Joint B.C.-Alberta report looks at whether oil-by-rail a viable option


VANCOUVER – A task force report has been handed in to the British Columbia and Alberta governments that examines the idea of transporting oilsands’ crude via rail if proposed pipelines don’t get the green light, government documents show.

It’s an idea the environmental group ForestEthics calls “underhanded.”

It’s a “backdoor way for industry to bring tankers to the coast without the same sort of public oversight or public process that we’ve had around the Enbridge pipeline or would have around the Kinder Morgan pipeline,” said Ben West, campaign director for ForestEthics.

A joint provincial working group was announced by premiers Christy Clark and Alison Redford in July to develop recommendations related to energy exports and the opening of new export markets for products like bitumen for the two provinces, including pipeline and rail transport.

“Rail can be considered a viable alternative to pipeline movement based on costs of transport,” the terms of reference for the group states. “If pipelines are not developed, rail will step into the void to deliver bitumen to the West Coast.”

West said the report raises safety questions, especially in light of two recent high-profile train accidents.

Oil transport by rail has become a contentious topic after a train containing crude oil derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Que., in July, killing 47 people, and another train exploded without injuries last month in North Dakota.

“Myself and other people were pretty freaked out about what happened there,” West said of the two fiery blasts.

The provincial working group was mandated to submit a report to both leaders by the end of December.

An Alberta government official did not respond to a question about the completion or release of the report, while an official in Clark’s office said the report is complete but that no date has been set for a public release.

CN Rail declined comment.

The task force is led by Steve Carr, deputy minister of natural gas development in B.C. and Grant Sprague, deputy minister of energy in Alberta.

No one from either ministry could be reached for comment.

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Joint B.C.-Alberta report looks at whether oil-by-rail a viable option

  1. Oil by rail is viable but with conditions.

    Conditions being that a train with oil should only carry oil. Oil doesn’t explode unless you areosl it or mix it with something like liquid oxygen. Something politicians are ignoring in oil related disasters like the one in Quebec, is that it isn’t oil by itslf the problem, the problem is what happens when you mix oil with liquids like oxygen, benzine, caustic sodas, fluorines, ammonia nitrate and a very long list of hazardous chemicals we are not politically correct to discus.

    In fact, oil may be one of the safer stuff rail hauls in the hazardous chemical lists. Often its the combination of chemicals that elevates the risks.

    Add this to unions fighting health and drug tests, and do not want CCD cameras and computer monitoring and control….and government not doing much in law as lobbyists don’t want it all contribute to disasters and the elevated damages.

    Quebec disaster for example. If the train was run by computer, the logic could be:

    if (train_moving() && no_operator_confirmed())

    Simple computer logic could have avoided the entire Quebec incident without it even making the news.

    But fact is you need health checks, procedures, laws to fly a plane with passengers, yet we don’t have the same controls in trains that can kill just like planes.

    And government is whitewashing the negligence issues by blaming only oil. But I would rather have a oil spill than a sulphuric or fluorine gas cloud.

    • And we still wait for the TSB report on the Lac Megantic tragedy, it still has not been confirmed whether the disaster was sabotage or the fault of the operator, many facts of the mater look suspiciously like tampering may have occurred.

      As for the safety factor the oil in that disaster was highly volatile crude containing a high amount of benzene from the Bakken oil field.