Re: Residents organize townhall meeting on pipeline, Burnaby NOW, Sept. 19.
Kinder Morgan's response to a planned town hall meeting is to claim that the company has a good safety record for shipping "diluted bitumen" (tar sands diluted with a cocktail of toxic hydrocarbons) and that diluted bitumen is no more "corrosive" than other types of crude oil.
Both of Kinder Morgan's claims deserve close scrutiny.
First, Kinder Morgan "has declined to provide details on spill incidents in the past decade, but National Energy Board data show there have been nine leaks on the pipeline since 2002, which spilled a total of nearly 4,800 barrels of oil." The major incidents were at the Sumas tank farm in 2005 and at the Burnaby terminal in 2009.
Evacuations took place in Burnaby in areas near Government Road in 2009 and Forest Grove in 2010.
Second, diluted bitumen is derived from tar sands which is relatively solid at room temperature. This solid matter must be super heated, mixed with a toxic cocktail of hydrocarbons and placed under intense pressure in order to transport it by pipeline. While it is true that some industry groups maintain that diluted bitumen is not any more "corrosive" than conventional crude, many science-based studies, have shown that diluted bitumen is more abrasive and thus more likely to cause increased risk of damage to pipes and related infrastructure.
In fact, refiners have found that tar sands-derived crude contains significantly higher quantities of abrasive quartz sand particles than conventional crude. These studies maintain that the combination of chemical corrosion and physical abrasion can dramatically increase the rate of pipeline deterioration.
This is not to mention the problem of trying to clean-up diluted bitumen when, not if, spills occur.
The main problem is that when the solvents used to transport tar sands dissipate, the resulting heavy oil tends to sink.
If spilled bitumen is not located and cleaned up within hours of a spill, the heavy oil sinks in water and/or soil making it virtually impossible to remove.
This was amply demonstrated in the recent massive spill near Kalamazoo, Michigan.
I urge everyone to learn more and discuss the facts. The planned town hall meeting on Oct. 10 at Confederation Park will help shed more light on heavy oil.
Alan Hunter, by email