Tag Archives: Canada

Alberta’s big small-pipe problem

They are the little brothers and sisters of the pipeline world. Some are barely large enough to jam a hand into, but they do the dirtiest work in the energy business, ferrying great volumes of raw oil and gas from wells to processing plants.

And though they are small, they often carry large risk, an issue of mounting concern in Alberta, a province that has seen a series of spills train a global spotlight on pipeline safety.

These smaller pipes can often be overlooked, next to the big ones that garner attention when they rupture into the Kalamazoo River — an accident that cost Enbridge Inc. a historic $3.7-million (US) fine this week, on top of $725 million in cleanup costs — or at an Alberta pumping station where the company recently had another large spill.

But in Alberta, the pipe is almost all small. Some 327,000 kilometres of pipe that is eight inches and smaller in diameter spread across the province like a network of veins. It is roughly 90 percent of all pipe in the province, a vast web of steel that is uniquely vulnerable to problems, and uniquely difficult to both oversee and maintain.

In large measure, that’s because the stuff those pipes carry is often nasty: impure, unprocessed energy laced with hydrogen sulphide and water and sand, each of which can inflict damage on buried steel. Construction methods of smaller pipes mean they often can’t be monitored and inspected using the best tools. Some of the junior and mid-sized oil and gas companies that run them don’t have the large dedicated inspection teams employed by larger pipeline operators.

Alberta’s energy regulator says problems on small pipes often lead to small spills, dampening the need for concern.

Alberta’s oil and gas regulator, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), noted in a 2007 report that “most of Alberta’s pipeline infrastructure is used for the production of raw oil and gas, which by nature can be highly corrosive.” It said corrosion has been growing as a problem — from 63 percent of all leaks and ruptures in a 1998 report to 70 per cent less than a decade later.

And though overall accidents have been declining, last year Alberta saw 1.5 failures per 1,000 kilometres of pipe — or nearly 500 on its length of small lines. That’s down from an average in previous years of 3.5. Many of those spills are small — all leaks, regardless of size, get reported. But the ERCB also doesn’t record spills at pipeline facilities, like pumping stations, where many of them happen. That makes its numbers tough to compare with other jurisdictions.

The risks on small pipes are magnified by the low flows on stretches that might carry intermittent volumes of product from, say, oil tanks to a processing plant. When flow is slow or stopped, water and hydrogen sulphide are better able to corrode pipe. Sediments can also deposit, creating a mud where microbes can begin to eat away steel.

The ERCB played down the effect of corrosive products, which tend to create “pitting corrosion” that leads to “small volume spills (small leaks) that are not a significant safety hazard because they do not catastrophically rupture,” spokeswoman Cara Tobin said in an e-mailed statement.

(Although small pipes can lead to big spills: In December, 2011, 12,000 barrels spilled from a small Pengrowth Energy Corp. line, while 5,000 barrels leaked from a small Pace & Oil Gas Ltd. well pipe in May). The regulator requires surveillance of pipeline right-of-ways, corrosion evaluations, yearly inspections of water crossings and “continues to review and update its regulations and requirements to improve all aspects of pipeline performance,” she said.

Plus, industry has ways to combat corrosion. Pipes can be protected with MATCOR’s “cathodic protection,” products which uses electric current to counteract corrosion.  Cathodic Protection is mandatory in Alberta. They can also be chemically shielded from corrosion, and maintained with pigs, devices that travel inside the pipe, either to scrub it or detect areas of weakness.

But small pipe is often the hardest to “pig.” Worldwide, roughly a third of all pipe is not piggable. Alberta’s ERCB has no figure on what percentage of its pipe cannot accept pigs — and pigging is not required — but it’s likely to be large. Alberta’s pipeline system is made up of an enormous number of very short lengths, averaging just 1.6 kilometres long.

SOURCE: http://www.bnn.ca/News/2012/7/4/Albertas-big-small-pipe-problem.aspx

 

Debate Intensifies Over Oil Produced From Canada’s Oil Sands

As the U.S. continues to increasingly rely on Canada as its most important foreign oil source, environmentalists and scientists are concerned about the repercussions of the partnership.

The U.S. has worked to fundamentally alter domestic oil and natural gas drilling over the past decade, as lawmakers work to achieve the long sought after goal of energy independence. While drilling activity has jumped both on and offshore in the U.S., the nation has increased its Canadian imports target as well.

However, Canada’s oil sands produce a kind of oil that engineers assert has a greater negative impact on the environment. Refining such oil requires new technology that releases a substantial amount of greenhouse gases, environmentalists say, and they are growing more concerned by the symbiotic relationship between the two North American neighbors and allies.

CNN reports that imports of oil from Canada’s oil sands are poised to jump more than 300 percent over the next 10 years. The failure of backers to ensure the construction of a pipeline that would transport such oil directly from Canada to refineries in the U.S. underscored how environmentalists have opposed the jump in what they deem “dirty oil,” but proponents are pushing forward with plans to build even more ambitious pipelines over the next few years.

By 2020, the U.S. is expected to import almost 10 percent of its total oil consumption from Canada’s oil sands, with more than 1.5 million barrels reaching the U.S. each day according to data from the Sierra Club. Such a precipitous uptick would require a major restructuring of the nation’s domestic refining facilities, and could spur a major wave ofengineering research and development as scientists work to improve such a process, experts say.

Canada’s oil sands produce bitumen, unlike wells in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world where crude oil is extracted. Bitumen, according to scientists, is significantly heavier than crude and, as a result, requires a more demanding refining process. What’s more, it is so viscous that oil companies must first dilute the fossil fuel with natural gas liquids before it can be transported through pipelines.

The debate over the transportation of bitumen has become the focal point of controversy as imports surge, according to the news provider. Environmentalists contend it is exceedingly dangerous to send bitumen through pipelines, as it could spur corrosion. However, scientists have thus far been unable to conclusively prove a causal relationship.

Moreover, some industry watchers have questioned whether the nation’s existing pipeline architecture is capable of transporting bitumen. UPI reports that pipeline operators said such an assertion is unsubstantiated, but the Sierra Club has argued the U.S. is not prepared for the coming deluge of bitumen imports.

“We’ve got all this unconventional crude and we’re completely unprepared for it,” said Michael Marx, a campaign director at the environmental organization.

Marx also said that bitumen is more difficult to clean up than conventional crude, as it is heavier than water and sinks. “We just don’t have the technical sophistication to vacuum oil off the bottom of a river,” Marx said.

Officials in Canada have strongly argued against the “dirty oil” label over the past few years. While they concede it requires a more thorough refining process, they noted that the U.S. routinely imports non-crude heavy oils from other nations. Still, environmentalists have increased their efforts to slow the surge in oil imports.

Oil engineers at the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is tasked with regulating oil pipelines, are currently working to more effectively study the subject. The oil industry and environmentalists are awaiting the results.

SOURCE: http://why.knovel.com/all-engineering-news/1532-debate-intensifies-over-oil-produced-from-canadas-oil-sands.html

Canada energy regulator lax on pipelines

Canada’s energy regulator has failed to make adequate checks to ensure pipeline operators fix safety problems uncovered at their facilities and keep emergency procedures up to date, the country’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development said on Tuesday.

In a report to Parliament that raises serious questions about the safety of moving dangerous goods through pipelines and along highways, Commissioner Scott Vaughan also said the federal environment ministry has been lax in enforcing regulations and slow to deal with shortcomings in training of officers.

Vaughan released the report as the National Energy Board and environmental regulators prepare to conduct hearings into Enbridge Inc’s C$5.5 billion ($5.3 billion) Northern Gateway Pipeline to the Pacific Coast from the Alberta oil sands. The project is opposed by environmentalists and many aboriginal groups, partly due to fears of pipeline ruptures and oil spills along the route and in coastal waters.

The NEB regulates 71,000 km (44,000 miles) of oil and gas pipelines in Canada, more than half of them less than 30 years old, but nearly a third built between 30 and 50 years ago. More than 12 percent are more than half a century old.

The commissioner singled out as deficient the board’s compliance verification, or making sure that regulated pipelines and other facilities are being fixed once problems are identified.

He noted that 29 of a sample of 45 compliance activities had identified problems with systems and processes aimed at ensuring safety, pipeline integrity and environmental protection. In 93 percent of those, Vaughan found no evidence that the board had followed up to make sure the concerns had been addressed.

“As a consequence, we have concluded that the board has not exercised a key element of regulatory monitoring: ensuring that identified weaknesses have been corrected by the regulated companies,” he wrote.

In addition, the report said another NEB responsibility, making sure companies’ procedure manuals for emergencies such as oil spills and gas leaks are up to date, is also lacking.

READ MORE & SOURCE: http://ca.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idCATRE7BC2HA20111214?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0

Northern Gateway regulatory decision expected months later than Enbridge target

CALGARY – The regulatory panel weighing the controversial Northern Gateway oil pipeline said Tuesday it will likely make its decision in about two years, several months later than estimated by the builder, Calgary-based Enbridge Inc.

The proposed 1,200-kilometre pipeline would ship oilsands crude from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto tankers that could transport it to Asia — providing exporters with alternatives to the United States, the biggest importer of Canadian crude.

However, as with the Keystone XL pipeline that TransCanada Ltd. (TSX:TRP) hopes to build from Alberta to refineries along the Gulf Coast in the southern United States, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposal faces opposition on environmental and other grounds.

Thousands of people are set to speak at hearings across northern British Columbia and Alberta between January of next year and April 2013.

The joint review panel said Tuesday, in announcing several dates for the hearings, that it expects to release an environmental assessment report in the fall of 2013, and announce its final decision around the end of that year.

Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel said in May he was anticipating an early 2013 decision, but it’s clear from the hearing schedule that won’t be the case.

The company issued a statement late Tuesday saying it “welcomes clarity around the hearing process.”

“We understand that there is significant public interest in the Northern Gateway project. The JRP seems to be ensuring that there is a thorough inclusive process, and we are supportive of that. We see value in a well-defined process and remain committed to the regulatory review,” Enbridge spokesman Paul Stanway said in an emailed statement.

Enbridge also faces a longer review process than it expected for a proposal to reverse part of an oil pipeline in Ontario.

The National Energy Board said Monday it will begin oral hearings this fall into Enbridge’s Line 9 proposal.

Enbridge originally aimed to begin work on the $20-million Line 9 reversal project in early 2012, with start-up anticipated in the fall of next year.

“While the schedule extends further into 2012 than we had anticipated, we respect the board’s desire to enable stakeholders and communities affected by the project to have the opportunity to participate in the regulatory review process,” Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Varey said in an earlier email Tuesday.

Opposition to major pipeline projects has grown since the disastrous offshore spill in the Gulf of Mexico after BP’s leased Deepwater Horizon rig experienced a fatal explosion in April 2010.

The pipeline industry’s reputation as a relatively reliable and environmentally safe way to transport oil was tarnished by a much smaller spill in July 2010, involving an Enbridge pipeline in southern Michigan.

There have also been periodic small-scale leaks at the original Keystone pipeline and a major spill at the Rainbow pipeline in northern Alberta operated by Plains Midstream Canada.

SOURCE: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/breakingnews/neb-to-hold-hearings-into-enbridge-line-9-oil-pipeline-reversal-in-ontario-135101398.html

Mercier Bridge inspections reveal alarming decay

Quebec has released long-awaited inspection reports on Montreal’s Mercier Bridge that confirm rapidly accelerating decay in the aging structure forced its closure earlier this summer.

Corrosion noted in a 2011 inspection was so advanced that some bridge parts were perforated and deformed, the reports say.

In particular, the report said, 10 gusset plates that hold beams in an interlocking pattern are severely eroded.

Of 346 bridge parts inspected, 86 were given a “1” rating, meaning that they were deemed “incapable of perfoming required task.”

The 2011 report was dated June 11, and the Transport Ministry banned most traffic from the bridge three days later, citing the need for critical repairs to remedy safety-threatening corrosion and rust.

But Transport Minister Pierre Moreau was quick to point out that long-term repairs to remedy decay were underway when the span was shut down.

“The deterioration was going at a faster rate than what we expected,” but the bridge was in no danger of collapsing, Moreau said at a news conference Monday.

All emergency repairs have been completed, but other work is in progress.

The Mercier Bridge partially reopened Sept. 6, with remaining lanes scheduled to open in December if all repairs are completed.

The summer closure angered South Shore residents, officials and business owners who rely on the Mercier Bridge for daily commutes into the city.

The Transport Ministry has released inspection reports from 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 on its website.

The Mercier Bridge comprises two structures, one built in the 1930s and another inbound arm built in the 1960s.

SOURCE: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2011/09/19/mercier-bridge-inspection-reports-released.html

12 Montreal structures considered critical due to corrosion

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay said on Wednesday that 12 bridges, tunnels and overpasses in the city identified by engineers as being in critical condition.

“We have the reports from our engineers that these structures are safe,” Tremblay told reporters at city hall, where technical details on 35 structures were made public.

“From the moment one of our engineers or technicians informs (us) they are not safe, we will close the structure or limit access to it either by (reducing the number of) lanes or limiting the load.

“Just because it is critical doesn’t mean it isn’t safe.”

The mayor also said his administration is raising the annual average amount needed for repairs to $50 million from $30 million because of the advancing age of the 586 structures in the city of Montreal’s network. The request for more funds will be made in a new three-year infrastructure plan to be unveiled Thursday, Tremblay said.

On Wednesday, the city of Montreal made public inspection reports for 35 infrastructures on its territory. Of the 12 listed in “critical” condition, two are closed to the public, and one has undergone major repairs since the information was collected late last year.

The 12 in “critical” condition are:

  • Henri Bourassa Blvd. E./Pie IX Blvd. overpass
  • The former Wellington St. Tunnel under the Lachine Canal
  • Henri Bourassa Blvd. E./Metropolitan Blvd. E overpass
  • Rockland Ave./Bates Rd. overpass
  • Beaudry Tunnel, north side of Notre Dame St. E., near the Port of Montreal (private roadway)
  • Jean Talon St. W. overpass (west of Wilderton Ave.)
  • Jolicoeur St. bridge over Montreal Aqueduct
  • CN Rail bridge crossing l’Acadie Blvd., north of de Louvain St.
  • Park Ave. overpass/Highway 40 and service roads
  • Henri Bourassa Blvd. E./Sherbrooke St. E. overpass
  • Upper Lachine Rd./St. Jacques St. overpass
  • Snow ramp at St. Michel Quarry (no public access)

The reports detail the sites’ deterioration:

  • The Henri Bourassa Blvd. E./Pie IX Blvd. site has support walls that are severely cracked. Exposed reinforcement bars have also been badly corroded.
  • Pillars have a series of cracks in them, with eroded concrete.
  • The Wellington Tunnel, which has been out of service since the roadway was rebuilt as an overpass, suffers severe corrosion on 66 per cent of the structure’s support system.
  • The Henri Bourassa Blvd. E./Metropolitan Blvd. site has corroded beams and severe damage to the structure’s decking, with a risk of falling concrete.
  • The Rockland Ave. overpass’s support structure has lost about 10 per cent of its load-bearing capacity. Concrete is eroding and exposing reinforcement bars to rust and corrosion.
  • The Beaudry Tunnel has severe water damage.
  • Jean Talon St. W. overpass has severe corrosion to its support structure.
  • The Jolicoeur St. Bridge has cracks covering 30 per cent of the supporting walls’ surface.
  • The CN Rail bridge crossing l’Acadie Blvd. has cracks covering 100 per cent of its supporting pillars. About 15 per cent of the supporting walls’ surface is severely damaged.
  • Park Ave. overpass/Highway 40 and service roads: Expansion joints have been paved over. About 40 per cent of the joints’ surface is defective.
  • On the Henri Bourassa Blvd. E./Sherbrooke St. E. overpass, about 80 per cent of the concrete on the eastern wall is severely chipped.
  • At the Upper Lachine Rd./St. Jacques St. overpass, 40 per cent of the support walls’ concrete is severely chipped, exposing reinforcement bars to corrosion.
  • At the snow-dumping ramp at the St. Michel Quarry, 90 per cent of the support wall is covered in cracks, chips and ruptures.

No immediate repairs are planned for the Wellington Tunnel and the Beaudry Tunnel, as both sites are off-limits to the public.

An additional site, the St. Jean Baptiste Blvd. overpass at Highway 40/Metropolitan Blvd. E., was missing waterproofing membrane along its expansion joints, causing moisture to seep in. Concrete was also badly damaged along the joints. Repairs have begun at this site.

In Montreal’s disclosure, the city made public, for each of 35 structures, one-or twopage “inspection summary sheets” on which engineers have rated the deterioration of various elements. For each of the 35, photos of trouble spots were also provided.

Richard Bergeron, of the opposition Projet Montréal party, accused the city of holding back more detailed “engineers’ reports” for its structures.

But city spokesperson Philippe Sabourin denied that. He said the documents made public Wednesday are the complete inspection reports. “We don’t have any other reports,” Sabourin said.

By month’s end, the city is to publish on its website more information about the 520 other structures under its control. For those, Montreal will release the same type of “inspection summary sheets” but will not include photos, Sabourin said.

Tremblay said the city will henceforth provide annual updates on the state of every one of its structures via its website.

This week, Quebec Transport Minister Pierre Moreau pledged to make public inspection reports for all 10,000 structures under his control.

He did not provide a timeline.

SOURCE: http://www.montrealgazette.com/structures+considered+critical/5401145/story.html#ixzz1Y1MUaLdE

Oil sands critics target a new concern – pipelines

The crude oil that is pulled from Canada’s oil sands is thick and heavy, a black tar-like substance that takes large amounts of energy and effort to make into end products like gasoline and diesel. Even some people in the Alberta energy industry describe it as “nasty” stuff.

But is it also dangerous?

Over the past few months, critics of the oil sands have taken a new tack. They are now arguing that oil sands crude, which contains more contaminants than traditional sources of crude, poses a risk to pipeline safety – and they’ve linked the recent spate of North American oil pipeline spills to what they say is the corrosive content of oil sands products.

It’s an argument that began with environmental groups, but has now been taken up by legislators. Last week, for example, Alcee Hastings, a U.S. Democratic congressman, warned that “the risk of an oil spill from these tar sands pipelines is very real.”

“The oil eats away the pipelines, compromising them and leading to frequent spills,” he said during a debate on the proposed TransCanada Corp. Keystone XL pipeline, which will bring oil sands crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast if it is approved. That echoes a February report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an influential U.S. environmental group, which called oil sands crude a “highly corrosive, acidic, and potentially unstable” substance that “may be putting America’s public safety at risk.”

That conclusion has always been contradicted by industry, which has maintained that oil sands crude is safe. TransCanada, for example, has argued that it simply would not place at risk its $13-billion Keystone line by filling it with a dangerous substance. Yet the debate highlights the political obstacles that exist for the project, a crucial piece of infrastructure for getting the ever-rising volume of Alberta oil to market.

The two sides have left little middle ground between them. So who is right?

Interviews with academics, engineers and federal officials make clear that oil sands crude does indeed appear to pose additional risks. But those risks are largely borne by refineries that have had to deal with a dirtier and more corrosive substance than industry has been accustomed to.

In pipelines, independent sources suggest that the danger is substantially lower. Indeed, in decades past, thick bitumen was actually used to coat pipelines as protection against corrosion. And pipelines are partly shielded by the fact that they operate nearer room temperatures. Refineries, in contrast, process crude at up to 400 degrees Celsius, and the fierce heat promotes a series of chemical interactions that don’t happen at lower temperatures.

The corrosion question largely surrounds the properties of diluted bitumen, also called “dilbit.”

Oil sands producers generally produce two different products. One, “synthetic crude,” has passed through a sort of pre-refinery, called an upgrader, to transform it into a lighter substance that contains far fewer impurities. Dilbit comes from producers that don’t run upgraders. Instead, they take the oil sands crude and, with minimal processing, thin it with a lighter oil and pump it into a pipeline. As a result, it contains far higher levels of numerous noxious substances, including sulphur, acids, salts and sediments.

That in itself has raised some concerns.

Take sulphur, for example. Oil sands crude contains sulphur levels up to 10 times higher than other oil. But in dilbit, the sulphur is locked up with heavy oil molecules. As a result, it is largely harmless inside a pipeline, said Harvey Yarranton, a professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at the University of Calgary.

“You’d have to put it into reaction temperatures to release that sulphur – and those are above 300 Celsius,” he said.

Acids and salts are also found in substantially elevated levels in dilbit. But both substances are “not corrosive under pipeline conditions,” according to Natural Resources Canada, whose researchers have studied the corrosiveness of different oils. Acids need temperatures above 200 Celsius for corrosion to occur, the government said in a statement.

One area of concern remains sediments – little bits of sand that are embedded in oil. Industry measures these in pounds per 1,000 barrels. Conventional oil might measure 30 to 50 pounds per 1,000 barrels. Scott Bieber, a marketing manager with oil field services giant Baker Hughes Inc., has seen oil sands bitumen hit 500.

Sediments can contribute to corrosion in pipelines – and they have become a significant menace in refineries, where they have proven difficult to remove and help foul wastewater, Mr. Bieber said.

And environmental critics say that with the expansion in the oil sands, more study needs to be done of the effects dilbit has on pipelines. In particular, the thickness of oil sands crude – it’s far more viscous than conventional oil – creates friction inside pipelines that creates higher temperatures.

With Keystone XL, TransCanada has predicted temperatures as high as 55 Celsius. That remains far from the heat in a refinery, but higher temperatures do speed corrosion, and Anthony Swift, an energy analyst with the National Resources Defense Council, said governments both in Canada and the U.S. should take notice.

“There’s enough information out there about [the risks of] this stuff that merits a study,” he said. “The government should be protecting the public, and it’s a huge concern when they turn a blind eye to a potential danger.”

SOURCE: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/oil-sands-critics-target-a-new-concern-pipelines/article2116408/

Montana spill pipeline may have carried oil sands crude

An Exxon Mobil pipeline that ruptured, leaking oil into Yellowstone River, may have sometimes carried a heavier and more toxic form of crude than initially thought, federal regulators said on Thursday.

The U.S. Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokeswoman Patricia Klinger said her office had learned that the pipeline may have been used to carry heavier crude.

“I just found out that apparently, and the regional folks just found out, there is an interconnect on the pipeline that possibly does carry some oil out of Canada,” she said in response to a question about tar sands crude in the pipeline.

That a pipeline thought to transport only “sweet,” low sulfur crude could have carried so-called tar sands crude from Canada raised concerns by health and environmental officials, even as Exxon officials said the heavier oil was not flowing through the Silvertip pipeline when it broke on July 1.

“The actual crude in the line at the point of the incident was a blend of crudes from Wyoming,” Exxon spokesman George Pietrogallo told Reuters in an email on Thursday.

Exxon was responding to a question about whether tar sands crude had ever flowed in the pipeline. Almost all the oil produced in Canada’s Alberta fields is from tar sands.

The chemistry of tar sands oil, derived from tar sands or bitumen and sweet crude is significantly different, said Ronald Kendall, head of the environmental toxicology department at Texas Tech University.

“Tar sands oil is in itself heavier oil and it contains more compounds that are toxic and may contain heavy metals like lead,” Kendall said.

In a July 6 email to Reuters, Exxon spokesman Kevin Allexon said the crude carried by the pipeline “does not originate from Alberta” but from fields on the Montana-Wyoming border. On Thursday, Exxon revised that.

“The pipeline carries a variety of different production fields in the U.S. and Canada,” Pietrogallo said in the email.

‘HELL NO’

Tar sands crude may cause more wear and tear on pipes because of its chemical makeup, including corrosive and abrasive agents, said Tom Finch, the pipeline administration’s technical services director for the western regional office.

Federal inspectors were trying to determine if transport of tar sands crude could have triggered internal corrosion that may have played a role in the rupture, he said.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer faulted Exxon for failing to tell the state exactly what kinds of crude ran in the pipeline or spell out what hazardous chemicals were in the mix now contaminating riverside properties.

“Since they dumped that oil into the river that the state owns and manages, since they have spread oil in a film across 150 separate properties, since the film is over fishing access sites and state parks, we thought it would be appropriate to know what it is,” Schweitzer said.

Richard Opper, head of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, said he was surprised to learn the pipeline buried in the streambed of the Yellowstone may sometimes have moved tar sands crude from Canada.

“If the question is, did we know it was carrying tar sands oil? Hell, no,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “If companies are changing the kinds of materials in pipelines to mixes that make them more likely they will leak or rupture, that raises huge concerns.”

Exxon has apologized for the spill, which it estimates at 42,000 gallons, and pledged to restore a river prized for its near pristine waters, scenic beauty and abundance of wildlife.

EPA officials are analyzing the chemical fingerprint of the oil which, depending on its source, could contain anything from benzene, a known carcinogen, to hexane, a toxin that can damage the human nervous system.

Preliminary testing by the EPA has shown no detectable levels of some hazardous compounds harmful to humans. But at least five residents were treated in hospital emergency rooms for symptoms like dizziness, nausea and respiratory distress, according to state environmental officials.

Environmentalists said on Thursday that questions about the grades of crude in the Silvertip should prompt a call by regulators for new pipeline standards and guidelines.

“The industry likes to say, ‘oil is oil’; it’s pithy but untrue,” said Anthony Swift, energy analyst for the National Resources Defense Council. “Some grades of tar sands oil are fundamentally more corrosive and dangerous.”

SOURCE: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/15/us-oil-spill-montana-idUSTRE76E0OJ20110715

TransCanada reopens Keystone oil pipeline

There were no concerns about the integrity of the 1,300-mile Keystone oil  pipeline following a May 29 spill in Kansas, the U.S. government said.

Canadian pipeline company TransCanada restarted the Keystone oil pipeline  during the weekend. The Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous  Materials Safety Administration issued a corrective action prohibiting a restart  last week but reconsidered in time for a Sunday restart.

Julia Valentine, a spokeswoman for the PHMSA, was quoted by The Wall Street  Journal as saying there weren’t any concerns about the integrity of  Keystone.

“Every pipeline incident is unique,” she said. “In this case, the failure did  not raise concerns for the integrity of the pipeline.”

Keystone transits around 591,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada.  A May 29 leak in Kansas spilled about 10 barrels of oil. There were 11 separate  spills on the pipeline recently though the company said all were relatively  minor.

TransCanada is pushing for a $13.3 billion extension to the pipeline. The  project is scrutinized by regulators and environmentalists who worry about the  potential for spills and uncertainty about the safety of transiting oil from tar  sands in Canada.

SOURCE: http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2011/06/06/TransCanada-reopens-Keystone-oil-pipeline/UPI-85081307364816/#ixzz1OaJxzzrS