The good news on Keystone XL you almost certainly missed

Alberta’s bitumen is no more likely than other crude types to cause a spill


Etienne de Malglaive/REA/Redux

This article appeared first on Canadian Business.

The big news on Keystone XL on Tuesday was that President Barack Obama doesn’t think the pipeline, meant to carry Alberta’s oil sand crude to Texas refineries, can possibly be in the U.S.’s national interest if it will “significantly” contribute to a rise in global carbon emissions. The statement, uttered in the middle of the president’s major speech on climate policy, was open-ended enough to allow both Keystone supporters and its adversaries to declare victory. Still, an expert observer of cross-border affairs such as Paul Wells here at Maclean’s saw the president’s decision to bring up the pipeline, when he didn’t really have to, as an eerie sign.

But there was another Keystone development on Tuesday, one that delivered an unambiguous—if limited—victory to the pro-pipeline front.

A group of pipeline safety experts found that diluted bitumen from the oilsands, which Keystone would transport, is no more likely than other oil crude types to cause a spill. The group, known as Dilbit Committee, had been mandated by Congress last year to look at bitumen and spill risks and review pipeline safety regulations if necessary.

The key tidbit from the report reads:

The committee does not find any causes of pipeline failure unique to the transportation of diluted bitumen. Furthermore, the committee does not find evidence of chemical or physical properties of diluted bitumen that are outside the range of other crude oils or any other aspect of its transportation by transmission pipeline that would make diluted bitumen more likely than other crude oils to cause releases.

The finding contradicts arguments by some environmentalist groups that bitumen, the tar-like substance extracted from Alberta’s oil patch, corrodes or clogs pipelines, increasing the risk of ruptures. Oil producers mix the bitumen with lighter oils to obtain diluted bitumen, or dilbit, which can flow through a pipeline.

The Committee noted that a federal investigation into the famous 2010 pipeline spill in Marshall, Michigan, which released some 20,000 barrels of dilbit into the nearby Kalamazoo River, “did not report that specific properties of the products transported through the pipeline at the time of the event or in the past had caused or contributed to the pipeline damage.” The environmental disaster that ensued led some environmentalists to oppose piping dilbit in the belief that it is less safe.

The Committee also deemed that the findings of an oft-quoted 1993 study on California’s pipelines are irrelevant to the dilbit question. Some green groups say the 20-year old research shows that California’s heavy crude, which is in many ways similar to dilbit, is likely to cause pipeline ruptures when flowing at higher temperatures. But most of the incidents recorded in the California study involved pipelines built before 1950, the Dilbit Committee noted, which suggests that antiquated technology, rather than what was being transported, was the cause of the breakdowns.

The dilbit report, which was authored by independent experts and not the oil industry, should quash some of the charges against Alberta’s crude once and for all. It’s a limited victory, though, for two reasons. First, Obama has now clearly indicated than the focus of his attention on the environmental impact of Keystone is the question of emissions rather than spills. Second, as the Committee itself noted, the dilbit report answers only half of the spills question anyways—and possibly the less important one.

The study does not address the issue of whether a dilbit spill, once it has happened, has more serious consequences. The Environmental Protection Agency says the Michigan incident showed that, unlike other types of crude, bitumen can sink in water—the Kalamazoo will have to be dredged to contain damage, the agency says—and might emit dangerous levels of benzene, a carcinogenic substance, when it breaks out. EPA cited these concerns in an official critique to the State Department’s latest draft environmental assessment on Keystone.

Still, the finding that dilbit behaves like any other crude while it’s inside a pipeline matters. Had the Committee found otherwise, it would have likely considerably delayed the already drawn-out Keystone approval process. The report might not bring Canada much closer to a presidential go-ahead, but it certainly took a rock out of Ottawa’s shoe.


The good news on Keystone XL you almost certainly missed

  1. To the author, your article suggests your in favour of letting the pipeline traverse your yard?

    • Is it going through yours?

      Do you even know the route, do you even know how many piplelines are already in existence?

      Have you stopped driving your car in protest?

  2. How on earth do you “drain a river”? Surely you meant dredge. Not that that’s barely any more arduous a task to complete.

    • Yikes, I did mean dredge. Correcting now. Thanks for pointing out.

      • You should have left it….it’s quite possible to drain a river….and necessary sometimes when there is sludge on the bottom

        • In the case of the Kalamazoo EPA talked about dredging

          • The oil is still migrating so later on…..

  3. The “o” will approve Keystone XL, much to the chagrin of the leftwingnut-eco-tards.

    • You have no idea what Obama will do…..wishing is not reality.

      • Did you miss the reports that he championing fracking?

        • Nope, I’m aware of it. The UK will also be fracking as they’ve recently discovered shale oil.

    • As the Obama State Department weighs the pros and cons of the Keystone XL pipeline, you can be rest assured they will not be taking seriously the crass opinions of climate-science-denying con-crank ignoramuses.

      • Of course they won’t, their team is already full of idiots thinking CO2 is poison.

        Nor will they be listening to the likes of Watts or Mcintyre. They’ve got information here on what is actually happening:

        • More foolish misinformation. Scientists don’t claim CO2 emissions are poisonous. They say they are a form of pollution because they contribute to global warming. Since the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels have risen from 280 ppm to 400 due to industrial activity. Scientists say this is the highest they’ve been in over 2.5 million years, dating back before our present Quaternary geological period.

          • What a load of rubbish you push.

            CO2 levels are near the absolute minimum needed to sustain life on earth. The average CO2 history for the past 600 million years or so shows CLEARLY that levels above 1000ppm are the norm.

            We are living in exceptional times with LOW CO2.

            CO2 has been declared a dangerous pollutant by the EPA, you know – alongside formaldehyde and bezene.

            Stop the bald faced lying, you are doing nothing but trying to mislead readers.

          • I’ve heard of young earth creationism, but this is the first time I’ve heard that life on earth couldn’t existbefore the 20th century.

          • It’s like you have a super-ability to see the world yet not comprehend a single thing that goes on in it.

            Truly Amazing!

            So let me try this:


            Does that now makes sense to you, as understanding plain English seems much to difficult for you.

          • Considering that CO2 levels are more than double the lowest levels they reached numerous time over the past million years, and 33% higher than the highest level of the past 800,000 prior to the 20th century, if they’re “near the absolute minimum needed to sustain life” it seems unlikely much life existed prior to the 20th century.

          • How you think higher CO2 levels millions of years ago, before Homo Sapien even existed, proves that CO2 levels which are more than double the lowest levels they
            reached numerous time over the past million years, and 33% higher than
            the highest level of the past 800,000 are “near the absolute minimum needed to sustain life” isn’t clear.

            But if you’re convinced that’s the case you should write up the paper and submit it for publication because there’s nothing in the published literature that makes that claim.

        • Well, they may listen to Watts if they’re passing through northern California and they tune in to the local radio for the weather.
          But no, if they’re reviewing the published work of scientists they won’t be listening to Watts or McIntyre.

  4. This is a non-issue. It doesn’t matter if a diluted bitumen pipeline has no greater risk of rupture than a conventional oil pipeline. It’s what happens when a pipeline ruptures. As in the case of the Kalamazoo River diluted-bitumen spill, the diluting agent evaporated and the bitumen sunk to the bottom of the river. That causes a much greater ecological disaster than a conventional oil spill.

    This reality makes the Northern Gateway pipeline (which would ship diluted bitumen to Asia from the BC coast) an incredibly stupid idea. When an oil tanker ruptures and dumps a huge load of bitumen to the ocean floor how on Earth are they going to clean it up? That is as well thought out as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which gushed 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a 3-month period because they had no contingency plan for an obvious catastrophic failure.

    (Conservative idea of a “no-brainer”: a decision completely devoid of forethought.)

    • What about when wind turbines kill endangered birds, what was your plan then?

      How about the toxic by-products of solar cell production which ARE dumped into water suppliers, did you have a plan for that?

      What about the people that die of starvation because food prices go up so that you can fill your car with bio-gas, did you plan that?

      These are examples of how the left plans stuff, so please- stay the hell away from planning the pipeline

      • Absurd misinformation, misguided partisanship and silly non sequiturs.

        • Sorry to interrupt your little propaganda session with some basic facts. I know how little regard you hold for silly facts and how frustrating it must be for you when they keep coming back to bite you.

          Why don’t you try a little research on these topics, then come back a little more enlightened.

          • WIND

            Here’s one that says they are devastating for birds:

            Let me quote: ” …The results in this paper suggest that: (i) wind farms kill millions of
            birds yearly around the world, and the high mortality of rare raptors is
            of particular concern; (ii) wind farms on migration routes are
            particularly dangerous,…”


            Germany’s Disaster:


            Did you even read your link, let me quote:
            “…Growing fuel, not food, will have catastrophic effects on global food security…”

            OOOOps, dufus

            Here’s OXFAM on biofuel:

            Here’s another:

            Funny, they all seems to say it is a problem.

          • Funny, you don’t seem to understand what’s being discussed.

            Wind turbines kill birds. They kill many fewer birds than the fossil fuels they replace.

            Ah, yes putting fuel in cars is a bad idea. It’s a bad idea that the The Harper Conservatives have been perpetuating to the tune of millions of dollars.

            And yes, solar produces less pollution than the fossil fuels it replaces. I have no idea what you think German subsidies have to do with that fact. Did you hit “I feel lucky” when you googled?

            So, to recap:

            The deep concerns you have about bird mortality, pollution and starvation, are best addressed by replacing fossil fuels with renewables, and removing the bio-fuel subsidizing Conservatives from office.

          • Of course, that should read “putting biofuels made from food in cars is a bad idea.

          • I guess trying to get you to read a paper is just too difficult.
            SO tell me, where is this obvious conclusion of your coming from?

            Please explain where all the windmills will be located, their storage, their infrastrucutre, do the same again for solar.

            As for bio, are you for or against biofuel, or just for or against the subsidies. I already get the part that you have harper derangement syndrome, so i understand that you don’t like HIS subsidiies, but are someone else’s OK.

            If you don’t understand what position you are picking, its OK – I know you have trouble deciding a point and defending it. So start slowly and work your way up.

          • This isn’t hard.

            You claimed “people that die of starvation because food prices go up so that you can fill your car with bio-gas” was an example of ” how the left plans stuff”, when it’s obviously an example of how the Conservative Party of Canada “plans stuff”.
            I didn’t introduce subsidizes for, advocate or otherwise “plan” to fuel cars with food.

            As to the logistics of replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, I’ll leave that to the experts in the respective fields, as I don’t suffer from this affliction as acutely as you apparently do.

          • from…the effects of this afflictionas acutely as you apparently do.

      • Idiot.

        • This is about the level of your debating skill, may I suggest reading some batman or superman. Then at least you can put together 3-4 word sentences!

          • Shorter frenchie77:

            How cum yer post is all red like that?

          • Again, did you even read your link. It says:

            “Growing fuel, not food, will have catastrophic effects on global food security. Arable land is disappearing at alarming rates, world
            population is increasing and more people are malnourished than ever before. Even if biofuel was a net energy producer, which it is not, the planet is not capable of producing enough food to feed everyone and enough biofuel to make even the slightest dent in climate change.”

            While I am amused at you proving that somethimes I do agree with the green party, and I thank you for that amusement, it clearly doesn’t support the point you were trying to make.

          • Heh.

            You haven’t got a clue what point I was making, because you don’t even know the original point you were trying to make.

          • If you can’t read blame your teacher.
            Coming here and showing your lameness won’t help you.
            You have a habit of taking contrarian positions until you lose then try switch teams and make it seem you were on the winning side.

          • You blamed the Conservative Party of Canada’s support for, and subsidy of people filling their cars with biofuel and causing starvation on “the left”.
            It’s pretty simple.

            But go ahead a provide quotes demonstrating how I “switched teams”.

            Good luck!

  5. Glo-Bull Warmers live in a land of fairy tales, lollipops and unicorns.

    This affliction is known as Leftist Mental Disorder.

    A prime example of this is the recent provincial election in BC where the media party, pollsters and leftist rabble all had the NDP heading for a majority government.

    Federally we’ve seen three successive leaders of the Liberals lose more seats, their latest leader is suffers from terminal foot in mouth.

    Very sad lot these people are, but there is help available to them should they seek it.

    • There is a pill that they can take for LMD, it comes in the shape of a boot and is taken anally, every day for many months.