19. Enbridge’s Pipeline 67 Tar Sands-Crude Oil Expansion Project

b9944286z.1_20130705171213_000_gif1cqiv.1-1Photo by Darryl Dyck
In this photo from last year, a worker move logs on the Douglas Channel in British Columbia. The channel is the proposed termination point for an oil pipeline from Alberta as part of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.

The tar sands industrial complex is located in northern Alberta, Canada in what was once a pristine natural area. It is now a terribly polluted industrial landscape. The crude oil that originates from this area is already widely criticized for its role in magnifying the climate change threats including extreme weather. According to an opinion piece in the Milwaukee Journal’s online interactive site by Eric Hansen, the Alberta tar sands-crude oil activities are now emerging as “a serious threat to Earth’s finest collection of freshwater: Lake Superior and the upper Great Lakes”.

Enbridge’s pipeline 67, the linchpin of the whole plan, runs from Alberta to Superior. At Superior, the pipeline splits. One pipeline bisects Wisconsin on its way to Delavan, Wisconsin before continuing south. Some of its crude oil would go to Chicago-area refineries; most is destined for ports and refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

Another pipeline runs eastward from Superior, before crossing under the Straits of Mackinac to connect to Detroit-area refineries — and others on the Atlantic Ocean.

A third conduit for the tar sans-crude oil is a firm called “Calumet Specialties”, a Superior refiner who wants to ship 13 million barrels per year of crude oil across Lake Superior and through the Great Lakes on barges.

“Proposals for a massive expansion of tar sands crude oil shipments on and around the Great Lakes do not make sense”, he said. Among the waters vulnerable to Canadian pipeline company’s ill-advised plans are Lakes Superior and Michigan as well as the Bois Brule, Namekagon, Chippewa, Wisconsin, Fox and Rock rivers.

Enbridge’s already partially built system expanded to the proposed size would lock in both Wisconsin and our region as a major transportation corridor to ship tar sands crude oil overseas to the world market for decades to come — and a reasonable citizen would be outraged”, according to Hansen.

“Profit and jobs would go to Canada. Crude oil would go overseas. Toxic risk would stay here, sprinkled throughout our region in the crude oil spills, air quality and public health impacts that would certainly come”, he added.

Global warming would also unquestionably be fueled by the massive amount of fossil fuel burning that would be required to continue with this expansion, much less the vast quantities of greenhouse gases that would obviously be emitted by the end combustion of the oil products.

Enbridge’s piecemeal method, linking and converting already existing pipelines with new connectors, has largely escaped the intense public scrutiny and uproar the Keystone XL pipeline proposal has met — so far, according to Hansen.

Tar sands crude oil spills are notoriously difficult to clean up well — and there are serious questions whether the tar sands corrosive qualities make pipeline ruptures inevitable. Tar sands’ raw product is bitumen, similar to asphalt. To move it through a pipeline requires diluting, with benzene (a known carcinogen) for example, high temperatures and increased pumping pressure. Hansen notes that Tar sands developers want to triple their production of crude oil from the tar sands.

Yet, unquestionably, Enbridge’s record so far merits alarm, says Hansen: “Just 150 miles east of Milwaukee, our nation’s largest inland crude oil spill began on July 25, 2010, devastating the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Mich. Cleanup is still incomplete; costs are passing the billion-dollar mark.

“For 17 hours, through three shift changes and multiple alarms going off, Enbridge employees in their Calgary, Alberta, control room did not shut down the pipeline. That only happened when a Michigan utility worker called. Meanwhile, 840,000 gallons of crude oil spilled. The Key information was only shared a week later: The spill was tar sands, not conventional crude oil.

Wisconsinites should not allow this project to continue. Federal and state permits for the Enbridge pipeline 67 expansionshould not be grated, and the oil barges and other hazardous crude oil proposals be denied.

The crude bitumen contained in the Canadian oil sands is described as petroleum that exists in the semi-solid or solid phase in natural deposits. Bitumen is a thick, sticky form of hydrocarbon, so heavy and viscous (thick) that it will not flow unless heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons. At room temperature, it is much like cold molasses. Making liquid fuels from oil sands requires energy (fossil fuel burning) for steam injection and refining. This process generates 12 percent more greenhouse gases per barrel of crude oil than extraction of conventional oil.

So not only are our Great Lakes Region’s waters likely to be impacted negatively by this massive project proposed by Enbridge company, but our Great Lakes’ climate is also at risk as will the overall climate. The Pipeline 67 Expansion may end up as the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Enbridge’s proposed “Pipeline 67” Expansion DOUBLES the flow of heated, tar sands-crude oil,which would be pumped 990 miles from northern Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin, from the current 440,000 BARRELS of crude oil PER DAY, to 880,000 BARRELS of crude oil PER DAY. For each gallon of gasoline burned, almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere. For each person mile traveled by jet aircrafraft, the carbon dioxide emitted ranges from 40 – 65 pounds per mile, with the shorter trips resulting in higher pounds per mile due to the inefficiencies of starting and climbing.

In summary, there are large quantities of fossil fuels burned in processing of the tar sands into crude oil at the Alberta mine site, resulting in the release of millions of ton of greenhouses gases to the atmosphere every year. Additional energy is used to pump the crude oil to the refinery sites, causing the release of more greenhouse gases; additional energy is used in refining the crude oil into it’s final end products: gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel and heating oil.

Transporting these end products to their final destinations requires yet more fossil fuel combustion in making the transport, which results in even more greenhouse gases being emitted to the atmosphere. Finally, the end product fuels (gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel) from this process which are purchased by fossil fuel consumers – owners/users of airplanes, trucks, automobiles, trains, ships, buses, factories, heating plants, motorized recreational vehicles, etc. – and then burned for their energy value end up releasing vastly more millions of tons of greenhouse gases to the earth’s atmosphere, where those gases can remain for upwards of a century, or more, compounding with former releases from the past, with the result that we are heating the atmosphere at at increasingly faster rate each decade that progresses, causing the oceans, polar ice caps, glaciers and large body lakes to warm at unprecedented rates, resulting in the acidification of ocean sea water and the rising of ocean sea levels. in this country and abroad.

The Milwaukee Journal online news reports that: “Enbridge’s piecemeal method, linking and converting already existing pipelines with new connectors, has largely escaped the intense public scrutiny and uproar the Keystone XL pipeline proposal has met — so far.” At Superior, the pipeline splits. One pipeline bisects Wisconsin before continuing south, with some of its crude destined for the Chicago-area, with the majority of the to ports and refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. Enbridge’s initial tar sands-crude oil pipeline expansion proposal was supposedly approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in 2007.

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About Mike Neuman

Environmentalist; Father; Senior Citizen; Husband, School Crossing Guard; Green Bay Packer Fan; Wisconsin Badger Fan; Animal Lover; Humanitarian

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