February 25, 2012 by staff
Enbridge Supertanker, A review by Transport Canada says oil supertankers can safely access a terminal in Kitimat, B.C. to collect loads of crude from Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project.
The federal department determined that the marine passages connecting Kitimat to the Pacific Ocean contain no obstructions that could pose a safety risk to fully loaded oil tankers, of which it expects the project would attract an additional 250 or more a year to the northern B.C. community.
“The proposed shipping routes are appropriate for the oil tankers that will be used at the proposed terminal,” says the assessment by the federal department, submitted Thursday to a joint regulatory panel reviewing the $5.5-billion pipeline proposal for the federal government.
The review posted online by the joint panel notes the routes provide the required clearances for good vessel manoeuvrability and allowances for very large crude oil tankers to safely navigate.
A marine link to global markets is critical for Northern Gateway, which would transport up to 525,000 barrels per day of crude from growing oilsands production in Alberta to the West Coast, for export to Asian and Californian markets. The project is viewed as among the most critical industrial developments in Canada by the federal and Alberta governments and by oilpatch producers, who are currently earning discounts to international oil prices on each barrel of crude exported from Alberta to a flooded primary U.S. Midwest market.
Environmental groups, First Nations and other pipeline critics of Northern Gateway have flagged narrow marine passages and inclement weather as among the biggest contributors to a risk of oil tanker spills in coastal waters that they associate with the pipeline.
Enbridge has said it would exceed current industry best practices to ensure the safe passage of oil tankers frequenting Kitimat. It has committed to mandating safe speeds for oil tankers and tugs, as well as safety limits for environmental and marine conditions for both vessels and terminal operations, Transport Canada noted.
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