Sound, scientific evidence

Contributed to The Comox Valley Echo
Greg Stringham
Vice President of Oil Sands
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers
October 12, 2012

Re: Why we can't support pipeline

Contrary to the assertion in this article that data from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers shows no need for increased pipeline capacity, our 2012 crude oil production forecast clearly states the opposite: "Growing conventional oil, including tight oil, and oil sands production has created an urgent need for additional transportation infrastructure. New pipelines, expansion to existing infrastructure and increased transportation by rail are all required to meet this need for capacity."

The article also assumes diluted bitumen (dilbit) is different from other crude oils. In fact, "... the characteristics of dilbit are not unique and are comparable to conventional crude oils during pipeline flow," says a study by Alberta Innovates, an Alberta government organization.Asserting dilbit is different from other crude oils is a fallacy that allows critics to lament a lack of dilbit-specific research or regulations.

Dilbit does not separate in pipelines, tanks or tankers. It floats, just like any crude oil, in calm or slow-moving water. In technical terms, products float on water if they have an API gravity above water's 10 degree API gravity. Dilbit has an API gravity of 20-22 degrees. In spills, any oil eventually "weathers" and can be driven below the water surface by waves or currents. Dilbit has the same spill-recovery characteristics as conventional heavy oil.

Nor is dilbit more corrosive in pipelines than conventional oil. Alberta's industry regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board, said in a news release: "Analysis of pipeline failure statistics in Alberta has not identified any significant differences in failure frequency between pipelines handling conventional crude versus pipelines carrying crude bitumen, crude oil or synthetic crude oil."

Oil sands crude oils, including dilbit, meet the same pipeline specifications as other crude oils in North America and for decades, these oils have been transported through pipelines under existing regulations. While some pipeline spills unfortunately have occurred, in no case did investigators determine the type of oil in the pipe to be the cause.

The oil and gas industry is focused on responsible development of Canada's resources. We believe in transparency. Libraries of data from actual operations and reams of sound, scientific research are available from regulators, governments, academic institutions and the industry.