A dark stranger is heading British Columbia’s way. We’re told prosperity for all will follow. But what do we really know about this character? This is what the stranger told us:
My name’s Dil Bit (short for Diluted Bitumen, but let’s not be too formal). I come from the tar sands and, as you probably know, Alberta totally digs me. She digs me so much, she’s decided I should get around more. I’m hoping to be passing through British Columbia a lot in the future, so I thought I should introduce myself properly.
As fossil fuels go, I’m a bit unconventional. But, as Alberta’s favourite son Stephen will tell you, I’m totally ethical. (And don’t let those jet setting celebrities tell you any different.)
I’m also way better than conventional crude oil. For instance, my total acid concentrations are up to 20 times higher than conventional crude. My sulphur content is up to 10 times higher and I’m up to 70 times thicker. Pretty impressive, eh?
Yeah, it’s true I can be a bit abrasive. Bits of quartz, pyrite, silicates, sure I carry them around. It’s just the way I’m made. So conventional crude doesn’t have my grit. So what? No need to point out, like those granola eaters at the Natural Resources Defense Council did, that putting me in a pipeline is “like sandblasting the inside of the pipe.”
So what if between my true grit and my thickness (I like to think of it as strength) making the pipes hotter and harder to monitor, I make pipelines 16 times more likely to leak than when they are carrying conventional oil. I already told you I was better.
I’m Alberta’s most precious resource. You think she and Steve are going to let just anyone transport me? No way. For my travels through British Columbia, they’re going to use Enbridge, a fine, upstanding company with an excellent track record.
Why, it took Enbridge 10 years to spill half as much oil as the Exxon Valdez. And they didn’t just spill it in one spot – they spread it around.
If Enbridge maintains its current success rate it should be able to meet Steve’s federal standards, which don’t allow undetected pipeline leaks of more than 2 per cent of capacity per week. For the Northern Gateway project that means Enbridge could legally leave behind 11 million litres of me per week on my way to Kitimat, without getting into any serious trouble.
That’s good news for me, because I’ve heard there are some mighty pretty places in northern B.C. and it would be a shame not to get to know them better. And it’s good news for B.C., because the premier’s promising lots of jobs out of oil exports and cleaning up after me will surely keep people employed.
Sorry if any of the spots I’m going to wreck is one of your favourites, but I’ve got to keep Alberta happy. You know what she’s like.
PS If you want to know more about Enbridge’s fine record of oil spills, go to watershedsentinel.ca/content/enbridge-spills.
Miranda Holmes, associate editor at Watershed Sentinel magazine