What do we know about dilbit? Since coming on the scene, the mixture of tar sands crude and a lighter substance such as natural gas condensate has been a matter of much speculation. How does it behave in pipelines? Does it float in water or sink?
Now, Canadian oil producers are saying that diluted bitumen (dilbit) has gotten a bad name. They are seeking clean up its image with an industry-funded report claiming that the tar sand mixture is no more dangerous to pipelines than some conventional crude oil.
The report, entitled “Dilbit Corrosivity,” was prepared by UK’s Penspen Group for the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA). It seeks to debunk arguments like those made at the hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, that dilbit’s high viscosity, acidity, and level of sediments could cause corrosion that would leave the areas around pipelines more vulnerable to spills. It argues that, because dilbit is no more corrosive than other forms of heavy crude, no special plans need to be made to prevent spills.
“Some of the literature is ill-informed and wrong: both Dilbit and Synbit in a crude oil transmission pipeline environment is no more corrosive than comparable heavy sour crudes and in many cases may be less corrosive,” it reads.
“Consequently, there are no significant additional implications for corrosion control in a pipeline carrying Dilbit and Synbit as part of pipeline integrity management over and above what is already standard practice.”
Anthony Swift, an attorney with the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) disagrees with this characterization. He argues that Penspen’s findings are not new and describes the CEPA report as a “rehash of a number of flawed government and industry studies intended to promote tar sands.”
In last week's State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated his vision for clean energy and urgent action on global warming. With TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on the frontlines and looking threatened, oil industry supporters are suddenly desperate to look like the environmental and climate risks of the tar sands are under control.
But there’s a massive credibility gap as Canada’s contribution to global warming is spiralling out of control, with the reckless expansion of the tar sands.
We’ve always believed that actions speak louder than words. So while the oil industry and government embark on a pro-tar sands PR campaign, let’s look at how Canada has behaved on climate action and the environmental risks of the tar sands.
“If people don’t speak out there will never be any change,” says the University of Victoria’s award-winning climate scientist Andrew Weaver.
And the need for change in Canada, says Weaver, has never been more pressing.
“We have a crisis in Canada. That crisis is in terms of the development of information and the need for science to inform decision-making. We have replaced that with an ideological approach to decision-making, the selective use of whatever can be found to justify [policy decisions], and the suppression of scientific voices and science itself in terms of informing the development of that policy.”