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Commentary

What’s In Your Pipeline?

Tue, May 22, 2018   |   Author: Rod Taylor   |   Volume 25    Issue 21   

It’s always good to know “what’s coming down the pipe”. In Richmond, BC, The Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corp. (VAFFC) is preparing to build a 13-km pipeline to transport jet fuel to a new tank farm close to the Vancouver Airport. The jet fuel would be offloaded from tankers docking in the South Arm of the Fraser River and is expected to replace current supplies from an existing Kinder Morgan pipeline with fuel from international refineries; South Korea is one potential supplier.

While there have been local protests in the Richmond area, this “little” pipeline (after 10 years of delay, an estimated $150 million project) has not generated the heat and attention of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, the now-defunct Northern Gateway proposal, the Keystone XL plan or the very sensible Energy East project, all of which would have transported Alberta oil sands bitumen to upgraders and refineries outside Alberta.

How could there not be more concern about a project designed to import fuel from overseas than any one of these other projects that would have increased Canada’s GDP and provided well-paying jobs for Canadian workers, using a natural, God-given resource that belongs to the people of Canada?

First of all, pipelines in general are things to be grateful for and their safety and efficiency have only improved over the years. Secondly, we have energy resources that may be the envy of the world. We have environmental and safety standards that far surpass those of many other countries that compete with us for market share. We have energy needs ourselves and if we were to use the technology and infrastructure we have to efficiently produce and distribute every energy product that can be derived from oil and gas, we could supply the need of every Canadian household and business and still have huge amounts to sell on world markets. We would no longer be dependent on Mid-East “conflict oil” or other dubious sources.

There is no reason aircraft refuelling in Vancouver should have to put foreign jet fuel in their tanks. Every drop could and should be supplied by Canadian refineries. Those concerned about the environment (as I am), those concerned about responsible resource use (as I am), those concerned about the Canadian economy, our global trade deficit and unemployment or underemployment of Canadian workers (as I am) should be calling for government action—federal and provincial—to make Canada energy-self-sufficient and to ensure that Canadian energy needs are met with Canadian energy products.

There is one little-discussed angle to the oil sands-pipeline interprovincial disputes: that is the reasonable demand that oil sands bitumen should be upgraded in Alberta by Canadian workers before it goes by pipeline to any port, refinery or secondary customer, domestic or foreign.

There are two solid reasons for this. Synthetic oil is a far safer product to transport. Spills of oil are easier to clean up and are less toxic than spills of “dilbit” (diluted bitumen). While bitumen can sink to the bottom of waterways, oil floats to the top. The natural gas condensates used to dilute the bitumen for transport—toluene, benzene and hexane—are toxic and can create an emulsion believed to be hazardous to marine life. This is not a reason not to build pipelines; this is a reason to consider upgrading the oil before transporting it.

The second reason is so economically obvious it shouldn’t even require an explanation but apparently it does. The operation of one or more large and efficient upgraders in Alberta would put more Canadians to work and would extract far more value from the natural resource—value which would put more money in Canadian coffers and reduce our need to borrow from foreign countries. The synthetic oil produced in the upgraders could then be transported by pipeline to Canadian refineries in any province and what is not needed in Canada could be exported as “value-added products”. I have heard the objection that “Canada cannot afford to build an upgrader”. That’s utter nonsense. If they’re building them in China, they can be built in Canada. The only possible explanation for the preference for transporting raw bitumen to China is that their lower environmental and workplace safety standards allow them to do it cheaper. In other words, it’s greed.

The Christian Heritage Party calls on the federal government and every provincial government to cooperate in planning to make Canada 100% energy-self-sufficient. We call on them to enter into frank discussions and earnest negotiations to develop oil sands upgrading facilities close to source and to establish pipeline corridors for the safe and efficient transport of Canada’s tremendous energy resources for both domestic use and international trade. When we are asked “What’s in your pipeline?” we should be able to say, “100% Canadian energy resource products, produced by Canadian workers for the benefit of all Canadians!”

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