Myth vs. Fact: Oil Spills

MYTH: Oil derived from the oil sands is more likely to cause spills.

FACT: Oil from the Canadian oil sands – a common energy source that has been transported in the United States for years — pose no more of a threat to U.S. pipelines than any other source of crude oil.[1] In fact, no instances of crude oil releases caused by internal corrosion from pipelines carrying Canadian crude are evident in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s pipeline accident data from 2002 through early 2011.[2]

In the unlikely event that a spill occurs, cleanup techniques are the same for oil sands-derived crude as they are for other heavy crude oils.[3]  All crude oils are a mixture of light and heavy components.  The light components are recovered or evaporate, while the heavy ends can persist until cleaned up or sink if spilled into water. This is not unique to oil sands-derived crudes[4].  The 1990 Oil Pollution Act (OPA) requires pipeline operators to submit response plans to the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) for review and approval prior to beginning operations and when changes are made. This also applies to pipelines carrying oil sands crude.



[1] Alberta Innovates, Comparison of the Corrosivity of Dilbit and Conventional Crude, Nov 2011

[2] From data collected by DOT/PHMSA on form PHMSA F 7000-1 (30-day accident report form)

[3] Alberta Innovates, Comparison of the Corrosivity of Dilbit and Conventional Crude, Nov 2011

[4] Ibid.

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