport of hydrocarbons is in everybody's interest so Canadians can realize value for resources and oil producers can continue to deliver jobs and economic benefits.

No one wants a spill of any product at any time.

The performance track record over the past 50 years is good, but even still, work is ongoing to improve prevention and ensure producers, transportation companies and spill-responders have the best information available to manage products safely and make the best plans possible for response, containment and clean-up in the event of an incident.

Recently, two articles by David Black were published in the Black Press chain of B.C. newspapers discussing his proposed Kitimat oil refinery project and his views on the potential environmental impact of a spill of diluted bitumen from the oil sands.

These articles incorrectly suggested the Canadian oil industry is not interested in the proposed refinery project and that transporting diluted bitumen is more risky than transporting other types of oil because of its chemical properties.

Fact is, oil producers are seeking increased access to existing and new markets - in Canada, the United States and internationally - to satisfy market demand for increasing Canadian oil production. All options to achieve that goal are worthy of study.

And diluted bitumen - oil sands bitumen diluted with natural gas liquids that allow it to flow - is no more dangerous than other types of crude oil.

Chemically, there's nothing about diluted bitumen the transportation system cannot be prepared to manage. Whether it moves by pipelines or tankers, diluted bitumen meets all the same specifications and behaves the same as other crude oils.

Oil floats on water if it has an API gravity above water's 10 degree API gravity. Diluted bitumen has an API gravity of 20-22 degrees. Any type of oil spilled in water, eventually "weathers" and can be driven below the surface by waves or currents. Diluted bitumen behaves the same way.

There have been several scientific studies completed on diluted bitumen. Earlier this year, the federal government released a research study that demonstrated diluted bitumen floats on salt water - even after evaporation and exposure to light.

The study was commissioned by Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada as part of the government's plan to implement a world-class prevention, preparedness and response regime for marine transportation. Results of the study will be used to inform spill responders and help guide more research.

Our industry is focused on responsible development of Canada's resources. We welcome transparency on our safety and environmental performance, based on sound science.

As producers, we transport oil with care and attention at all times. We expect all transportation providers to deliver safe services in a responsible manner.

We know Canadians want to understand the transportation of oil will be done safely and the necessary regulatory oversight and prevention mechanisms are in place, in particular for the new infrastructure and additional tankers needed to take these Canadian commodities to global markets.

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