Op-ed: Green refineries better alternative than tankers

David Black, majority owner of Black Press Group Ltd., writes about air quality, ocean health and speedy spill clean-up

By David Black

Despite the recent federal promise of extra funding for marine spill response, I completely agree with the 30 environmental organizations who claimed last month that carrying diluted bitumen in tankers along B.C.’s coast should not be allowed.

No one in the world has ever recovered even 15 per cent of a conventional crude oil spill, let alone a bitumen spill. For example, Exxon worked for four years, using up to 11,000 people and 1,400 boats, to try to clean up the Valdez Alaska conventional crude spill and recovered only seven per cent of it.

Conventional crude oil floats, theoretically at least, can be vacuumed or scooped up. Diluted bitumen on the other hand does not float in water that is loaded with plankton and sediment, as our coast is.

The federal government’s own research shows that half of any diluted bitumen spill will sink to the bottom in the first hour. We have no technology to get it back. None! Much of the rest will end up on the mudflats, sandbars and shoreline like asphalt.

Enbridge and Kinder Morgan are good well-run companies that build and try hard to operate safe pipelines. However, governments would be irresponsible to risk our ocean, our shoreline and our fishery by allowing them to put diluted bitumen in tankers. Kinder Morgan’s existing old pipeline, which was converted to carrying diluted bitumen for tanker export four years ago, should also not be used anymore for that purpose.

Get to market a better way

Saying no to the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain projects does not prevent Canada from getting its oil resources to markets in the Pacific and Indian Oceans in a clean ecological way.

All we have to do is build safe bitumen pipelines or transport solid bitumen safely by rail, and operate green B.C. export refineries. (Export refineries cannot be built in Alberta because they must be near the ocean to be economic.)

In the process, we will achieve enormous value-add benefits. Tens of thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars of new taxes will be generated.

Protect the ocean

More importantly, we will protect our ocean because the products produced by green refineries, gasoline and diesel fuel float and evaporate if spilled. Gasoline disappears within two days and diesel within two weeks.

As cases in point, the diesel released during the Queen of the North grounding and sinking in 2006 at Gil Island south of Prince Rupert, and the 15-kilometre diesel slick created when a barge sank in 2007 near Robson Bight, evaporated in less than two weeks.

The diesel from a recent grounding of a tug in Bella Bella is also evaporating two weeks after it is reaching the surface. Unfortunately, seepage from the tug is ongoing and lubricant oils that don’t evaporate are also being released.

While it is impossible to clean up a spill at sea of crude oil or diluted bitumen, a spill of refined fuels is far easier to deal with and often requires little or no remediation.

Reduce CO2 emissions

Equally importantly, if we build new green refineries we can avoid much of the carbon dioxide emitted by all existing refineries. Engineers estimate an economically viable green B.C. refinery will save at least 23 million tonnes of annual CO2 emissions. That is the equivalent of taking five million Canadian cars off the road.

Why ship our raw resources offshore and make it easy for foreign companies to degrade the planet using older technology? By keeping refineries in our backyard and ensuring they are green we will become ecological stewards for the earth.

In fact, if the producers in Alberta, who are currently working hard to find ways to reduce CO2 emissions, are able to clean up the extraction process, we will have the cleanest petroleum industry in the world.

Green B.C. refineries solve problems

Most of us agree that we must find a way to solve ecological issues and enable production at the same time, or our quality of life and our ability to protect the environment will spiral down. In this case, green B.C. export refineries are the answer; tankers carrying diluted bitumen are not.

David Black is the president and owner of Kitimat Clean Ltd. which proposes to build an oil refinery near Kitimat, a project to add value to Canada’s natural resources for export in an environmentally responsible manner. He is also the chairman and majority owner of Black Press Group Ltd. which owns a chain of community newspapers and websites, including BCLocalNews.com.

Just Posted

Comedy, chicken poop and dancing at Lytton Festival

This year’s festival will honour longtime supporter Shirley James

LETTER: Recreational angling has low-impact on Fraser salmon

Jason Tonelli writes about his displeasure at the call to close recreational fishing on the Fraser

Hope’s Wheeled Wild Women hit the road for cancer research

Group of friends ready for the 200-km bike trek that ends in Hope

PHOTOS: Paintings return to Kilby for fifth annual festival

The Plein Air Festival will be taking place at the historic site all weekend

Cougar spotted in Seabird Island

Residents are asked to report all sightings to conservation

Sts’ailes invites adults to become engaged in Halq’eméylem with new video series

‘Qw’oqwel te Qw’oqwel’ gives language learners an immersive way to learn Halq’eméylem

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

Raif Badawi was arrested on June 17, 2012, and was later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for his online criticism of Saudi clerics

RCMP, search crews hunt for 4-year-old boy missing near Mackenzie

George went missing early Saturday afternoon

Canadian entrepreneurs turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profits

Some breweries turn to entrepreneurs looking to turn spent grain into treats for people and their pets

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

B.C. VIEWS: Log exports and my other errors so far in 2019

Plastic bags, legislature overspending turn out differently

Most Read