The energy and pipeline company Enbridge is nothing if not determined. It is going to get Alberta’s heavy tar-sands crude to markets that need oil of any type. The company’s latest ploy is to start asking permission to reverse eastern pipelines. The first of these is a line that runs down from Sarnia to near Hamilton. By reversing the flow of oil, it can link to other pipelines to the East coast. These are pipelines that previously carried foreign oil from the coast to refineries in Ontario.
What concerns environmentalists is the higher risk of serious pollution occurring from the tar-sands crude. It is shipped at a higher temperature and under greater pressure to improve the flow. These changes increase the chances of a break in the line and the damage can be disastrous to a fragile environmental area. The heavy bitumen from the tar sands is the thickest form of oil and once spilt in a liquid form, it is almost impossible to remove from the soil. It can also leach into underground water sources and pollute the water with sulphur and a brew of other deadly chemicals.
Chemical experts are questioning why this form of crude cannot be refined to a state more like gasoline or home heating oil wherein it can be more safely sent by pipeline without the high risk to the environment. If it was at a stage where it floats, there would be a much easier task to clean up a spill.
Enbridge is now fighting the pipeline wars on three fronts. Its Northern Gateway Pipeline over the Rockies to Kitimat in British Columbia is getting pushed by the Harper government but the provincial government is waiting to see how the environmental hearings play out. Even with a federal fast-tracking of the hearings, it will take at least two years to reach a conclusion. And nobody thinks it will be positive for Enbridge.
Trans-Canada’s struggle for approvals of the XL Pipeline south to the refineries in Texas has become a political football in the election-year climate in the U.S. Enbridge is quiet about its plans to cut into its east-west pipelines further east in the U.S. and then backtrack toTexas but the company must be playing a role in those machinations. And now with the East Coast attempt, they have gone every direction but north to try to move the heavy tar-sands product.
The Enbridge executives must be learning that no matter how much Prime Minister Harper loves you, life can still be a bitch!
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
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