Sunday, 9 September 2012

At the end of the pipe

So far, most of the discussion I have heard has dealt with the pipeline that Enbridge wants us to believe will be good and safe. Just for a moment thou, let's not dwell on getting the gunk from Alberta to Kitimat. What happens to the stuff once it leaves Kitimat?

This is a photo of the crude oil supertanker AbQaiq.This is what carries the heavy black crude over to China. This ship is in the Very Large Crude Carrier class, approximately 1500 feet long, by 200 feet wide and draws around 60 feet of water.  It will require 200 of these every year to carry away the oil that will be deposited at Kitimat, each one the length of 5 football fields, and weighing in at 300,000 dead weight tons. These ships are huge and to get one to move, or stop, or change direction requires a huge amount of energy. Momentum is one of those laws of physics we have to live with.

How is Enbridge going to assure us that these huge boats are going to be safe traversing the narrow channels leading from the open sea to Kitimat? Ships that will to be moving back and forth at least every other day, in the sun shine, in the fog, in the hail, in the storms - lots of these up there, not so heavy wave action but the channels are really great at directing all that moving air into one direction.
The answer is really simple,
Enbridge doesn't care.
Why should they? All Enbridge needs to do is get the oil to Kitimat. The people who want to buy the stuff are responsible from there. Some of those people are the very same as those who were responsible for the Exxon Valdez. You remember that don't you? March 24, 1989 the Exxon Valdez went aground in Prince William Sound, spilling some 15million gallons of crude into the water.
From Wikipedia, there were numerous factors that created this disaster, the top three are listed below

Exxon Shipping Company failed to supervise the master and provide a rested and sufficient crew for Exxon Valdez. The NTSB found this was widespread throughout the industry, prompting a safety recommendation to Exxon and to the industry.

The third mate failed to properly maneuver the vessel, possibly due to fatigue or excessive workload.

Exxon Shipping Company failed to properly maintain the Raytheon Collision Avoidance System (RAYCAS)radar, which, if functional, would have indicated to the third mate an impending collision with the Bligh Reef by detecting the "radar reflector", placed on the next rock inland from Bligh Reef for the purpose of keeping boats on course via radar

These three things, and yes, the "Master" was down below, sleeping off a bender (naval term for drinking binge). Now, while I have met many Masters who are horrified to be associated with Captain Hazelwood, there still will be 200 of these vessels, every year and it will only take one to destroy life as it exists for generations. And yes, generations. 30 years later and the people of Prince William Sound are still finding pockets of gunk buried in the rocks. Enbridge doesn't care about what happens after Kitimat. All it has to do is get the crude there, then it is someone else's insurance.

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