Myths vs. Facts: What protestors don’t want you to know about oil sands crude
One of the types of crude oil derived from the Canadian oil sands is bitumen.
Because this heavier oil would not flow through a pipeline without assistance, it is diluted or blended with a light refined petroleum product so it can easily flow in the pipeline.
This diluted heavier oil blend is sometimes referred to as diluted bitumen (dilbit), but make no mistake, we are still talking about oil.
There are a number of misconceptions about this heavier oil blend. Here’s our list of the top five fallacies.
5 — Diluted bitumen is not really crude oil
Actually it is. Diluted bitumen has similar characteristics to typical heavier blends of crude oil. This oil sands-derived crude oil has been travelling through North American pipelines for decades and is well understood by the industries responsible for producing, transporting and refining it.
There is no mystery or ‘smoking gun’ here, as opponents would have you believe.
4 — Heavier oil blends are not safe to transport
We are heavily invested in making sure that every batch of oil we transport moves safely through our pipeline system. It’s important to remember that while every batch of crude oil has its own unique characteristics, each batch must meet strict specifications before we can accept it into our pipeline system to transport to refineries that convert it into gasoline and other petroleum products.
The bottom line, the physical and chemical properties of the more than one billion barrels of crude oils transported safely by Keystone, since 2010, are very similar to the heavy crude oils refined in the U.S. from sources, including California crude, as well as crudes imported from Venezuela, Nigeria and Russia.
Note: This heavy crude oil blend is transported at comparable pipeline pressures as other heavy crude oils.
3 — Energy East diluent would be separated and sent back out west on rail cars after refining
Not true. Diluent is a diluting or thinning agent added to the oil blend to make it easier to transport over long distances. Without diluent, these heavier crude oils are too thick to pump.
Regardless of the diluent used, it will be part of the refinement process for Energy East crude oil and it will typically become part of the gasoline that is created by a refinery and usually consumed locally.
Any diluent not forming part of gasoline can also be used as a component of other products we consume, such as propane heating fuel.
2 — Heavier oil blends sink if spilled in water
No they don’t, at least not for several days. Heavier blends of oil have the same characteristics as conventional crude oils, which float in still or slow-moving water. Crude oil, in general, can sink over an extended period of time if it is allowed to weather and mix with dirt — an outcome that TransCanada’s Emergency Response Plans in collaboration with local first responders work extremely hard to prevent.
1 — Heavier oil blends are more corrosive than conventional crude oils
Absolutely not. Several studies by scientific organizations, such as the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Battelle Memorial Institute, Penspen Institute, Natural Resources Canada and the American Petroleum Institute have concluded that heavier oil blends behave the same way as conventional crude oils.
Heavier crude oil blends have been safely transported in North American pipelines for more than 40 years. These heavier crude oil blends have the same chemical and physical properties and density and viscosity levels as other types of crude oils.
And transporting heavier crude oil blends most definitely will not lead to more corrosion.
For further information, the American Petroleum Institute has produced this fact sheet on these heavier crude oil blends.