Environmental groups and the oil industry are battling on a new front in the long-running public relations war over Canada’s oil sands. This one concerns claims that crude wrung from the massive deposits is more corrosive to pipelines and hence presents a bigger risk of oil spills.
Green groups say the crude eats away at the inside of pipelines much more quickly than is the case with conventional oil and the industry says it doesn’t.
We took a look at the issue recently, and found a surprising lack of research dedicated specifically to the risks associated with shipping growing volumes of the tar-sands-derived oil on longer pipelines as the United States seeks to cut dependence on other imported crude.
It may be time to answer the question once and for all, and since so much distrust exists among the debate’s players, it’s likely only a formal, truly independent, peer reviewed study will do.
The U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council has led the charge among environmentalists pushing the corrosion theory and has called for a focused study. At least one Canadian regulator we spoke to for our story said he would be interested to see results of one.