The recent history of barge incidents and lack of documentation of the movements of barges carrying dilbit crude oil within the Salish Sea necessitates improvements to the region’s oil spill prevention and response capacity.
Friends of the Earth released a new report “Tar Sands/Dilbit Crude Oil Movements Within the Salish Sea” whichdocuments the transits between the Kinder Morgan oil terminal in Burnaby, British Colombia and the U.S. Oil and Refining Co. in Tacoma, Washington from 2010 to 2014. This analysis, authored by Fred Felleman, Friends of the Earth’s Northwest consultant, documents the frequency, volume and location of dilbit crude oil shipping within the Salish Sea.
From 2010 to 2014, Sause Brothers dilbit crude oil barges transported more than 10 million barrels of dilbit crude oil from British Columbia to Tacoma, WA, within the Salish Sea. Sause Brothers barges delivered 23 percent of the volume of oil (10,156,553 of 44,231,508 barrels) and made 57 percent of the deliveries (132 of 233) of all the crude oil delivered to U.S. Oil. The number of dilbit deliveries as percentage of all crude delivered increased from 41 percent in 2010 to 96 percent in 2014. The expansion of crude oil exports over this period further increases the risk of oil spills.
Since Congress lifted the ban on the export of domestic crude oil in late 2015, the need for documenting that refineries can and have already used their docks as crude oil export terminals has taken on greater significance. With the ban lifted, estimates suggest that oil exports would rise to 1.8 million barrels per day by 2017. The proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline and its associated seven-fold increase in tar sands-carrying oil tankers underscores the need to quickly institute these findings.
As such, we have included a comparison of the exports of various forms of crude oil from the U.S. Oil refinery with four other refineries in Washington from 2010 to 2014. This analysis serves to document the volume and frequency with which refineries have delivered crude oil directly to outbound tankers without refining. This report’s findings also include 12 recommendations on how to better prevent and respond to dilbit crude oil spills that pose unique challenges, including being prone to sink.
There have been few large oil spills in the Salish Sea — a nationally enviable record and a testament to the countless efforts of local, state, federal and tribal governments, industry and environmental advocacy. It is hoped that these recommendations serve to prevent the biggest underlying threat of an oil spill — complacency.