While there appears to be unanimous agreement on the need to do everything possible to eliminate the possibility of crude oil spills, the substitute plan—carrying diluted bitumen, is not the answer.
The devastating Exxon oil spill in Valdez, Alaska resulted in four years of recovery efforts, the use of 1,400 boats and employment of almost 11,000 people, and yet only seven percent of the spill was recovered. With the best that science and technology has to offer, no more than 15 percent of crude oil has ever been recovered. The damage is impossible to repair and this in spite of the fact that, relatively speaking, crude oil should be easily extracted since it floats on the surface of the water.
Now there is a proposal to allow the shipment of diluted bitumen along the coast of British Columbia. Bitumen is even more difficult to recover than crude oil in that it does not float but rather sinks to the bottom of the ocean floor. There is no technology available today to extract bitumen from the ocean floor. Allowing tankers to carry diluted bitumen would only amplify the risks to the environment. Safe pipelines or rail transport can easily carry bitumen to its intended markets.
Green refineries manufacture product that, if accidentally spilled, are easily cleaned. Gasoline and diesel fuel float on the surface and quickly evaporate. In the case of gasoline, it is gone from the surface in two days. Diesel fuel completely evaporates in only a couple of weeks. An example involving a diesel spill is the 2006 Queen of the North grounding. In less than two weeks, the diesel had disappeared. Green refineries also solve the problems of CO2 emissions. According to engineers, a minimum of 23 million tons of CO2 emissions can be saved by a well-designed green refinery.
Only green refineries will protect the environment and improve our quality of life.