Archive for the ‘pipelines 2014’ Category

Russia battles to contain Black Sea oil spill

Russian Emergency Ministry personnel clean a section of the Black Sea shore in Tuzla Spit November 13, 2007

Moscow (AFP) – A Russian Black Sea city declared a state of emergency Thursday after a burst pipeline spewed oil into the landlocked water body, with stormy weather hampering cleanup efforts.

The pipeline near the city of Tuapse burst late Tuesday, according to ChernomorTransneft, a subsidiary of Russia’s main oil transport company Transneft.

“The wall of the pipeline broke due to… a landslide,” the company said in a statement, adding that the rupture caused 8.4 cubic metres to leak out into the Tuapse river, which empties into the Black Sea.

Environmentalists warned however that the volume of the spill could be nearly 100 times greater than claimed by Transneft.

The oil transport company said the damaged section of the pipeline — about nine kilometres (five miles) from the Black Sea coast — was under construction by a subsidiary of oil giant Rosneft and was not yet in use by Transneft.

Rosneft also operates a major oil refinery in Tuapse.

Russia’s sea and river transport agency said a cleanup mission was launched on Wednesday afternoon, though stormy weather precluded the use of boats.

By Thursday, the local authorities declared a state of emergency in Tuapse and more than 300 workers were at the scene, according to the Krasnodar regional government website.

“There is a state of emergency for Tuapse city,” a statement on the Krasnodar regional government website said. “Work is complicated by a storm, with waves two to three metres (up to 10 feet) high,” it said.

World Wildlife Fund said Thursday that the spill already polluted 15 kilometres of the Black Sea shore, and accused Rosneft and Transneft of failing to act quickly and understating the real extent of the damage.

“According to WWF’s information regarding the surface area and characteristics of the spill, the volume of the spill could be 500 to 700 tonnes (nearly 800 cubic metres),” WWF said Thursday.

The organisation said the consequences could have been avoided if the energy company alerted local authorities about the accident immediately instead of delaying its response for many hours.

Tuapse borders the resort city of Sochi, where Russia hosted the Winter Olympic Games in February.

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Canadian energy delivery company Enbridge Inc. has temporarily shut down and isolated one of its crude oil pipelines that connects to the United States after a 1,350-barrel, or 56,700-gallon oil spill, the company reported Wednesday evening.

While the company said it’s not sure how long the cleanup will take or when the pipeline will be re-opened, it insisted that no oil was spilled out of the area within the Regina Terminal in Saskatchewan, where the incident occurred. It’s not yet clear what kind of oil was released — the 796,000 barrel-a-day Line 4 pipeline, which connects to a terminal in Wisconsin, carries heavy, medium, and light sour crude.

“There are no impacts to the public, wildlife or waterways,” Enbridge said in a statement. “Nearby residents and businesses may detect a faint odour.”

A spokesman for Enbridge told Reuters that the spill happened because of a problem with a valve within the terminal, and not because of a problem with the actual pipeline. He called it a “relatively easy fix,” but did not give a timeline for when the system would be back in action. Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Canada’s National Energy Board would meet with Enbridge officials on Friday to discuss when the line could return to service.

Enbridge itself is a large player in oil pipelines, both in Canada and the United States. It has made headlines here due to its role in the largest and most expensive inland oil spill in U.S. history, an event which saw more than 800,000-gallons of thick Canadian tar sands crude oil flow out of a ruptured Enbridge pipeline and into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.

That spill was also the costliest inland oil spill in U.S. history, with Enbridge estimating cleanup costs alone to be about $1.2 billion. That doesn’t include reimbursements to homeowners and nearby residents who were impacted.

The reason why that spill was particularly disastrous was because of the type of oil involved: Canadian tar sands crude oil, which Enbridge frequently transports. When it spills, tar sands oil does not float on top of water like conventional crude. Instead, it gradually sinks to the bottom, making normal cleanup techniques and equipment of little use. Tar sands oil is too thick to transport in its original state, so it also needs chemicals like benzene to liquefy it for pipelines. That means that when tar sands spill, those chemicals evaporate into the air.

Following the incident Wednesday evening, Enbridge said it was launching an investigation into the cause of the spill, and would take the results into serious consideration when attempting to prevent spills in the future.

“We are committed to the goal of reaching zero spills and will thoroughly investigate the incident for lessons learned,” Enbridge’s statement said.

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Federal government has ‘done everything we can,’ Industry Minister James Moore says


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Obama administration nears completion of Keystone XL pipeline review


Shane Red Hawk of the Sioux Tribe from South Dakota, center, rides a horse with other Native Americans, farmers, ranchers and cowboys during the ‘Reject and Protect’ rally to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline last April.

From within the Obama cabinet, there’s a new argument being made against the Keystone XL pipeline — and this one involves aboriginal rights.

A U.S. cabinet member has cited aboriginal lands as a concern as her colleagues in the Obama administration near the completion of a review into the Canadian oil project.

The secretary of the interior laid out that concern in an interview. “I think the fact that tribal nations are standing up saying, ‘We’re concerned about this. We’re concerned about water quality. We’re concerned about tribal sovereignty. We’re concerned about what this pipeline may do for our lands and our rights,’ needs to be heard,” Sally Jewell said in an interview with MSNBC.

“In my role as secretary of the interior we will make sure there is a platform for those tribal voices to be heard. And I think they will be able to make a very effective case, because they know their lands better than we do.”

Last month, a South Dakota tribal leader warned that approving the pipeline would be an act of war. Sioux Rosebud president Cyril Scott said the pipeline would cross treaty lands and that his people weren’t consulted as a sovereign nation.

Pipeline opponents celebrate Jewell’s words

A Nebraska activist who helped organize the initial campaign against the pipeline described it as a first in the years-long debate — since the conversation hasn’t dwelled much on aboriginal concerns, as opposed to the economic effects, climate concerns, and even ranchers’ rights, which have driven the discussion.

“For the past five years, the voices of Native Nations have not been acknowledged in a public and high-level way,” Jane Kleeb said in an email Thursday. “They just were.”

She said the White House has now acknowledged the opposition of both ranchers and tribes, which she called key to stopping the pipeline.

The White House has previously cited a lawsuit involving ranchers as one reason it can’t yet make a decision on the route. A small fraction of landowners on the route in Nebraska are still fighting the project, and a decision is expected within weeks by the state Supreme Court.

Final call rests with Obama

A decision by the administration could come any time thereafter. The final call ultimately rests with President Barack Obama — following a review led by the State Department, with input from other departments.

The pipeline company, meanwhile, said it was going above and beyond legal requirements to work with aboriginal communities. “Keystone XL does not cross any reservation lands or lands held in trust,” said a statement from Mark Cooper, a spokesman at TransCanada Corp.

“However, as part of TransCanada’s Native American Policy — and despite the pipeline not crossing any reservation lands or lands held in trust — we do offer to provide community investment funding to tribal communities for various training programs, education programs, scholarships and work opportunities in their communities.”

A bid to force approval of the pipeline made it halfway through Congress, before a bill stalled last month in the Senate.

The issue will resurface in the new year — either through a new piece of legislation when a new Republican majority takes control of the Senate, or through a decision to approve the project by the Obama administration.

In either case, however, the final decision is still Obama’s. That’s because even a bill on the pipeline, passed by Congress, couldn’t become law without his signature.

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TransCanada halts pipeline terminal over endangered whales

Ottawa (AFP) – Oil company TransCanada suspended construction of a terminal on a major pipeline along the St. Lawrence River after Canadian authorities classified a nearby population of beluga whales as “endangered.”

The arctic white whale, with its distinctive spherical forehead and smiling mouth, is present in and around Cacouna, Quebec where the terminal is planned.

The belugas in the area were labeled “threatened” in the last formal study done ten years ago.

The population was estimated to number less than 1,000 whales, compared to more than 10,000 in 2004, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada said in a report.

That puts the whales at “considerably greater risk of extinction” than before, the report said, citing pollution, noise disturbance and industrial development as reasons for the northern whales’ decline.

The committee is composed of scientists whose conclusions are submitted to Canada’s environment ministry.

As a result of the endangered label, TransCanada halted the terminal construction in Cacouna, the company said in a statement.

The Cacouna terminal was intended to be operational by 2018 as part of the $10.5 billion Energy East pipeline that’s planned to connect Canada’s east and west coasts.

The decision to delay the construction was made to give the company time to analyze the beluga recommendation and review options for the future, TransCanada spokesman Tim Duboyce said.

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Eastern premiers have established a list of conditions before project can go ahead

lberta Premier Jim Prentice is scheduled to meet with his Ontario and Quebec counterparts this week to lobby for support of the Energy East pipeline.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Premier Philippe Couillard of Quebec have established a list of conditions over the project.

It includes having contingency plans and emergency response programs in place, making sure First Nations are consulted and that proponents consider the project’s environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions.

Prentice says he intends to meet with both premiers face-to-face to discuss the proposed $12-billion pipeline.

He says it is a nation-building project and other regions of Energy East will reap the financial benefits of it as well.

The pipeline would carry more than one million barrels of western crude daily from Alberta and Saskatchewan to oil refineries in Eastern Canada.

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No impact to wildlife reported, cleanup has begun

No impact to wildlife reported, cleanup has begun

The Alberta Energy Regulator reports close to 60,000 litres of crude oil have spilled into muskeg in the province’s north after a mechanical problem at a Canadian Natural Resources Limited pipeline. The pipeline shown is from the Canadian Natural Resources website. (CNR/CBC)

The Alberta Energy Regulator says close to 60,000 litres of crude oil have spilled into muskeg in the province’s north.

An incident report by the regulator states that a mechanical failure was reported Thursday at a Canadian Natural Resources Limited pipeline approximately 27 kilometres north of Red Earth Creek.

The report says there are no reports of impact to wildlife and that a cleanup has begun.

Red Earth Creek is over 350 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

Carrie Rosa, a spokeswoman for the regulator, says officials have been delayed reaching the scene due to poor weather in the last few days.

No one from Canadian Natural Resources could be reached on Saturday for comment.

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TransCanada’s Keystone Backup Plan

Last week, the Senate blocked another attempt at passing the Keystone XL pipeline. The vote fell short by only one vote. The House has already approved the measure and one might expect it will pass when the Republican majority takes over in January. The president has signaled his intention to veto the measure when it comes to his desk, but is waiting for a decision from Nebraska’s governor before committing.

The plan has been opposed by most environmental groups because the tar sands oil is extremely dirty and energy-intensive to extract. It requires all the tar to be heated before it can be extracted or made to flow through a pipe. That means enormous amounts of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the lifecycle of extraction, transportation and combustion. Furthermore, the proposed pipeline would be routed right over the massive Ogallala aquifer, a crucial source of water for Midwestern farmers. This elevates the risk of a toxic oil leak to one of potentially devastating consequences. All this is happening at a time when oil is at its lowest price in years because we have so much of it from fracking.

Be that as it may, according to documents leaked to Greenpeace, the Canadian company TransCanada has a backup plan in case Keystone fails to get approval.

The backup plan is called Energy East, and it’s a $12 billion pipeline that will run nearly 3,000 miles to the eastern shore of New Brunswick — where, according to plans, it will convey some 1.1 million barrels a day, about a third more than Keystone. It’s also expected to emit somewhere between 36 percent and 45 percent more greenhouse gases than Keystone which, as you’ll recall, former NASA climate chief James Hansen called “game over” for the climate. According to the Pembina Institute, that would be equivalent to adding 7 million cars to the roads.

The fact that it’s more than 800 miles longer than Keystone provides even more opportunities for leaks and spills.

An interesting side note to this story is the way that PR firm Edelman, which was reportedly paid $50 million to promote the project, had put forth a plan to organize an artificial grassroots movement — something they’re apparently very good at. It just goes to show that if you have the money to spend, you have a good chance of swaying public opinion. It’s yet another way that the power of money can distort the effective practice of democracy.

Edelman was recently in the news for being conspicuously absent from a group of PR firms that pledged not to work with climate change deniers, having represented both the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the past. The company did a quick reversal, making their own pledge not to represent deniers. The pledge clearly doesn’t apply to polluters. According to the leaked document, Edelman proposed building an artificial grassroots network, a practice called astroturfing, of 35,000 people, many of whom would be the company’s own employees. They also recommended working with “supportive third parties” to pressure opponents by “distracting them from their mission and causing them to redirect their resources.”

TransCanada spokesman James Millar said that while they did create a network of allies, they did not recruit third parties.

The document further discloses the fact that most if not all of the major oil companies have, “made key investments in building permanent advocacy assets and programs to support their lobbying, outreach and policy efforts. In launching a program like this, TransCanada will be in good company with a strong road map to follow.”

It’s useful to know what goes on behind the scenes in what we like to think of as the free market of ideas.

Of course, any decision about this pipeline will be out of our hands, though that doesn’t mean we won’t be affected by it. Not only will the resulting emissions affect all of us, but this PR-driven illusion of mass support can also potentially influence the debate in Washington at a crucial juncture in the international discussion over what actions need to be taken.

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VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP said on Thursday that it would clear its equipment and crews off a mountain in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby by month-end, after it lost a bid to extend an injunction keeping protesters away from the site.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge also threw out civil contempt charges against dozens of protesters arrested while rallying against the pipeline project due to confusion about the GPS coordinates in the original injunction order.

Kinder Morgan, which wrapped up drilling work at one of two sites on Burnaby mountain earlier on Thursday, said it will amend its work plan to ensure the second site is also cleared before the current injunction runs out on Dec. 1.

It had asked for an extension to Dec. 12.

The Texas-based company is doing surveying work as part of a regulatory review of a plan to more than triple the capacity of its existing 300,000-barrel-per-day Trans Mountain pipeline.

Environmentalists, aboriginal groups and many area residents are opposed to the expansion, which would allow the company to ship more tar sands crude from Alberta to a port in Vancouver and on to Asian markets.

A group of activists had for weeks been camped out at the company’s work sites. Late last week, Canadian police began enforcing a court order for their removal, and have so far arrested more than 100 people.

Kinder Morgan said that while it will not be able to finish all planned work before Dec. 1, it believes it has obtained enough data for the National Energy Board, Canada’s energy regulator, to complete its review of the project.

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