Tar Sands Pipeline Companies Oversee Hundreds of Oil Spills

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Four proposed pipeline projects are part of an effort to increase oil production from Canada’s tar sands, one of the dirtiest fossil fuel projects in the world, which has been limited by a lack of pipeline capacity. (Photo: kris krüg / flickr)

The companies behind four proposed pipelines that would transport oil from Canada’s tar sands have spilled 63,000 barrels of hazardous liquids — including crude oil — from their existing US pipeline network since 2010, according to government data.

Statistics from the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) — obtained as part of an investigation by Greenpeace USA — show that oil giants TransCanada, Kinder Morgan and Enbridge have together suffered 373 spills over the past seven years.

Of these, the agency classed 41 as ‘significant’ — which for crude oil this means that more than 50 barrels were spilled.

This includes the notorious Kalamazoo River oil spill, which polluted 36 miles of river in 2010 and only narrowly avoided contaminating Lake Michigan.

Long-term trend data held by PHMSA also shows the number of significant pipeline incidents increased from 105 in 2007 to a peak of 176 in 2015, though dropped slightly again last year.

A spokesperson for Kinder Morgan told Energydesk the PHMSA data is misleading because it does not distinguish between spills that occur along the pipelines’ right of way and those that occur within industrial facilities.

Saving the Tar Sands

The proposed projects are part of an effort to increase oil production from Canada’s tar sands, one of the dirtiest fossil fuel projects in the world, which has been limited by a lack of pipeline capacity.

By improving access to market, approval of one or more of the proposals could help boost the economic viability of the tar sands — which have suffered since the oil price crash three years ago – and incentivise further investment.

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and TransCanada’s Energy East project would…

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