Is an oil refinery in the Kitimat a wise decision?

Companies tout the safety of exporting refined fuels by tanker, but writer is not convinced this is environmentally responsible.

Pacific Future Energy touts its planned export of refined fuels by tanker

Dear Sir:

Is locating an oil refinery in the Kitimat Valley a wise decision?

It’s a monumental $11 billion development, planned to be located at the Pacific Future Energy oil refinery at the (so-called) Dubose Industrial site on the Onion Lake Flats close to Lakelse Lake, and the community surrounding the lake.

The final wording of the federal government tanker moratorium will determine where future refined products from such a facility can be sold offshore to Asian countries via oil tanker or transported to the domestic market by rail.

I would urge you to go to the internet and learn about the project.

I will start the conversation by asking a few critical questions and comment on segments of the proposal.

Should the moratorium apply to all types of oil? Refined oils such as diesel, gasoline, bunker C and jet fuel are examples that many people would consider benign and okay to be shipped by large tankers.

That is not necessarily so. If any of those oils were spilled into a coastal inlet or a passage due to a tanker incident they would be very toxic to marine life if mixed in the water column by wave action.

Crude oil does not normally sink, but wave action could cause it to mix in the water column and become toxic.

Bitumen sinks, causing different detrimental and toxic implications for marine life.

Dilbit which is close to 30 per cent condensate and 70 per cent bitumen is typically shipped in a pipeline and would float unless mixed with sand particles.

It also could mix in the water column from wave action and would be very toxic and damaging to marine life and ecosystems.

The moratorium is focused on restricting the shipment of the two unrefined oils and bitumen.

Little is being said about the refined oils. A common misunderstanding is that refined oils evaporate so quickly there is not a problem. That argument can be made for jet fuel and gasoline. Diesel and bunker C, are a different story. A massive spill would be catastrophic, impossible to clean up and be very difficult to contain during stormy conditions and at best only possible under glass calm conditions.

The very small leakage of diesel oil from the tug boat sinking near Bella Bella on the Central Coast on Oct. 13, 2016 is an excellent example of what can happen. It took days to partially clean it up.

I am confused and concerned over the future wording of the moratorium. I think it is safe to say that continuing to ship oil products by small coastal tankers or by barge to local coastal communities and industry is acceptable, but shipping large quantities of any of the oils by large tankers poses a serious threat to marine life and ecosystems.

To transport bitumen to the refinery would require 3 to 4 trains 120 cars per day for 365 days a year plus the same number of empty unit trains that would travel back to the tar sands.

The trains would constantly be shunting back and forth every day in the Terrace rail yard before being reversed onto the tracks to Kitimat or back onto the CN line east.

Train traffic congestion will be severe, with noise and increased emissions from the locomotives altering local air quality.

The two level crossings on Queensway  Drive in Thornhill could be blocked off for lengthy times and at critical times.

Company proponents say that this refinery will be the greenest in the world and SO2 emissions will be minimal, with little impact to the air quality of the Kitimat-Terrace air shed. The cumulative effect when combined with other industrial emissions is a serious threat. The true test will be determined by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Authority study.

My comments and questions have only scratched the surface.

Alteration to water, our climate, fish and wildlife, land, tourism, the loss of prime forest values, quality of life, industrialization of the upper Kitimat Valley and constricting the future of Via Rail are immense additional issues that must be talked about.

These issues need to be  considered before final decisions are made.

Time will tell which values Governments decide are important and which are not.

Jim Culp,

Terrace, B.C.

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