Bitumen floats at sea, study finds

A new federal study has found that diluted bitumen floats in sea water, except when it is mixed with some types of sediment

An oil tanker approaches the Westridge Terminal at Burnaby

A new federal government study has found that diluted bitumen floats in sea water, except when it is mixed with some types of sediment, which can make it heavy enough to sink.

The study used laboratory simulations of two common types of crude produced from the Alberta oilsands, and salt water tanks that approximated wave action.

The behaviour of diluted bitumen in water was one of the key issues in the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings, which led to a recommendation in December that the twin pipeline from northern Alberta to oil tanker port facilities should be allowed to proceed.

The federal government has funded an ocean-based study of spilled bitumen as part of its shipping safety program, launched in the 2012 budget and now labelled the “World Class Initiative.”

There are no studies or records of actual diluted bitumen spills at sea available.

The laboratory study by Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources reached two major conclusions: “Like conventional crude oil, both diluted bitumen products floated on saltwater (free of sediment) even after evaporation and exposure to light and mixing with water; “When fine sediments were suspended in the saltwater, high-energy wave action mixed the sediments with the diluted bitumen, causing the mixture to sink or be dispersed as floating tarballs.”

The study also looked at the 2010 spill of diluted bitumen from an Enbridge pipeline rupture into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, where the heavy oil was carried nearly 100 kilometres downstream and between 10 and 20 per cent of it mixed with sediments and sank.

While floating oil is easier to recover, a study commissioned by the B.C. government last year found that the existing oil spill response system for B.C.’s north coast would only be able to recover three to four per cent of it.

NDP critics seized on the finding that diluted bitumen sinks when combined with sediment.

“There is no longer any doubt that the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline poses an unacceptable risk to northwest communities and the environment,” said NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert, who has been touring the region.

Just Posted

Victoria-bound plane slides off icy Edmonton runway

Crew, passengers had to disembark via bridge stairs

VIDEO: Hundreds gather in Victoria as part of global Women’s March for equality

‘End Violence Against Women’ march theme for 2019

Esquimalt needs urgent health care facility, mayor says

A severe doctor shortage is leaving Esquimalt residents scrambling for health care

Almost four of 10 Canadians have unlimited internet data at home

Fifty-four per cent say they telecommute at least sometimes

Student Voice: Saanich students launch competitive robotics team

The Reynolds Reybots plan to share their skills with middle schools

WATCH: Medieval fighters train in Colwood

Fighters are gearing up for world championships in medieval combat

Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

Most Read