Our MLA, Joan McIntyre, “backs the resource sector” (The Chief, July 5)? Of course she does. An earlier Chief article (Feb. 17, 2012) reported that she owns Enbridge, Encana and other oil and gas stocks. Who could expect her to speak against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal?
One can agree that B.C. benefits from the resource sector. But whether the proposed Enbridge Gateway proposal benefits B.C. is very much open to question.
Enbridge tells us (see NorthernGateway.ca) that B.C. will raise $1.2 billion in taxes over 30 years. That translates to about $8 per person per year! We will pay much more than that at the gas pump when we pay world prices for Canadian oil, once such a pipeline takes the bitumen to a world market. This means our pump price is going up, not down, if and when Enbridge starts shipping oil abroad.
The proposed pipeline raises many questions. It will be 1,177 kilometres long, and 36 inches in diameter. That translates into 137 km of circumferential welds; lots of possibilities for cracks or other defects. It will have 773 “watercourse crossings,” of which Gateway claims “only” 83 required detailed review. Discussions are “ongoing” with DFO and Environment Canada about them. But DFO has recently announced cuts of one-third of its B.C. habitat personnel — hardly reassuring.
Reports about pipeline fractures are on the websites of the transportation safety boards of the U.S. and Canada. Reasons for the failures include corrosion, and cracks starting from dents caused by equipment. Corrosion is almost inevitable, and difficult to detect. The bitumen is diluted with toxic additives (to allow it to flow better in the pipeline). It also contains some sand, which tends to wear the pipe from inside more than crude oil. The pipe is under higher fluctuating pressures than for crude oil (because the bitumen does not flow easily).
The Enbridge spill in Michigan in 2010 was reported as 3.3 million litres. A recent spill in Alberta was a similar size: 28,000 barrels. (A barrel is 117.3 litres). The Gateway pipeline is planned to carry 525,000 barrels per day. Hence a spill of 28,000 barrels could require only 77 minutes. How long will it take for Enbridge to sense any pipeline fracture and close the line down? At Enbridge’s Michigan spill, it took 17 hours.
How big is 28,000 barrels or 3.3 million litres? A cubic metre contains 1,000 litres, hence 3.3 million litres is 3,300 cubic meters. If the crack were only a millimetre thick (thick for a slick), it would cover 3.3 million square metres, i.e. 33 metres wide and 100 km long.
Of course, Enbridge would point out that much of the bitumen sinks, but that just raises more questions. In Michigan, Enbridge tried to bury some of the bitumen. YouTube videos of their “cleanup” are shocking. Enbridge’s insurance for spills for Gateway would not pay as much as the $700 million spent in Michigan.