Viewpoint: Safer alternative to pipeline exists

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By PETER S. HATFIELD

Following is a description and references for transport of bitumen that may be quicker, cheaper and safer for health and environmental protection than building a pipeline for transport of diluted bitumen (Dilbit).

A promising development is underway at CNRail, Calgary, for transportation of bitumen in solid form. Readers should be aware of this recent CN development for rail transport of bitumen or heavy crude oil, trademarked as “CanaPux,” putting both safety and environmental protection foremost.

CanaPux are solid, dry, bitumen pellets, soap-bar size, that meet rigorous strength requirements for bulk transport, float on water, do not leak, dissolve or create dust, and are inert, non-inflammable and non-explosive.

CanaPux can be transported in readily available open rail gondola cars, unloaded at port locations, stored in ground piles and conveyor loaded into equally available bulk cargo ships. At destination, pellets are shedded and separated for use of bitumen and polymer recycled for reuse.

In the event of an accident and spill, the solid pellets floating on the surface of water or scattered on land can be readily picked up by hand, construction equipment, nets or booms with virtually no health danger or damage to the environment.

Additional to the above favourable properties, the transport of solid bitumen pellets in gondola cars and bulk cargo ships promises low cost along with extreme flexibility for limited amounts of solid pellets or short order lead times to meet varying market requirements. Import of expensive, toxic and extremely flammable diluent for thinning bitumen to enable pumping through pipelines is also not required.

Hugely advantageous is that while pipelines have a fixed route and destination, rail lines have varied routes and terminals at numerous locations. Anywhere rail lines go, so can bitumen pellets.

CN has selected Toyo Engineering Canada Ltd., Calgary for CanaPux pilot project design and build to demonstrate transport of solid bitumen pellets by rail. A CN spokesperson has stated that “This partnership with Toyo continues our development of a new supply chain having the potential to unlock offshore markets as well as regular markets for Canada’s energy products.”

Further information for CN can be accessed at CNInnovation.ca, which will be updated as the project develops or by telecom to CNRail, Calgary at 403-798-2122. Toyo Engineering Canada Ltd. can be accessed by email at general.mail@toyo-eng.ca or by telephone at 403-266-4400.

Should solid bitumen capacity be required to more closely match the capacity of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline, additional pellet manufacturing facilities can be built under a licensing agreement to suit.

Every effort must be made to contact MLAs and MPs and media as soon as possible to make them aware of this viable, safe alternative to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.

The writer is a professional engineer and a member of Concerned Professional Engineers of B.C. whose brother Chris lives on Salt Spring.

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