December 10, 2012

Another View: Pipeline accident was caused by external force, not tar sands


The crusade to demonize Canadian oil sands crude in Maine appears to have no intention of responding factually to the statements and the supporting sources I offered in my Maine Voices column ("Oil sands crude not to be feared" Oct. 21).

Instead, there has been a steady stream of letters to the editor repeating, without providing any factual basis, variations of the false mantra that Canadian oil sands crude is highly corrosive, destructive of pipelines and was the cause of the Kalamazoo accident in 2010.

Regardless of how many times this mantra is repeated, the facts remain the same.

Canadian oil sands crude (referred to as diluted bitumen after it is processed and diluted for shipment) is no more corrosive than other conventional "heavy" crudes from California, Mexico and Venezuela that have been transported successfully by pipeline in the U.S. for more than 40 years. Since the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety began keeping detailed statistics, it has not identified a single release caused by internal corrosion from pipelines carrying diluted bitumen.

As for the 2010 Kalamazoo incident, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board's recent investigation of that spill concluded that external conditions caused this accident -- not what was flowing through the pipeline.

Notwithstanding this crusade to mislead, the reality is that there is no credible evidence that Canadian oil sands pose an elevated risk to pipelines in Maine or elsewhere.

John Quinn is executive director of the New England Petroleum Council in Boston.

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