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Breaking: 12,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands oil spilled in Arkansas

April 4, 2013
Crude oil flowed down driveways and swamped grass lawns in Mayflower, Arkansas, after an oil pipeline ruptured Friday afternoon - National Geographic, Photograph by Jacob Slaton, Reuters

Crude oil flowed down driveways and swamped grass lawns in Mayflower, Arkansas, after an oil pipeline ruptured Friday afternoon – National Geographic, Photograph by Jacob Slaton, Reuters

The ExxonMobile Pegasus Pipeline runs from Pakota, Illinois, to Nederland, Texas. It is more than 60 years old and it has the capacity to transport more than 90,000 barrels of oil per day.

Last Friday, in Little Rock, Arkansas, it burst.

Twelve thousand barrels of Canadian tar sands oil ran into the backyards of a housing development near Lake Conway, Arkansas. Twenty-two  homes were evacuated.  The spill occurred in the Lake Maumelle watershed, which provides drinking water to nearly 400,000 people in central Arkansas.

To make matters even worse, tar sands oil, (crude oil) is not legally considered “conventional oil.”  That means it is not taxed as conventional oil.

This means ExxonMobile is exempt from contributing to the government’s oil spillage cleanup fund, even though many argue that tar sands oil is more toxic and more corrosive to pipes than conventional oil.

Oil spills can have serious health impacts; residents impacted by the 2010 Enbridge tar sands oil spill reported health symptoms, including seizures.  David Turnbull, campaign director for Oil Change International, puts the current Arkansas spill and the massive 2010 Enbridge spill into context:

Tar sands oil spills, or bitumen spills, are indeed more dangerous than ‘conventional oil’ spills. We have already seen the extreme costs and damages of tar sands oil spills in recent years, most notably in Michigan where an Enbridge pipeline carrying tar sands in 2010 resulted in the costliest on-land oil spill in US history…

As these sorts of heavy oils that are exempt from this tax continue to make up a larger percentage of oil transported in the US, it will only serve to stretch the fund even further, while putting families, communities, and ecosystems at greater risk,” Turnbull said.

See this aerial video footage of last Friday’s spill by video journalist Adam Randall:


 

Giving voice to the gut-level response from people disturbed by the destruction, Eric Peters, co-founder of the Growing Community project of West Chester, Pennsylvania, commented:

This is already an ecological disaster. The fight against extreme energy extraction and for a just and sustainable world is in every sense a fight for our survival.

3 Comments
  1. April 4, 2013 8:33 am

    Nice report, but we should try to get the terminology exactly right.

    First, “tar sands oil” is a misnomer. What is found in Alberta is BITUMEN, which is a thick, semisolid. Also known as Pitch or Asphalt. Some BITUMEN is a solid like coal and shatters when it is impacted with a hammer. Google: “Pitch Drop Experiment”.

    This statement needs work— To make matters even worse, tar sands oil, (crude oil) is not legally considered “conventional oil.” That means it is not taxed as conventional oil.—

    Here’s how it should read, to be correct and clear:— To make matters even worse, tar sands Dilbit is not legally considered “conventional crude oil.” That means it is not taxed as such. —-

    What was in that pipeline IS NOT OIL. It IS NOT CRUDE OIL. It is DILBIT (Diluted Bitumen). It requires adding many lighter hydrocarbons as solvents to transport it in a pipeline. It may be considered a kind of synthetic crude oil, but it should be called DILBIT so that we all know exactly what it is.

    This is very important to get correct. Exxon Mobil is engaged in a DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN to get everyone confused about this. They are telling US, the public, that it is “crude oil” so we don’t understand the unique hazards with DILBIT, nor that this is from Alberta Tar Sands. They ARE telling the governent the truth (in this case) to avoid paying the clean up tax, due to a very bad exemption from the law.

    Dilbit pipelines are especially prone to failures.
    http://tinyurl.com/DilbitIsNotOil

    The other bit that is not correct, and this also relates to Dilbit, is this statement:

    — “The ExxonMobile Pegasus Pipeline runs from Pakota, Illinois, to Nederland, Texas. It is more than 60 years old and it has the capacity to transport more than 90,000 barrels of oil per day.”—

    If you read my blog ( http://tinyurl.com/DilbitIsNotOil ) you will find that the actual design capacity of that pipeline in 1947 was 250,000 BBLs /day of Conventional Crude Oil at 600-800 psi.

    Whereas because dilbit is such high viscosity and density that the could only get 90,000 bbls by running the thing at 1400 psi. (not sure about the pressure, as it has not been in published reports, but this is typical pressures for Dilbit pipelines)

    Notice that this is less than 1/2 the original volume at nearly twice the pressure.
    WOW.

    IMO, this is certainly why the pipeline ruptured. A pipeline built in 1947 (nearly 70 years ago) which was designed to run at 600 psi was being operated at 1400 psi with this extremely high viscosity tar-sands sludge. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

    • Iris Marie Bloom permalink
      April 5, 2013 1:46 pm

      Thanks for laying it all out so clearly in a way that helps the public to make sense of this terrible disaster. Having seen “bitumen” and “diluted bitumen” and “dilbit” used interchangeably with “heavy crude,” “tar sands crude,” and “tar sands oil,” in many places, I failed as editor to straighten it all out — perhaps wanting to make sure people understand that this stuff is from Alberta tar sands, and not wanting to keep alienating the general public unnecessarily with even more unfamiliar technical language. But as in so many things about extreme energy extraction, the devil is in the details as well as in the big picture. So, your comments are enormously helpful, I hope everyone reads your blog, and we will correct. Keep up the good work, Bill.

  2. Ray Bar permalink
    April 4, 2013 10:39 am

    Unfortunately this is the future our children, grandchildren and beyond have to look forward to because our spineless, greedy, controlling body is soaked in oil and don’t give a damn! Disgusting!!

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