I had been more or less ignoring the XL Pipeline issue, except the demonstrations scheduled on the issue in DC this weekend brought it to my attention again. I decided to do some research on the issue and was surprised to discover, that this is not just another pipeline like so many others we have. It is in fact far more likely to have breaks than pipelines carrying normal crude.
It pumps a substance, diluted bitumin (dilbit) which is about 70% tar sand bitumin and 30% volatile diluting substances. These are trade secret compounds that the companies will disclose which means in case of a spill, clean up crews and neighbors have no idea what kinds of poison might be in and air and water. The pressure, high sulfur content, acidity and quartz grain (sand) composition cause much more abrasion inside the pipes and greatly increase the rate of breaks.
Here are questions that need to be answered about this type of pipeline in an upcoming report. I particularly want to know the answers to the second and third issues.
Apparently the cost of clean up for a dilbit leak in water is around $29,000 per barrel, whereas conventional crude costs about $2,000 per barrel to clean up. The Kalamazoo River at Marshall had a major leak from an Enbridge pipeline. Two years later they are still cleaning. The cost at least 1/2 $billion, right up there with Solyndra. The article below explains technical details of the problems. The clean up industry had no experience with this kind of spill. Since this is for export, rather than US use is this really worth it?
All energy pollutes to some degree. Is energy worth it? I’ll give you two anecdotes: today I will not freeze to death despite the wind and low 20’s outside. Nor will my house be destroyed by frozen pipes. Second I will go visit friends 50 miles away without thinking twice about whether I can afford the trip or whether I will freeze in an electric car with no heat or stand around waiting for a train.
Regrettably, there may have been something missing from your research. Solids do not remain suspended or float in liquids. Gravity causes solids, such as sand and rock particles, to sink and liquids rise to the surface. While some erosion of pipes occur, the overall method of gravity and straining do impose a substantial erosion of pipes which is not manageable. For this one, gleeaikin, more research is needed by yourself. All piping systems experience erosion. One would be surprised at the erosion of sewer piping, but the erosion is manageable in sewer piping and is also manageable for this situation.