Hundreds Protest Tar Sands Pipeline as Expert Warns of 90 Percent Probability of Line 9 Rupture
By Derek Leahy
The international pipeline safety expert who last August described Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline as “high risk for a rupture” now says the probability of Line 9 rupturing is “over 90 percent.”
“I do not make the statement ‘high risk for a rupture’ lightly or often," said Richard Kuprewicz in an interview with DeSmog Canada. "There are serious problems with Line 9 that need to be addressed.” Kuprewicz is a pipeline safety expert with over forty years of experience in the energy sector.
Kuprewicz also expressed concerns about transporting diluted bitumen through Line 9 saying it will increase the growth rates of cracks on the pipeline. Line 9 lies in the most populated part of Canada and crosses the St. Lawrence River and major waterways flowing into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. A Line 9 spill could pollute the drinking water of millions of Canadians.
Extensive Stress Corrosion Cracking on Line 9
“Existing SCC (stress corrosion cracking) on Line 9 can worsen due to the increase in pressure cycling associated with shipping dilbit (diluted bitumen)," explained Kuprewicz. "This could lead to a rupture.”
The thick heavy crude bitumen is diluted with a condensate (natural gas or naphtha) so it can flow through pipelines. ‘Pressure cycling,’ or the variations in operating pressures of a pipeline, increase with dilbit, because dilbit can vary more in composition than light conventional oil. The greater swings in the levels of operating pressures can create cracks in a pipeline.
Kuprewicz examined Enbridge’s assessments of Line 9 and found evidence of extensive stress corrosion cracking on Line 9, most likely caused by the pipeline’s external protective coating (polyethylene tape or PE-tape) separating from the sections of Line 9, allowing water to damage the pipeline.
Kuprewicz has seen this problem before. He researched the U.S. federal investigation into the Kalamazoo, MI, dilbit spill—the largest onshore oil spill in US.. history—on behalf of various concerned parties. The disbondment of PE-tape on Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline and subsequent SCC on the pipe caused the rupture. Three million litres of dilbit were spilled into the Kalamazoo River and the surrounding waterways, and the $1 billion cleanup continues to this day.
Enbridge claims that its in-line inspection tool can detect any serious SCC threats to the pipeline. According to Kuprewicz, the in-line detection technology Enbridge is using has yet to be proven effective.
Hydrostatic Testing of Pipelines is the “Gold Standard” for Safety
“Enbridge needs to conduct a hydrostatic test on Line 9," Kuprewicz told DeSmog Canada. "It is the gold standard for pipeline integrity and safety. Canada has a well-established history of hydrotesting its pipelines.”
A hydrostatic test would pump water through Line 9 at similar pressures to those the pipeline is expected to operate at, but there is no indication that Enbridge plans to conduct hydrostatic testing.
Kuprewicz also questions Enbridge’s claims of an automatic shutdown in the event of a pressure drop in Line 9 or a 10-minute shutdown if an unexplained reading comes in from the pipeline. When a pipeline ruptures, pressure loss as well as detecting the drop can take quite a while. The 10-minute shutdown procedure existed at the time of the Kalamazoo spill and it still took Enbridge 17 hours to shut down the ruptured pipeline.
“I am not trying to be hard on Enbridge. There are definite improvements they could make to their pipeline management system that would significantly reduce the chances of a Line 9 rupture,” said Kuprewicz.
Enbridge Lacks Adequate Liability Insurance for a Line 9 Spill
The Goodman Group Ltd found that, in the event of a Line 9 spill, Enbridge’s $685 million liability insurance for all its operations (not just Line 9) would be inadequate. The California-based consulting firm says Enbridge needs $3 billion of liability insurance for Line 9 alone.
"This is especially true in Toronto and Montreal, where the pipeline runs parallel to or across key urban infrastructure and could threaten the drinking water supply, resulting in multi-billion dollar costs," warned Ian Goodman, president of the Goodman Group.
Cleanup costs of other onshore oil spills such as Lac-Megantic in Quebec and the Kalamazoo spill were analyzed by the Goodman Group, and Line 9’s location in a highly populated area was considered. The firm concluded that a bad Line 9 spill would cost at least $1 billion. The worst-case scenario was pegged between $5-10 billion.
Ontario Demands Independent Third-Party Assessment of Line 9
The Ontario government in some ways echoed the recommendations of Kuprewicz and the Goodman Group on Oct. 17 during a National Energy Board (NEB) public hearing in Toronto.
Ontario demanded that Enbridge conduct a hydrostatic test on Line 9, and that the company maintain $1 billion in insurance for the pipeline. The province also called on the NEB to initiate an independent third party assessment on the state of Line 9, and not rely solely on Enbridge’s findings.
“Given the age of the pipeline, its location in a large part of southern Ontario, its additional service life of 30 years or more, and the potential adverse consequences of a rupture, it seems a matter of simple prudence and common sense to ensure the (assessments) are as thorough, comprehensive and as accurate as possible,” Rick Jennings told the NEB panel. Jennings is an assistant deputy minister with Ontario’s Ministry of Energy.
“In our view, an independent third-party review is required for that assurance,” said Jennings.
The NEB hearings on Line 9 were scheduled to wrap up in Toronto on Oct. 19, but the NEB postponed the final hearing to an unknown date and location. The NEB could make its final decision on Line 9 as early as January 2014.
Enbridge has applied with the NEB to increase the capacity of Line 9 from 240,000 to 300,000 barrels per day, reverse the pipeline to flow west-to-east and ship ‘heavy crudes’ such as dilbit through the line.
Critics of the Line 9 project say the pipeline should not be approved to ship dilbit because of the likelihood of a rupture and the adverse impacts that further expansion of the tar sands will have on climate change and the people and environment of northern Alberta.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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