Enbridge plans have 'strong limitations'
Aug 26, 2012 / 10:00 am
Enbridge Inc.'s response plan for a potential spill of Northern Gateway oil into the pristine waters off British Columbia doesn't take into account the unique oil mixture the pipeline would actually carry, documents show.
Enbridge officials confirm the spill response plan they have filed with the federal review panel studying the pipeline proposal deals with conventional crude, not specifically the diluted bitumen the pipeline will carry.
But Enbridge says the two react the same way once spilled.
However, documents obtained under access to information show a scientist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans argued vigorously for a chance to do more research.
Kenneth Lee submitted a research proposal last December saying the matter requires further study because Enbridge's plan had "strong limitations due to inaccurate inputs."
"The Northern Gateway pipeline proposal lacks key information on the chemical composition of the reference oils used in the hypothetical spill models," wrote Lee, head of DFO's Centre for Offshore Oil Gas and Energy Research, or COOGER.
Lee sought approval to conduct a series of studies through to 2015, when final tests on the "toxic effects of reference oils to marine species" would be completed.
That deadline suggests the results would come too late for the Northern Gateway review panel as it reviews the environmental impact of the pipeline. Its hearings end next April and the panel reports back to government by the end of next year.
The Fisheries Department did not respond to questions about whether Lee's group was given the go-ahead to do the research.
Lee is an internationally renowned expert on oil spills and was tapped last year to join a U.S. scientific committee studying the aftermath of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Northern Gateway's twin pipelines would carry natural gas condensate to Alberta and diluted oilsands bitumen to Kitimat, where it would be transferred to tankers for export.
Bitumen is oil extracted from oil sands. It's thick and heavy like molasses, though a diluted version is what would be moved through the Enbridge pipeline if the $6-billion project gets approved.
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