Opinion – Has the proposed Northern Gateway Oil Pipeline been properly analyzed?
11 Apr, 2014
National Energy Board-Joint Review Panel report of December fails its responsibility to the Canadian people. If you care, it’s not too late to do something about it.
As a group of concerned professional engineers, we are very alarmed about the proposal to turn Kitimat into Canada’s “oil superport” to Asia. We feel that the Joint Review Panel has not properly analyzed the proposed Northern Gateway Project nor carefully considered the risks inherent in shipping diluted bitumen (dilbit) from Kitimat to the open ocean by tanker. Kitimat is located 300 km from the open Pacific. To reach the ocean, tankers would have to navigate narrow, foggy, stormy passages in an area of some of BC’s most pristine ocean environment.
When we read the JRP reports in December 2013, we were very disappointed and felt very strongly that they mislead all of us who had taken the time to consider the evidence. In response, and after careful and informed analysis based on our collective experience as engineers who have worked on such projects, our group prepared three white papers that point out the three major issues we have with the findings of the Joint Review Panel: 1) flawed risk analysis, 2) who will shoulder the burden of spill cost, 3) whether a spill can be cleaned up at all.
The CPE (Concerned Professional Engineers) is careful to point out that we are not anti-business. “We support development and the economy, in particular natural resource development but we’re trying to say, let’s do it in a way that’s responsible,” says Brian Gunn a spokesperson for CPE. “The Northern Gateway tanker proposal is not a responsible development. It’s too risky and the evidence used to support it is not accurate.”
The accuracy Gunn refers to comes down to simple math. One example of this math is the fact that Enbridge’s calculations for the probability of a spill are based only on the amount of traffic that would be generated by Enbridge’s oil tankers. The Enbridge calculations do not account for the hundreds of other ships transporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) that will be added to the traffic.
Northern Gateway Project has projected a nine percent probability of a major five million litre (30,000 barrel) or greater spill in its 50 year operating life. We feel that this probability for an oil spill is too high. More alarmingly we think this number underestimates the risks considerably.
We are also concerned that the product dilbit is an unknown; Environment Canada scientists were of the opinion that there is no relevant real-world experience research to explain how it reacts in a marine environment. If there was a spill, could it be cleaned up? After the horror of Exxon Valdez, still a marine disaster after 25 years, this is an extremely crucial matter.
We believe as well, that the cost of cleaning up a spill far exceeds the funds available, and that tax payers will be left on the hook for the remainder of the funds.
CPE believes that with the skills and abilities available in BC, we can do far better to come up with solutions than what has been done by the JRP and Enbridge Northern Gateway.
Tell your MP and MLA; telling them that Northern Gateway is not a responsible resource development. You can do this by writing to them; please visit our website, “www.concernedengineers.org” for help with writing these letters. We’re not giving up and neither should you!
Brian Gunn Spokesperson for Concerned Professional Engineers