ar sands crude oil pipeline companies may be putting America’s public saety at risk. Increasingly,pipelines transporting tar sands crude oil into the United States are carrying diluted bitumen or“DilBit”—a highly corrosive, acidic, and potentially unstable blend o thick raw bitumen and volatilenatural gas liquid condensate—raising risks o spills and damage to communities along their paths. Theimpacts o tar sands production are well known. Tar sands extraction in Canada destroys Boreal orests and wetlands, causes high levels o greenhouse gas pollution, and leaves behind immense lakes o toxic waste. Less well understood, however, is the increased risk and potential harm that can be caused by
the raw orm o tar sands oil (bitumen) through pipelines to refneries in the United States.
Tar Sands Pipelines Safety Risks
Currently, tar sands crude oil pipeline companies are using conventional pipeline technology to transport this DilBit.These pipelines, which require higher operating temperaturesand pressures to move the thick material through a pipe,appear to pose new and signifcant risks o pipeline leaksor ruptures due to corrosion, as well as problems with leak detection and saety problems rom the unstable mixture.There are many indications that DilBit is signifcantly morecorrosive to pipeline systems than conventional crude. Forexample, the Alberta pipeline system has had approximately sixteen times as many spills due to internal corrosion as theU.S. system. Yet, the saety and spill response standards usedby the United States to regulate pipeline transport o bitumenare designed or conventional oil.DilBit is the primary product being transported throughexisting pipelines in the Midwest and would be transportedin a proposed pipeline to the Gul Coast. DilBit pipelinesthreaten ecologically important lands and waters rom theGreat Lakes to the Ogallala Aquier. Moreover, the UnitedStates is on a path to lock itsel into a long-term reliance onpipelines that may not be operated or regulated adequately to meet the unique saety requirements or DilBit or decadesto come.There are several steps that the United States can andshould take in order to prevent uture DilBit pipelinespills. These precautionary steps are essential or protecting armland, wildlie habitat, and critical water resources—and should be put in place beore rushing to approve risky inrastructure that Americans will be locked into using ordecades to come:
Evaluate the need for new U.S. pipeline safety regulations.
Older saety standards designed orconventional oil may not provide adequate protection orcommunities and ecosystems in the vicinity o a DilBitpipeline. The Department o Transportation (DOT)should analyze and address the potential risks associated with the transport o DilBit at the high temperatures andpressures at which those pipelines operate and put new regulations in place as necessary to address these risks.
The oil pipeline industry should take specialprecautions for pipelines transporting DilBit.
Untilappropriate regulations are in place, oil pipeline companiesshould use the appropriate technology to protectagainst corrosion o their pipelines, to ensure that thesmallest leaks can be detected in the shortest time that istechnologically possible, and companies should ensuresufcient spill response assets are in place to contain a spillupon detection.
Improve spill response planning for DilBit pipelines.
Spill response planning or DilBit pipelines should be donethrough a public process in close consultation with localemergency response teams and communities.
New DilBit pipeline construction and development should not be considered until adequate safety regulations for DilBit pipelines are in place.
The nextmajor proposed DilBit pipeline is TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. This pipeline approval process should beput on hold until the U.S. Department o TransportationPipeline and Hazardous Materials Saety Administration(PHMSA) evaluates the risks o DilBit pipelines andensures that adequate saety regulations or DilBit pipelinesare in place.
Reduce U.S. demand for oil, especially for tar sands oil.
The United States can dramatically cut oil consumption by reinorcing existing reduction programs, such as efciency standards or vehicles, and through new investments inalternatives to oil.