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Mon, 2014-12-15 06:00Justin Mikulka
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Calls to Ban Bomb Trains Ramp Up While Communities Await New Regulations

ban bomb trains

Earthjustice has challenged the Department of Transportation’s denial of a petition by Sierra Club and Forest Ethics to ban the transportation of Bakken crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars.

Most of the explosive crude oil on U.S. rails is moving in tanker cars that are almost guaranteed to fail in an accident,” explained Patti Goldman of Earthjustice.

The risks are too great to keep shipping explosive Bakken crude in defective DOT-111s. The National Transportation Safety Board called them unsafe two decades ago, and by the Department of Transportation’s own estimates, the U.S. could see 15 rail accidents every year involving these cars until we get them off the tracks.” 

At the same time Earthjustice was bringing this challenge, the Canadian government was announcing that it will ban 3,000 of the riskiest DOT-111s from carrying materials like Bakken crude.

Thu, 2014-10-16 05:00Justin Mikulka
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Oil-by-Rail Fuels Record U.S. Imports of Canadian Oil

Oil by rail

In September, many of the major railroad stocks hit new all-time highs.

Investors Business Daily attributed much of the increase to the business of moving oil-by-rail.

While the majority of the oil moving by rail has been fracked light sweet crudes from places like the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale basins, the railroads are telling investors that to keep increasing profits they are looking to expand the business of tar sands by rail.

This past week, the Wall Street Journal reported Canadian Pacific’s chief operating officer Keith Creel’s optimistic position about the growth prospects of moving tar sands by rail.

The growth is shifting from the light sweet Bakken crude which is the more volatile and sensitive, to the heavy crude in northern Alberta,” Creel said. “It’s safer, less volatile and more profitable to move and we’re uniquely positioned to connect to the West Coast as well as the East Coast.”

Thu, 2014-09-25 14:49Justin Mikulka
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U.S. Oil Imports From Canada Hit All-Time High Despite Opposition

Oil tankers

While the battle against TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline rages on and oil-by-rail faces increased scrutiny, U.S. oil imports from Canada have quietly hit a record high of 2.99 million barrels per day.

That number — from the week ending Sept. 12, 2014 — marks a 20 per cent increase from a year earlier.

While rail is still handling only a small amount of crude oil compared to pipelines, it continues to rapidly expand.

In a May 19, 2014 meeting between the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), API indicated the oil industry estimated it would need 12,000 rail cars to move Western Canadian crude, which is predominantly tar sands oil.

And in the second half of this year, it is becoming evident that the API’s prediction was a pretty good one. Rail is going to play an increased role alongside pipelines in getting tar sands oil to market despite opposition from activists across North America.

Tue, 2014-09-09 05:00Justin Mikulka
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Goldman Sachs Warns Investors About Tar Sands By Rail Challenges While Investing in Tar Sands By Rail

Oil by rail

In 2009, Matt Taibbi wrote a piece in Rolling Stone in which he described the investment bank Goldman Sachs as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” 

Apparently tar sands oil smells like money. And thus the vampire squid has found another target. As Reuters reported on August 29:

A Goldman Sachs-led rail terminal operator, USD Group LLC, announced on Friday plans to form a Master-Limited Partnership this year to trade publicly on the New York Stock Exchange.

This new company will be based around a tar sands rail loading facility in Hardisty, Alberta. That is the same place where the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would begin. USD Group already owns a crude-by-rail terminal in the town, with capacity to load two 120-car unit trains per day.

And with the success of this first phase of development, the company has announced plans to double the capacity of the terminal, which would allow it to load 280,000 barrels per day (bpd). The company has also announced plans to add another 70,000 bpd, which would bring its capacity to 350,000 bpd, or roughly half the proposed capacity of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

Sat, 2014-07-26 11:21Carol Linnitt
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The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 1: John O’Connor and the Dawn of a New Oilsands Era

Fort Chipewyan, located downstream of the oilsands, has higher than average cancer rates.

This is the first installment of a three-part series on Dr. John O'Connor, the family physician to first identify higher-than-average cancer rates and rare forms of cancer in communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands.

Part 1: The Doctor and the Dawn of a New Oilsands Era: 'It Was Fascinating'

The day John O’Connor landed in Canada from his native Ireland,* he had no idea how much he would end up giving to this land, nor how much it would ultimately demand from him.

I had no intention of staying in Canada,” he told DeSmog Canada in a recent interview. “The intention was to go back.”

But I got enchanted with Canada.”

That was back in 1984 when O’Connor first arrived in Canada for a three-month locum.

With a large family practice already well established in Scotland, O’Connor had no real intention of settling in this foreign land where, in a few decades, he would find himself embroiled in a national conflict — a conflict that would pick at so many of our country’s deepest-running wounds involving oil, First Nations and the winners and losers of our resource race.

No, when O’Connor landed in Canada he was just planning to fill a temporary family physician position in Nova Scotia. Soon after his arrival, however, his light curiosity about Canada transformed into a newfound passion. He was hooked.

Fri, 2014-07-04 15:13Emma Gilchrist
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B.C. Government Calls on NEB to Compel Kinder Morgan to Answer Oil Spill Questions

oil tanker

The province of British Columbia has filed a motion with the National Energy Board (NEB) to compel pipeline company Kinder Morgan to answer the province’s questions on its Trans Mountain expansion project.

In the motion, the province argues the company has failed to supply adequate answers to dozens of questions on issues such as oil spill response. A 41-page chart submitted to the NEB by the province outlines all of the instances in which Kinder Morgan did not adequately answer its questions.

For instance, Kinder Morgan declined to provide a copy of its emergency response program documents to the province — after promising to do so upon request to “any member of the public” in its application — on the basis that they contain information of a confidential and sensitive nature. 

In another instance, the province requested a detailed report on Western Canada Marine Response Corporation’s (WCMRC) ability to respond to a worst-case scenario oil spill. Kinder Morgan responded by telling the province to go ask the marine oil spill responder for that information themselves.

Thu, 2014-05-15 09:56Anne Landman
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American Sands Energy Corp. To Become Third Company to Mine Tar Sands in Utah

Utah tar sands
 
Yet another company is poised to start grinding up and spitting out eastern Utah's wilderness for its tar sands.  
 
Until now, the biggest threat to eastern Utah's wilderness has been the Canadian company U.S. Oil Sands, which amid protests in 2013 succeeded in starting a strip mining operation for tar sands at PR Spring, in eastern Utah's Bookcliffs range, about 35 miles west of the Colorado border. 
 
In what's shaping up to be a new rush to riches by producing dirty oil from unconventional sources in the western U.S., now another company, American Sands Energy Corporation (ASEC), has obtained the rights to mine tar sands and bitumen (asphalt) on 1,800 acres of private property in an area called Sunnyside, about 150 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.
 
The company calls the project the “Sunnyside Project” or the “Gibbs Project,” after the Gibbs family, which owned the property 30 years ago. William Gibbs is the chairman of the board and CEO of American Sands Energy Corporation.
 
ASEC couldn't possibly have found a friendlier place in the U.S. for its fossil fuel extraction project.
 
Sunnyside, population 274 in 2012, is a former coal town in Carbon County, and is so friendly to energy interests that up until 1994, it never had an elected mayor. Before that time, the town's mayor was the superintendent of mines for the Utah Fuel Coal Company. After Kaiser Steel took over the local mines in 1950, Sunnyside's mayor was the head of Kaiser Steel. 
Sat, 2012-11-24 15:00Carol Linnitt
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Two Tanker Incidents off BC Coast Confirm Tar Sand Supertanker Concerns

Two separate incidents involving container ships off the coast of British Columbia have local First Nations questioning the prudence of transporting tar sands crude in the region's hazardous waterways. The incidents, occurring within less than 48 hours of each other, lend new support to those who oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline that would bring over 200 oil-bearing supertankers through the area each year. 

On Wednesday, November 21, the Hanjin Geneva, a 279-metre long cargo vessel, ran aground in the Prince Rupert Harbour after changing course to avoid a small fishing boat. 
 
Yesterday the Tern Arrow, a deep-sea container ship, suffered a power failure in Gitga'at territorial waters in the Great Bear Rainforest. 
 
“The ship lost power and drifted for three hours in Laredo Sound,” said Arnold Clifton, Chief Councillor of the Gitga'at First Nation. “This is the same place that a ship hit Wilson Rock in 1980. These are the same coastal waters that Enbridge is proposing to bring more than 225 oil supertankers through every year. How many close calls will we have then, and how will our coastal communities survive?”
Fri, 2011-06-03 14:52Emma Pullman
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Breaking: TransCanada Keystone I Pipeline Shut Down Indefinitely Due to Safety Concerns

Following a string of oil spills, TransCanada’s Keystone I tar sands oil pipeline has been indefinitely shut down, and banned from restarting operations. Today, the Pipelines and Hazerdous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Corrective Action Order, which stops use of the pipeline until the regulator determines that safety problems have been corrected.

In the order, Jeffrey Wiese, associate administrator for pipeline safety at the Department of Transportation, wrote: 

I find that the continued operation of the pipeline without corrective measures would be hazardous to life, property and the environment. Additionally, after considering the circumstances surrounding the May 7 and May 29, 2011 failures, the proximity of the pipeline to populated areas, water bodies, public roadways and high consequence areas, the hazardous nature of the product the pipeline transports, the ongoing investigation to determine the cause of the failures, and the potential for the conditions causing the failures to be present elsewhere on the pipeline, I find that a failure to issue this Order expeditiously to require immediate corrective action would result in likely serious harm to life, property, and the environment.

The Keystone I pipeline has spilled 12 times since beginning operation less than one year ago. Late last year, TransCanada had to dig up portions of the pipeline when abnormalities were discovered.  

Thu, 2011-06-02 14:31Emma Pullman
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Tar Sands Industry Has Its Eyes On Vancouver For Asian Export Terminal

In recent months, opposition to Enbrige’s Northern Gateway Pipeline has mounted as citizens, environmental groups and First Nations groups have protested the $5.5 billion dollar pipeline that would bring as many as 220 supertankers per year to Kitimat, B.C., to ship dirty tar sands crude to hungry energy markets in Asia.

While opposition to this project has grown, it’s curious that we haven’t heard anything about an alternate project to route tar sands crude through Vancouver. 

The recent application to the National Energy Board (NEB) comes from Trans Mountain Pipeline, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan that operates the 300,000 barrel per day (bpd) pipeline from Alberta to B.C. and Washington State. Their project would vastly expand oil tanker traffic through the waters of Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, and make Vancouver the major conduit of tar sands crude and bitumen to China.

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