Keystone XL

Piping Oil Sands Crude No More Dangerous Than Regular Petroleum, Says National Research Council Study

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KeystoneXL
Credit: C-Span

Activist opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport nearly 1 million barrels of diluted bitumen derived from Canadian oil sands claim that it would be more prone to leak than other pipelines. As Friends of the Earth (FOE) asserts:

The probability of spills from this pipeline is high and more threatening than conventional spills…. Experts warn that the more acidic and corrosive consistency of the type of tar sands oil being piped into the U.S. as well as the risk of external corrosion from higher pipeline  temperatures makes spills more likely, and have joined the EPA in calling on the State Department to conduct a thorough study of these risks.

Well, a more thorough study of the risks has now been completed by an expert panel assembled by the National Research Council (NRC) and it finds that FOE's claims are false. From the NRC press release:

Diluted bitumen has no greater likelihood of accidental pipeline release than other crude oils, says a new report from the National Research Council.  The committee that wrote the report found that diluted bitumen has physical and chemical properties within the range of other crude oils and that no aspect of its transportation by pipeline would make it more likely than other crude oils to cause an accidental release….

The committee did not find any causes of pipeline failure unique to the transport of diluted bitumen.  In addition, it found no physical or chemical properties outside the range of other crude oils and no evidence that pipeline operators manage or maintain their systems any differently when transporting diluted bitumen compared with other heavy crude oils.

"Diluted bitumen has density and viscosity ranges that are comparable with those of other crude oils," said Mark Barteau, professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan and chair of the committee that wrote the report.  "It moves through pipelines in a manner similar to other crude oils with respect to flow rate, pressure, and operating temperature.  There's nothing extraordinary about pipeline shipments of diluted bitumen to make them more likely than other crude oils to cause releases."

The report also says that shipments of diluted bitumen do not contain higher concentrations of water, sediment, dissolved gases, or other agents that cause or exacerbate internal corrosion, including microbiologically influenced corrosion, and the organic acids in diluted bitumen are not corrosive to steel at pipeline operating temperatures.  In addition, the committee found no properties in diluted bitumen that could make transmission pipelines more vulnerable to erosion, external corrosion and cracking, or damage from mechanical forces.

This new NRC report should make President Barack Obama and the State Department feel a bit more comfortable about approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. That's assuming that the Obama administration has any intention of basing its decisions on science rather than politics.

For more background, see my reporting from Alberta on the oil sands crude production, "The Miracle of Oil from Sand," and also, "Don't Be Afraid of the Keystone XL Pipeline."

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  1. BUT, BUT GAIA!!!

  2. FOE’s claims are false

    What. A. Shocker. No one could have seen that coming.

    1. Why was Fist so opposed to the pipeline that he had to resort to lying?

      1. He really, really hates Canadians.

        1. Ever since they failed to quarantine Bieber Fever, I say nothing gets through our northern border. NOTHING.

          1. The pipeline’s more likely to leak because of the salty tears of pre-teen Beliebers – it should be blocked on that basis.

          2. Not even Sleemans?

            1. Fucking Sleeman’s is the worst piss water to be passed off as beer. It’s even worse than Upper fucking Canada.

              Had both at beer tents when I was playing in pipe bands in Ontario (and pipe band players drink them some foking BEER). The beer tents with Sleemans and Upper Canada literally got me to stop drinking at those highland gaes. THAT takes some doing.

              Sleeman – Worst Piss Disguised as Beer EVAR?
              So, yeah, ESPECIALLY not fucking Sleemans shite.

              *spits*

              1. I have not had any in 10 years, but I remember their porter was quite tasty.

              2. Are you playing at the ceilidh in livonia?

            2. Canadian beer is almost uniformly inferior to American beer, and it isn’t even close.

  3. I have no argument against the pipline now that my initial questions have been answered.

    Build.

    1. So you support siezing land from hundreds of homeowners by force in pursuit of a centralized government energy policy? How socialist of you.

      1. It isn’t a pre-requisite to conduct the project. There are options for routing that don’t involve armed robbery.

        1. Yes, but Transcanada isn’t pursuing them. The Keystone XL issue isn’t based on whether pipelines in general are a good idea, but whether a specific pipeline is, and the specific pipeline in question is going to be built using eminent domain.

          1. True and they will utilize middle America for this pipeline.

  4. Doesn’t matter. You could just as well point out to Xians that christ if fictional; facts are irrelevant to faith.

    1. BTW, I’m still not happy about it; eminent domain and all that.

      1. Nearly every inch of that pipeline could be layed on government right-of-way beside roads or levees. There is practically zero need to take private property.

        Oil companies could pay rent, increasing govt. revenue.

        Or the Oil companies could simply pay rent to private property owners.

        I am sure none of that is acceptable to a government that lusts after all property and a chance to push eminent domain abuse up a notch.

        1. There is practically zero need to take private property.

          And yet hundreds of eminent domain suits are being filed along the pipeline route.

          1. Do you even read what people write before commenting?

          2. Why go out and buy flowers when they already have all of those nice guns sitting around?

  5. Holding my breath waiting for FOE and associates to move the goal posts.

    I am sure they have already, I just havent received word yet.

  6. Why won’t the Canadians build their own fucking refinery?

    It has to be cheaper than using ED to seize the property under the pipeline route.

    1. Because cold isn’t good for refinery parts? Or because they don’t want to?

      1. Well, Canada is a member of the Axis of Evil, so maybe it’s that.

      2. Or because the excess capaicty in the gulf refineries and the existing labor pool make it more economical to move the crude instead of the refinery on contradiction with the assumption that Eminent Domain must be used (it must not!) and would make piping more expensive somehow.

      3. Or our regulations are more favorable. Or they want to use US refinery capacity to keep the price of crude high so that Tar Gunk is profitable. There is a study that shows that Tar Oil transported to Texas would increase the price of US refined products.

        1. Palin’s Buttplug| 6.25.13 @ 12:57PM |#
          …”There is a study that shows that Tar Oil transported to Texas would increase the price of US refined products.”

          You lie s consistently that even if you posting something that wasn’t a lie it’ll likely be ignored.
          Let’s see the link.

          1. I never lie, dumbass. I tell the truth and you don’t like it.

            The Keystone XL pipeline would divert crude oil from the U.S. Midwest to refineries along the Gulf Coast geared to producing diesel fuel for export, the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a report today. That will decrease the amount of gasoline produced for U.S. consumers and raise production costs, making the fuel more expensive, according to Anthony Swift, author of the report and an attorney with the environmental group.

            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/…..-says.html

            1. “Natural Resources Defense Council”
              “according to Anthony Swift, author of the report and an attorney with the environmental group.”

              Sounds like a neutral, unbiased source

    2. PB: So then you’d be happy to approve the same size pipeline shipping refined gasoline, kerosene, and diesel south the the U.S. from Canada?

      1. Much better. The massive sooty by-product would stay in Canada.

    3. Because it is generally more economic to transport crude to refiner that is close to markets and transportation logistics. Canada already has refinery capacity for its domestic demand.

      Anyway, why would an American prefer high-paying manufacturing jobs in petroleum refineries to move from the US to a foreign country?

  7. Diluted bitumen has no greater likelihood of accidental pipeline release than other crude oils, says a new report from the National Research Council.

    Hitting myself in the head with an ax is nor more dangerous than shooting myself in the head. That doesn’t mean either is a good idea. Taxpayers are still being forced to shell out millions of dollars to clean up the Enbridge Pipeline spill. Let’s take away their limited liability and see if the companies involved still think these pipelines are a good diea.

    1. Yes, Enbridge shit the tar gunk nest.

    2. Given the overall safety history of oil pipelines, I’m willing to go with the current regulatary/legal framework.

      *polises monocle while monitoring oil holdings values on computer*

    3. SD: Taxpayers should not to pay a dime to clean up a pipeline spill. According to Reuters, Enbridge is paying nearly $1 billion for the Michigan spill clean up.

      1. exactly –

    4. “Let’s take away their limited liability and see if the companies involved still think these pipelines are a good diea.”

      You are confusing what liabilities are limited in a corporation.
      In no way is the corporation’s liability limited, except under bankruptcy. The limit is the stock-holders’; they are limited to losing what they have invested.

      1. You are confusing what liabilities are limited in a corporation

        This is common among morons.

      2. No I’m not. Oil is one of the few industries (nuclear is another) where congress has capped corporate liability for accidents they cause. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 limits a company’s liability for an oil spill to a max of $75 million per incident. After that, cleanup costs are paid for out of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

  8. Tar Gunk is profitable only at $75ish/bbl. If Goldman Sachs and Obama are right and the US becomes oil self-sufficient by 2017 the Canadian gunk won’t be needed.

    1. Then the company paying to build the pipeline will have made a bad investment and will lose money. So what?

      1. And if taxpayers are on being forced to subsidize this, then attack that.

  9. You are confusing what liabilities are limited in a corporation.

    See also:

    “Eminent domain means the government evicts property owners at gunpoint and gives the land to evul kkkorporations for freeeeee!”

    *I am not in favor of eminent domain. However, stupid argument is stupid.

  10. Also, it amuses me when progressives latch onto a “sanctity of private ownership” argument when (and for precisely as long as it is useful) it serves their purposes.

    1. Also, it amuses me when progressives latch onto an “sanctity of private ownership” argument when (and for precisely as long as it is useful) it serves their purposes

      Fixed that.

  11. Very dumb switcheroo, Ron– nobody much cares about the crude being safe for pipelines, what matters is how it compares in acute toxicity and carcinogenicity to crude from the lower 48.

    Fact is the bitumen is lousy with polycyclics benzene and PAN precursors which is Not Good

    1. Do you read anything other than the headline before you respond? Ron was addressing the widely-pushed “IT WILL LEAK!!!!!” talking point, which indicates that people do care about crude being safe for pipelines. Of course, you are correct that no one really cares about it being safe for pipelines, or about its toxicity. You luddites will just continue to move the goalposts until there is no oil being extracted like blood from mother Gaia.

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