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

Two week lock down lifted for Kent Institution

A search at the prison found nearly 26 grams of hashish and a cellphone

Missing woman last seen downtown Chilliwack in late April

Family concerned for Rebecca Lynne Sackley’s well-being

Chilliwack prolific offender arrested after four months on the lam

B.C.-wide warrant issued for David Allen Geoghegan in January

Harrison Hot Springs to partner with Sts’ailes for reconciliation event

The event will be funded by a grant meant to build dialogue between cities and local First Nations

Chilliwack vintage shop swings open doors at new location

Marion’s Dressing Room the newest place to shop on Mill Street

VIDEO: Quadriplegic man takes flight over Harrison Mills

Jim Ryan hasn’t moved his arms or legs for three years, but that didn’t stop him from paragliding

Four rescued from Golden Ears mountain

Hikers from Surrey started out for Evans Peak at 6 p.m.

Pipeline protester chimes in on Justin Trudeau’s B.C. fundraising speech

The government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion

Canada stripping citizenship from Chinese man over alleged marriage fraud

The move comes amid severely strained relations between Ottawa and Beijing

Nevada court orders former Vancouver man to pay back $21.7M to investors

The commission says Michael Lathigee committed fraud over a decade ago

Support growing for orphaned Okanagan child after father dies in highway crash

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

RCMP target speeders between Abbotsford and Surrey in month-long blitz

Officers throughout the province launch Swoop campaign

Baby boom seniors putting pressure on B.C. long-term care: report

B.C. leads Canada in growth of dementia, dependence on care

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Most Read