Tar sands oil may have flowed through Exxon Silvertip pipeline

Tar sands oil may have flowed through Exxon Silvertip pipeline

Update: As reported by Reuters, Exxon Mobil admitted on Friday, July 15 that its Silvertip pipeline that spilled into the Yellowstone River routinely transported tar sands oil from Canada, a heavier and more toxic form of crude.

For Immediate Release
July 15, 2011

Kelly Trout, 202-222-0722, [email protected]
Matthew Cain, 202-222-0751, [email protected]

Tar sands oil may have flowed through Exxon Silvertip pipeline

Full disclosure from Exxon critical to determining whether tar sands corrosion played role in Yellowstone spill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. pipeline regulators revealed yesterday that the Exxon pipeline responsible for spilling 42,000 gallons into the Yellowstone River earlier this month may have sometimes carried a heavy and corrosive form of oil from Canada’s tar sands, according to Reuters. If the pipeline did carry tar sands oil, that may have played a role in the pipeline breach.

“Exxon must fully disclose what types of oil its broken pipeline carried,” said Alex Moore, dirty fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Tar sands oil can corrode pipelines more quickly, making it more dangerous to transport. If the Silvertip pipeline carried tar sands oil, its corrosive properties could have been a factor in causing the Yellowstone spill.”

The State Department is currently reviewing a controversial proposal from TransCanada to build a 1,700-mile tar sands oil pipeline, called the Keystone XL, from Canada to Texas, crossing the Yellowstone and other important rivers and sources of drinking water. Agricultural and environmental groups have objected to the increased risk of spills that would come with the tar sands oil pipeline.

A University of Nebraska professor of environmental and water resources engineering, John Stansbury, released an independent study Monday, July 11, showing that the Keystone XL pipeline could result in as many as 91 significant spills, including a worst-case spill of nearly 6.9 million gallons into the Yellowstone River. A tar sands oil pipeline completed in 2010 by the same firm, TransCanada, spilled more than a dozen times in just its first year of operation.

“We have seen too many disastrous spills from tar sands oil pipelines over the last year,” Moore continued. “The Obama administration should not rush a decision on the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline until it can determine if these pipelines can be operated safely.”

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency blasted the State Department for insufficient review of the risks of the Keystone XL pipeline. Also in June, the chief U.S. pipeline regulator, Cynthia Quarterman, admitted in congressional testimony that her agency does not have regulations in place to deal with the specific risks of tar sands oil pipelines. Still, the State Department has stated plans to rush a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline by the end of this year.

The Reuters news story indicating that the Exxon pipeline may have carried tar sands oil is available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/15/us-oil-spill-montana-idUSTRE76E0OJ20110715

Dr. Stansbury’s study on worst-case oil spills that could result from the Keystone XL pipeline is available at: http://watercenter.unl.edu/downloads/2011-Worst-case-Keystone-spills-report.pdf

Friends of the Earth fights to defend the environment and create a more healthy and just world. Our campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

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