Monday, June 04, 2012

Could Harper Force the Evacuation of Vancouver?

Tanker Navigating the Second Narrows
No Margin for Error

Harper's fetish to deliver petro-sludge to China via British Columbia ports includes Vancouver as well as Kitimat.   If Kinder Morgan gets its way, Vancouver could play supertanker roulette just about once a day.   That probably sounds a bit alarmist to anyone unfamiliar with the Second Narrows passage these ships would have to navigate.   Others know better.

Now there's word from The Tyee, about what a bitumen tanker disaster could mean for the population of Vancouver and it's not good.   Check out the graphic here.

Stinking. Toxic. Explosive. These words could describe the cloud of fumes filling the airshed of the Lower Mainland if there was a tanker spill of diluted bitumen in Vancouver harbour. The public health emergency and potential evacuation of large parts of the city might easily overshadow the more well known consequences of an oil spill as local authorities struggle to move hundreds of thousands of people out of harm's way.

This nightmare scenario for Vancouver residents and local emergency planners has been created by a confluence of global forces, corporate decisions and lack of government oversight that may result in a steep increase in tanker shipments of hazardous cargo through the "greenest city in the world" and regional home to more than two million people.

Companies operating in the oil sands are increasingly shipping unrefined bitumen because it is more profitable for them to refine it elsewhere. This lack of value-added processing, supported by the Harper government, not only limits the long-term employment and economic benefits of bitumen extraction, it also creates enormous public safety hazards downstream.

Bitumen is too thick to pump through a pipeline so it must be diluted with a variety of volatile and toxic chemicals imported from elsewhere around the world. This mixture is called "diluted bitumen" and is more abrasive, corrosive and acidic than conventional crude, and typically must be piped under higher temperatures and pressures -- raising the risk of pipeline failures.

The additional risk is that the toxic solvents used to dilute bitumen can quickly evaporate when released into the environment, increasing public safety risks and complicating clean-up efforts if the heavy bitumen sinks into water.

...Oil sands operators have considered the composition of diluted bitumen blends a trade secret and regulators are often not provided detailed information on the types of chemicals they might have to respond to in the event of a spill and subsequent public health emergency. What information is available is not reassuring. The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for one common variety of diluted bitumen warns:

"High vapour concentrations are irritating to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs; may cause headaches and dizziness; may be anesthetic and may cause other central nervous system effects, including death. Hydrogen sulphide gas may be released. Hydrogen sulphide may cause irritation, breathing failure, coma and death, without necessarily any warning odour being sensed. Avoid breathing vapours or mists."

Expert testimony last year to the U.S. Congress also flagged the possibility of off-gassing bitumen solvents "exploding with catastrophic results." The MSDS sheet from Imperial Oil states "Extremely flammable; material will readily ignite at normal temperatures... may release vapours that form flammable mixtures at or above the flash point."

Yet these Albertacentric, Big Oil pandering Petro-Pols on both sides of the floor of the Commons don't think twice about exposing British Columbia to this virtually inevitable environmental disaster.  What do we have to do to stop this, secede?


Anonymous said...

Another very strong and informative piece, reflecting the realities of just the marine aspects involved in the overall chain of logistics.. in getting diluted bitumen out of port and enroute by tanker to China.. and related diluent or condensate into Vancouver via tankers, then pipelined eastward to the tar sands to dilute the bitumen prior to it being heated to start flowing west..

I wish we could publish and constantly reinforce.. a condensed version of this 'supply chain' as well as a richly detailed and non-refutable detailed version.

Its easy for someone to say 'Chinese tankers are double hulled' .. or 'we will soon be able to drink from tailings ponds' or 'we are poisoning wolves to save the caribou' or 'new fisheries regulations will only prevent overzealous DFO officers harassing landowners' or 'our military deserves F35's'. That's what political animals bray in Parliament, press conferences etc and that's what most mainstream media parrots via lazy and highly dangerous news articles.

Every time farcical talking points drool from the mouths of our governmental minders and evangelists or media whackos, we need to slap them in the head with proven, tempered fact and ask them to provide references to their fictions.. or just retract and then shut up.

Canadians are now being asked to believe Ethical Joe Oliver that we will all drink safely from tar sands tailings ponds.. should trust his marine navigation expertise on VLCC tankers in/out of Kitimaat or in/out of Second Narrows .. and buy into his sanctimonious and mean views on radical Haida Elders

Last I looked that hysterical Bay Street mooke was neither a published scientist or master navigator.. but was from the same part of Toronto that sent Stephen Harper west to get his religion and a cowboy hat.. and both can boast re in/out expertise regarding campaign funding

Anonymous said...

Other country's call Harper, a petty gasbag, stubborn, arrogant, impossible to work with, and co-operates with no-one.

Harper damn well knows exactly, how lethal the bitumen is. He simply doesn't give a damn.

Harper has permitted China, to buy up the tar sands, bring their own people to work their projects, to bring swarms of Chinese, to build the Enbridge pipeline. And yes, to refine the oil in their own country. Harper had also lied to Europe, giving them false statements, on the toxicity of the dirty oil.

Harper and Oliver, seem unbalanced, with their rabid and frantic threats. The chemicals put in the pipes, to make the oil flow freely, are absolutely lethal. Enbridge doesn't believe in cleaning up their spills either.