The diluted bitumen that will flow from the Alberta oil sands to a British Columbia tanker port would not sink in the event of a marine oil spill, contrary to claims made by opponents, say experts behind the Northern Gateway Pipeline project.
As such, the marine oil-spill response plan, which the company points out it has taken on voluntarily, above and beyond Canadian regulations, does not need and does not include measures to remove oil from the ocean floor, a regulatory review panel heard Wednesday.
That panel is currently examining the project's marine oil-spill plans.
"I don't know if it's possible to drive a stake through the heart of this concept of sinking oil, but every one of these liquids that we're talking about is no different from any other liquid we have on Earth," said Al Maki, one of 10 experts answering questions under oath this week.
Experience and lab tests show diluted bitumen weighs less than water, Maki said.
"It is an immutable fact of physics that they will float. They simply cannot sink in water."
That claim brought lawyers representing six First Nations and environmental groups to their feet to dispute the statement and demand a copy of the report cited by the company.
There is no scientific consensus on the behaviour of diluted bitumen in a real-life spill situation.