Enbridge Athabasca Pipeline Leak

Enbridge, The Northern Gateway Pipelines, “Path to our future” company, experienced a new oil spill on Monday, 18 June 2012. The Enbridge Athabasca pipeline leak occurred when a flange-gasket gave way, near Elk Point, about 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, Alberta.

Background: The Enbridge Athabasca pipeline carries heavy crude oil from the Fort McMurray tar sands to Hardisty (~ 541 km).

map Elk Point Alberta

Interestingly, Enbridge referred to the two hundred and thirty thousand (230,000) litre leak as an oil “release”; as if the leak had been planned, which, of course, it had not.

Q: Did the location name, “Hardisty”, ring a bell?
A: It should, because the proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines are intended to carry heavy crude oil from Hardisty, AB to Kitimat, BC.

If you live in BC, ask yourself, what’s going to happen when a future Enbridge leak and oil spill dumps heavy crude oil and chemicals into a pristine BC waterway? What happens to our water? What happens to the fish and wildlife? Did you know that the proposed Northern Gateway Pipelines cross at least seven hundred streams before they reach Kitimat. FYI, Fisheries and Oceans Canada previously stated the number of streams and rivers was actually over one thousand (1,000), not the seven hundred Enbridge claims.

Q: How often do Enbridge pipeline leaks and oil spills happen?
A: We don’t really know.

I found this quote from Alberta’s oil and gas regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) disturbing, “This one (referring to this Enbridge spill) is significant enough that we issued a news release on it.” I wonder, how many leaks occur that we never hear about?

Q: Will the Harper Government approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines?
A: It certainly looks like they will. Bill C–38 was crafted to eliminate environmental obstacles and ultimately, to ensure approval. The Conservative Cabinet can, if necessary, overrule the National Energy Board’s recommendations. In the end:

  • China wants the Pacific pipelines and
  • Big Oil has already calculated their anticipated profits,

so what do you imagine Stephen Harper will do?

BTW, regarding this oil “release”, Enbridge was quick to assert that, “there is no risk to public health or safety.”

Deformed fish found swimming in the Athabasca River have been trying to tell us that Canada’s tar sands adventure hasn’t been working very well for fish and they would like to, respectfully suggest, to us, that it’s time we started giving a little more consideration to what we’re doing to the Earth’s ecosystem. 🙂

Tar sands skyline courtesy of Greenpeace
Image courtesy of Greenpeace

Related posts:

  1. The Enbridge Conundrum
  2. Northern Gateway Pipelines
  3. Dirtiest Oil on Earth Video

Related articles:

  1. Enbridge slammed for ‘Keystone Kops’ response to Michigan spill
  2. David Suzuki: The catastrophic effects of oil pipeline spills
  3. Spate of oil spills pushes Alberta to look harder at pipeline safety
  4. Enbridge has a best friend in Ottawa

Red Deer River Oil Deluge

Other than “tragic”, what is the best word to describe the Red Deer River oil deluge?

Q: First, why use the word “deluge” and not “spill”?
A: You “spill” a cup of coffee, hundreds of thousands of litres of oil is a deluge, not a spill. Interestingly, it could have been even worse, the pipeline wasn’t flowing at the time.

“I have 57 acres and it has come right through all of it… It’s complete and sheer devastation… They came into my place, my shop, my ecosystem, and they destroyed it… This is my world. I didn’t break it, they broke it… There are not words to describe this.”
– Gord Johnston

Background: Thursday, 7 June 2012, a 1966 era, Plains Midstream Canada, oil pipeline burst into the Red Deer River, and oil flowed into Gleniffer Lake, north of Sundre, Alberta. Alberta’s 724 km (450 mi) long Red Deer River is a major tributary of the South Saskatchewan River.

Re: “north of Sundre”: The Mayor of Sundre wants everyone to know that no oil spilled in the backcountry, or along the river, so all activities associated with the river, such as whitewater rafting and camping are open and ready for business.

Red Deer River oil and Gleniffer Lake

Q: OK, now back to my original question, what’s the best word to describe the Red Deer River oil deluge?
A: Alberta’s Premier, Alison Redford, chose the word “exception” in her attempt to convince Canadians that this spill isn’t the norm for oil pipelines, instead she suggested, it was an exception, it was not the rule. I disagree, my suspicion is that, where there is an oil pipeline there will be “spills”; not every day, month or even every year, but sooner or later. I suggest that a better word to describe this oil deluge is “awkward”, because the oil pipe bursting was very awkwardly timed for:

  • Enbridge and their planned, much hyped, $5.5 Billion Northern Gateway Pipelines (you know, “The path to our future…”)
  • the Harper Government’s oil agenda
  • most of all, it’s very awkward for the multinational oil and gas corporations who would have us believe that mining our tar sands and delivering heavy crude oil to Pacific markets can be accomplished in an environmentally friendly fashion.

Tar sands image courtesy of Greenpeace
Tar sands image courtesy of Greenpeace

A tar sands’ dump truck pictured below will give you a better perspective of the tar sands’ mining shown above.

Tar sands truck

The bottom line is that oil pipelines leak, it happens more often than you might imagine (watch this video).

The Red River oil deluge was tragedy for Gord Johnston and other Albertans living near the burst pipe and it should act as a warning to residents of British Columbia.

Update (20120614): According to York University Professor, Sean Kheraj, pipelines in Alberta carrying either oil or some combination of oil, gas or distillates failed on average every 1.4 days. Since 2006, the province’s pipelines have spilled the equivalent of almost 28 million litres of oil. A single litre of spilled oil can contaminate a million litres of groundwater. >> Vancouver Sun article

Tar Sands Repugnance

Multinational oil and gas corporations need to minimize Canada’s tar sands repugnance every day. If big oil hopes to continue earning hundreds of billions of dollars in profit, they have to make sure consumers, like us, don’t get a bad taste in our mouths. How do you prevent people from thinking about:

  • destruction of boreal forest
  • massive natural gas and water consumption
  • smokestacks
  • and watershed pollution?

It’s not dissimilar to the dilemma the tobacco companies faced with the association between cigarettes and death.

One of big oils’ simplest but most clever PR strategies is to use words that misrepresent what’s actually going on. Examples:

  • Oil Sands: Historically they were the Canada’s tar sands because the stuff looks and feels more like tar than oil; today you’re branded a radical if you say or write tar sands
  • Tailings Pond: A pond is something you have on your hobby farm, it’s certainly not toxic dumpsites that are so large that they can be seen from space
  • Oil Spill: You spill your coffee, you don’t spill hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil.

Wordsmiths writing for traditional media can do better than “pond” and “spill”.

I miss George Carlin. Remember his oxymoron, “Military Intelligence”? He could have performed a hilarious, routine about minimizing the tar sands’ repugnance that would have garnered a lot of attention.

Speaking of tar sands’ repugnance, have you watched ‘Petropolis’?