LETTER: Don’t Believe Oil Pipeline Myths

The following letter by New England Petroleum Council executive director John Quinn appeared on Sept. 12 in the Bangor Daily News. The letter dispels several myths about  plans for the Portland-Montreal pipeline and the corrosivity of oil sands crudes.

Don’t believe oil pipeline myths

The recent OpEd on oil pipelines (“ The folly of tar sands”, 8/26) is representative of the growing myths about pipeline safety and overblown dangers of crude oils derived from the Canadian oil sands.

The author suggests that it would take legislative action to stop the reversal of flow on the Portland-Montreal line, but the fact is that neither Enbridge nor Portland-Montreal Pipeline, which are not affiliated, have such plans at this time. Enbridge has even filed paperwork with the National Energy Board of Canada to explain that it has abandoned its original proposal that would have allowed oil sands crude to flow into the Portland-Montreal line.

Another concerning point is the assertion that oil sands crude is “gooey and gummy”. When extracted from the ground, bitumen has a consistency like peanut butter. But that’s not what travels through pipe. The bitumen is diluted so that it can flow and has very similar chemical properties as other familiar crudes from places like California and Mexico.

Oil sands crudes are no more corrosive than other crude oils, and crude oil in general is not particularly corrosive. The pipelines that carry them are tested and monitored to ensure safe

operation. Since the U.S. Office of Pipeline Safety began keeping detailed statistics, it has not identified a single corrosion-related pipeline release from pipelines carrying diluted bitumen.

Pipelines remain a safe and reliable mode of transportation for vital energy resources, and your readers will be much better prepared if they first separate myths from the facts.


  1. Luke Greco says:

    The information on this page is a serious misrepresentation of facts. Oil sands may not be more “corrosive”, but “corrosive” is the wrong word. What they are is “abrasive”, because they’re… well, sand, and so they wear away physically at the pipeline’s interior as they pass through it, rather than through a chemical reaction as a corrosive substance would. The end result is the same either way, being ruptured pipelines, but by wording it in this way, this website has severely skewed the facts. If this isn’t a lie, its the closest thing to it.

    • shannonb says:

      Thanks for your comment, Luke. We can argue semantics, but the point OSFC is trying to make is that pipelines are engineered to handle what they are intended to transport.

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