Tag Archives: Vancouver British Columbia

Refineries Plan To Ship Dirty Tar Sands Oil Into Bay Area; Fracked Crude By Rail Gets Too Pricey

Repost from CBS SF Bay Area

Refineries Plan To Ship Even Dirtier Tar Sands Oil Into Bay Area, Fracked Crude By Rail Gets Too Pricey

Reporter Chrystin Ayers, April 27, 2015 11:53 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — It’s an unexpected consequence of the drop in oil prices. Trains carrying explosive fracked crude oil from North Dakota are no longer rolling through our neighborhoods. Crude by rail has become too expensive.

Instead local refineries are turning to a cheaper alternative, that poses a new kind of danger.

Sejal Choksi-Chugh with San Francisco Baykeeper can’t forget the day the tanker ship Cosco Busan crashed into a Bay Bridge tower, spewing 53,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay. “It was getting on boats it was getting on birds it was everywhere,” she said.

But the environmentalist says that’s nothing compared to what could happen if there’s a spill of a new kind of cargo headed our way, called tar sands crude, the dirtiest crude on the planet. “We are looking at a product that sinks. Its very heavy,” she said.

There is huge supply of tar sands crude in Alberta Canada, and it’s cheap. Since they can’t get North Dakota Bakken crude by rail, refineries here in the Bay Area are gearing up to bring the Alberta crude in by ship.

“Today’s refineries are all designed to take ships in,” said energy consultant David Hackett. He says two thirds of the crude supplying Bay Area refineries already comes in on tankers, so adding tar sands to the mix makes sense.

“The California refineries are designed to process crude that is heavy and dense, and relatively high in sulfur. So the Canadian tar sands is the kind of quality that will fit in to the California refineries fairly well,” Hackett said.

The plan is to expand an existing pipeline called Transmountain, that runs from Alberta to Vancouver, and  retrofit a terminal in Vancouver that will transfer the tar sands from pipeline to ship. Then tankers could move it down the coast to refineries in the bay.

Projected route of crude oil from Alberta tar sands to the Bay Area. (CBS)

Hackett predicts tankers full of tar sands crude could be coming into the San Francisco Bay in large numbers by 2018, a delivery route he believes is much safer than trains. “There are significant safety standards and operating practices that are involved,” he said.

But with all the extra ship traffic accidents are more likely to happen. Ande even one even one in the bay could be devastating.  A spill on the Kalamazoo river in Michigan 5 years ago cost $1 billion to mop up, the costliest cleanup in U.S. history. That’s because tar sands crude is so dense, it sinks.

“It’s going to instantaneously cover the bottom of the bay which will almost automatically kill everything that is on the bay floor,” said Sejal. “We shouldn’t even be contemplating having those vessels come in to the bay until we are ready to deal with a spill,” she said.

Environmentalists in Canada are mounting strong opposition to the expansion of the Transmountain pipeline, but Hackett says since there’s already an existing route, the project will likely get the green light.

And by the way – most of the tar sands that will be headed down the Pacific coast will actually be exported to Asia.

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Oil tanker spill in English Bay (Vancouver BC) – wake-up call for port…and for us all

Repost from CBC News
[Editor: Spokesperson John Hill has publicly stated that Valero Benicia Refinery shipped Bakken crude on a barge through our beautiful Carquinez Strait.  Presumably this barge came from the Pacific Northwest.  Canadian dilbit and North Dakota Bakken crude are increasingly making their way to the Pacific, either for refining or for transfer to ships bound for more southerly destinations.  Marine transport is clearly an expanding threat for bringing dangerous and dirty North American crude to Northern and Southern California.  English Bay in Vancouver this year; is San Francisco Bay next?  Oh, and imagine if you will: volatile Bakken crude spilled and burning in our waters.  – RS]

Toxic fuel spill in English Bay is wake-up call for port, says marine expert

Critics of pipeline expansion say response proves Vancouver isn’t ready for heavy tanker traffic
By Jason Proctor, Apr 10, 2015 9:10 AM PT
Critics say the response to an oil spill in English Bay raises serious questions about proposed pipeline expansion increasing tanker traffic.
Critics say the response to an oil spill in English Bay raises serious questions about proposed pipeline expansion increasing tanker traffic. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Joe Spears calls it a wake-up call.

An international shipping expert, Spears says Canada is supposed to be a world leader at dealing with maritime emergencies.

But he says the response to an oil spill into Vancouver’s English Bay on Thursday [April 9, 2015] was anything but world class.

“We’ve got to do better,” he said.

“We’re Canada’s largest port. We’ve lost our way.”

Expansion fears

Spears joined a chorus of critics who said the spill reinforces fears about proposed pipeline expansion, which could bring increased oil tanker traffic into the B.C.’s coastal waters.

The City of Vancouver has repeatedly questioned the potential impact of a proposal by Kinder Morgan to twin the TransMountain pipeline that carries oil to Burrard Inlet.

And the province has set a “world-leading marine oil spill response” as one of five requirements for the approval of any heavy pipeline proposal.

But even as critics pointed to perceived problems, Coast guard assistant commissioner Roger Girouard claimed the response was textbook.

Kinder Morgan protest
Opponents of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion fear the plan will increase the chance of oil spills in Burrard Inlet. (Greg Rasmussen/CBC)

“From where I sit, from an operational perspective, this has gone in accordance with the doctrine,” Girouard said.

“Port Metro is the largest port in Canada. They have a very solid team. They saw a problem, they called in the partners and we’ve put together a unified command centre to be able to take a look at this and do it the right way.”

‘More than words’

But Spears says responders should have tracked the movement of the spill with buoys and drones within minutes of becoming aware of oil on the water.

He also questions a perceived lack of communications that saw City of Vancouver officials alerted to the spill 13 hours after Port Metro Vancouver first learned about it at 5 p.m. PT Wednesday.

“To make a world-class response means more than words,” said Spears.

“We’ve got to bring all the players together. This is a glimpse of the future. If we can’t handle a small bunkering spill, how are we going to deal with a major tanker?”

Vancouver City Coun. Geoff Meggs raised similar concerns about the failure to notify the city immediately.

Spencer Chandra Herbert
B.C. NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, Official Opposition environment critic, says citizens were unaware of the dangers posed by the oil spill in English Bay. (CBC)

“What may seem like a small spill to an offshore mariner is very, very significant to the people of Vancouver. These are some of our most precious public assets,” he said.

“So it’s in that context that we probably need to have a further conversation, so that they understand what’s important to us.”

‘It could have been better’

The NDP’s Spencer Chandra Herbert, the Official Opposition’s environment critic, said citizens should be part of that discussion.

The MLA for the Vancouver-West End/Coal Harbour represents a riding that sits directly in the path of the spill.

“People were out there last night, playing with their dogs, having fun in the water. Meanwhile, we were having bunker fuel oil — they still can’t tell us what it is — in our water, potentially causing harm,” he said.

“I think it’s a huge wake-up call.”

Girouard acknowledged the public’s concerns.

“In an absolute sense, it could have been better,” he said.

“One of the challenges with this many jurisdictions and partners is, ‘Who’s got what piece?’, and it took us a little while to get through that.”

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