August 28, 2012

Diluted Bitumen

Enbridge Inc.'s response plan for a potential spill of Northern Gateway oil into the pristine waters off British Columbia doesn't take into account the unique oil mixture the pipeline would actually carry, documents show.
Enbridge (TSX:ENB) officials confirm the spill response plan they have filed with the federal review panel studying the pipeline proposal deals with conventional crude, not specifically the diluted bitumen the pipeline will carry.

But Enbridge says the two react the same way once spilled. However, documents obtained under access to information show a scientist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans argued vigorously for a chance to do more research.

Kenneth Lee submitted a research proposal last December saying the matter requires further study because Enbridge's plan had "strong limitations due to inaccurate inputs."
"The Northern Gateway pipeline proposal lacks key information on the chemical composition of the reference oils used in the hypothetical spill models," wrote Lee, head of DFO's Centre for Offshore Oil Gas and Energy Research, or COOGER.

Lee sought approval to conduct a series of studies through to 2015, when final tests on the "toxic effects of reference oils to marine species" would be completed. That deadline suggests the results would come too late for the Northern Gateway review panel as it reviews the environmental impact of the pipeline. Its hearings end next April and the panel reports back to government by the end of next year.
Lee noted his research would also be used by the Canadian Coast Guard, the agency that would be in charge of overseeing a spill into Canada's waters.

He wrote the Coast Guard is "uncertain" whether traditional methods to contain an oil spill and clear contaminated water would be effective if deployed in a Northern Gateway spill.
The Fisheries Department did not respond to questions about whether Lee's group was given the go-ahead to do the research. Lee was informed this spring that his job and the research centre he runs is at risk of being eliminated as a result of federal budget cuts.

Reached by phone, Lee said he was not authorized to comment on the proposal but confirmed that he and his staff have been notified their positions are on a list of positions that could be cut.
"We were on an affected (position) list at one point. And we're still on that affected list, but COOGER will still exist."

Lee is an internationally renowned expert on oil spills and was tapped last year to join a U.S. scientific committee studying the aftermath of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Northern Gateway's twin pipelines would carry natural gas condensate to Alberta and diluted oilsands bitumen to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be transferred to tankers for export.
Opinions differ on whether a spill of diluted bitumen would react so dramatically differently from spills of other crudes.

Bitumen is oil extracted from oil sands. It's thick and heavy like molasses, though a diluted version is what would be moved through the Enbridge pipeline if the $6-billion project gets approved.
That's about all everyone — including Calgary-based Enbridge, the B.C. government, pipeline engineers, spill response experts and environmentalists — can agree on.

What they cannot agree on is whether characteristics believed to be associated with diluted bitumen — also known as dilbit — lead to higher risks of pipeline fractures and consequently, oil spills.
There is also no agreement on whether diluted bitumen behaves differently in water than conventional crude oil once it is spilled.

Ray Doering, manager of engineering with the Northern Gateway project, and Elliott Taylor, one of the company's oil spill experts, said a combination of factors, over time, will prompt diluted bitumen to get denser.

For example, when the lighter properties evaporate, the heavier stuff remains, so it may sink. Or turbulent water or wave action could cause it to sink. Or if the oil gets mixed with sand or sediment — like it probably would in a river or a stream, or close to a shoreline — then it would sink.
But both say that's true of all crude.

"The toolbox that is going to be put together for this project will start with the same type of equipment that you use for any type of oil spill because we know that initially, that behaviour is going to be just like any other crude oil," said Taylor, a marine geologist and oil spill response expert with Polaris Applied Sciences.
"If it gets into water it’s going to float, so you would use the same techniques as long as those techniques are effective and address the behaviour of the oil at that stage.

"If it does get heavier, as it weathers and picks up some of those sediments, whether that’s at the shoreline or in the river, we would still go after that." But the Natural Resource Defence Council, a U.S environmental group, argues dilbit has a higher acid concentration than conventional crude oil. It also maintains that even when diluted, dilbit is still more viscous than conventional crude. To keep the crude fluid, the pipeline transporting the product will then have to operate at a higher temperature, said policy analyst Anthony Swift.

"In general, higher temperatures increase the rate of chemical reactions," he said in an interview. "In addition to internal corrosion, a pipeline operating at higher temperature is also going to increase the rate of external corrosion."

Swift points to the July 2010 spill where an Enbridge pipeline rupture caused millions of litres of crude to spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board concluded the rupture was caused by cracks in the pipeline due to corrosion that wore away the pipeline's protective coating.

But what exactly caused the corrosion still needs to be thoroughly examined and until it is known, due diligence is needed, Swift said. "The real question is — and it's a question that hasn't been clearly evaluated by regulators — does the combination of higher acid content and higher pipeline operating temperature pose a long-term risk to pipelines due to internal corrosion?" he said.

Enbridge refutes all of the Natural Resource Defence Council's claims."We know from our own data that there are no higher levels of internal corrosion associated with diluted bitumen than there would be for any other type of conventional oil that we move," said Doering.

"There are no differences to external corrosion either because those conditions don't change."
Doering added that all products that move through a pipeline must be of a certain viscosity in order for it to be "pipelineable."

As a result, the temperature set for transporting diluted bitumen would be the same as for moving all other types of crude."It operates at normal temperatures because it has been diluted with condensate or diluant (light hydrocarbon product), so it has the same properties as conventional oil," he said.
"It doesn't need to operate at higher temperature and higher pressures."

A study done for Alberta Innovates Energy and Environment Solutions, a government-funded research and development agency, in 2011 appears to support Enbridge's claims. Jenny Been, a corrosion engineer, compared data for four types of dilbit crude with heavy, medium and light conventional Alberta crude oils.
Still, the B.C. government maintains that if a marine spill were to happen along the West Coast, diluted bitumen is more likely to sink than conventional crude oil. 

"A greater degree of difficulty is involved in recovering bitumen and more remediation is required should an unintended release occur, particularly once bitumen sinks into the water column or into soils," a technical analysis released by the government last month says. 

The National Transportation Safety Board's report on the 2010 Michigan spill also found that two days after the spill, the denser oil fractions had sunk to the bottom of the river bed, prompting Enbridge to clean it up by gathering up the bottom sediments and disposing them. 

In the spring of 2011, a reassessment still found a "moderate-to-heavy contamination of 200 acres (80 hectares) of the river bottom," the report said.Enbridge acknowledged that some properties in spilled diluted bitumen could eventually sink."Initially, it will have the same behaviour as conventional crude oil," Doering said. 

"Over time, the condensate — the diluant used to blend — can begin to evaporate and the property of the diluted bitumen becomes denser."

August 24, 2012

Transporting Canadian Bitumen

Transporting Bitumen from Canada is facing various challenges and pls read the article from The Globe & Mail

Gale-force winds. Thick fog. Crushing snow. Landslides. Waves the height of office buildings. The northern coast of British Columbia is a nexus of nasty elements that descend upon a place abundant in marine life - humpbacks, orcas, a buffet of shellfish - and coastal creatures, including the much-celebrated white Kermode bear, or spirit bear.
Interactive by Stuart A. Thompson
Illustrations by Matthew Bambach

No one denies the severity of the region, not least Enbridge, which has laid in place sophisticated plans to manage it, including tugboat support for tankers, new navigation aids and even an expensive tunnelling operation that would send pipe directly through a mountain, rather than around its landslide-prone slopes. The company's plans recently won a major stamp of approval from Transport Canada, which reviewed plans for the marine routes - where tankers would sail, how fast and under which conditions - and declared them sound. Yet those who live in the area say it is home to natural forces so violent.

Depending on the route, it will take between 10 and 16 hours for tankers to clear the inside waters connecting Kitimat to the open ocean. Oil tankers reach Kitimat's port using one of three routes: the southern approach , which navigates the Caamano Sound; a second southern approach , which crosses around Banks Island via the Principe Channel; and a northern approach . From there, tankers navigate the bends and turns of the Douglas Channel to reach the inlet at Kitimat.

The B.C. coast has abundant life, some of it unusual, some of it delicate, some of it threatened. Numerous marine mammals live in or go through the area that would be frequented by tanker traffic. Many of them are species of special concern to Canadians. Killer whales, fin whales, humpback whales, northern fur seals are all listed as threatened. Blue, sei and North Pacific right whales are endangered.

The region is globally important for marine birds. Land animals are also a concern. Apart from the wolves, bald eagles and other animals that live on the coast, tankers would pass parts of the Great Bear Rainforest, established in part to protect the range of the Kermode bear. The blond spirit bear, a subspecies of the black bear, is unique to this part of the world and numbers in the low hundreds.
Environment Canada, in its Marine Weather Hazards Manual, notes that "Hecate Strait is the fourth most dangerous body of water in the world." Wind gusts can reach 185 km/h - that's Category 3-hurricane strength, like Hurricane Ivan. Several times a winter, storm-force winds generate waves six to eight metres high - but waves can, on very rare occasions, reach a staggering 26 metres in Hecate Strait.
While conditions are substantially more moderate in narrower channels, the on-shore terrain the pipeline must cross is also vulnerable to extraordinary weather. In October, Caamano Sound is drenched in fog 20 per cent of the time. In winter, significant waves 3 1/2 metres high and greater occur 20 to 30 per cent of the time offshore, and 10 per cent along the coast.

A recent Transport Canada study concluded the water is deep enough and the passages are wide enough. But residents are concerned about the margin for error. In four places, the route goes through channels less than two kilometres wide. At a minimum, supertankers need nearly half a kilometre in width for safe travel. They need 33 metres in depth; in one area, the route passes over a spot 35 metres deep.
There is only one place in the entire series of coastal marine routes that can adequately accommodate proposed 320,000-deadweight-tonne supertankers. Kitimat Harbour does not meet minimum anchorage requirements, and would require tug support for supertankers. Another, called the Coghlan Anchorage, is "not suitable to anchor vessels of the design vessels size, on a single anchor," according to Enbridge documents.
Between 1999 and 2008, the routes Enbridge intends to use for Gateway tanker traffic experienced five major accidents in large vessels. Those include two "striking" accidents (where a ship contacts another object, like the shore or a dock), one instance of heavy weather damage, a grounding, and a grounding and a sinking. The latter is well-known: The Queen of the North lies buried deep in waters that supertankers would transit. It sank after hitting Gil Island in 2006. Two bodies were never found.

In 2009, the Petersfield, a bulk carrier sailing through Douglas Channel, also hit land after a failure in its navigation equipment. According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, "the vessel sustained extensive damage." Supertankers, however, remain among the safest vessels on the seas. According to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd., the number of large oil spills declined from 79 in the 1970s to 17 in the past decade.

 Northwestern British Columbia is home to a seismically unstable landscape assaulted by incredible amounts of rain and snow - Kitimat, for example, averages 2,387 millimetres of precipitation a year. That often creates problems. A 2005 study found 38 "large, catastrophic landslides" in northern B.C. in three decades, and noted that "the frequency of large landslides in northern British Columbia appears to be increasing, suggesting a link to climate change." The study specifically names pipelines as a type of infrastructure "at risk from these large landslides."

Underwater earthquakes are another hazard, causing localized tsunamis that have been recorded along the B.C. coast. One in Kitimat Inlet, in April, 1975, produced an 8.2-metre-high wave.

The Disaffected Lib

    says... From pointing out that the Hecate Strait is considered the fourth most dangerous for navigation in the world to the proven perils and pitfalls posed to supertankers plying the Douglas Channel for the 10 to 12-hour trip needed to get from Kitimat to the open sea (Hecate Strait), the madness of this high-risk venture of virtually no benefit to British Columbia is obvious.    

August 22, 2012

Bitumen Terminal for Oman

1345548750960260500Plans are under way for the establishment of major terminals for cement and bitumen imports via the Port of Duqm.

Both facilities are indispensable to supporting the speedy and cost-effective development of the region’s ambitious Special Economic Zone (SEZ), according to a senior official of the port authority.
“We are finalising negotiations with a well-known Omani cement manufacturer for the development of a cement import terminal on the quayside at Duqm Port,” said Reggy Vermeulen, Commercial Director, Port of Duqm SAOC.

“At the same time, we are in discussion with one of the world’s leading producers of bitumen for the establishment of an import base for bitumen within the port. Both facilities will contribute to a dramatic reduction in the local cost of these strategic commodities in the Duqm SEZ, as well as significantly reduce the construction cost of projects involving the use of these commodities,” Vermeulen added in exclusive comments to the Observer.

A modern Cement Terminal with a 150,000-tonne annual throughput capacity is envisaged at a site along Duqm Port’s quay wall. The facility will be linked via a system of pipelines and conveyors to a roughly 4-hectare plot earmarked by the port authority for use by the investor for storage, bagging and other purposes. A culvert connecting the quay wall site with the adjoining plot is due to be ready by around the end of this year or early next year.

Vermeulen said the Cement Terminal project is distinct from another parallel venture linked to the planned development of a full-fledged cement manufacturing plant at Duqm. Talks are under way with a well-established cement producer for the establishment of the plant on a plot of land managed by the Port of Duqm, he said.

“There are discussions under way with a company that is keen to establish a cement plant, designed partly for export. The company wishes to build this plant in a manner that would allow them to export part of the output via our quay. Discussions are now focused on exploring the most ideal location for the cement plant in terms of its proximity to the quay wall, as well as to allow for expansion and development in the future,” the official stated.

Likewise, the Bitumen Terminal project is also expected to have important ramifications for Duqm’s rapid development, Vermeulen said. “A lot of road construction work is ongoing in Duqm and the wider Wusta Governorate, bitumen for which has to be trucked by road from Salalah and Sohar at enormous cost. With the establishment of an import terminal at Duqm Port, this much-needed commodity will become easily available, thereby easing the cost of projects involving the use of bitumen.”

The capacity of the Bitumen Terminal is still a matter of review by the investor. “Depending upon how concrete are the various projects envisioned at Duqm, the investor will then take a call on the capacity,” the official noted.

As with the Cement Terminal, Port of Duqm has also allocated a roughly 3-4 hectare site for use by the bitumen investor for storage and other activities. The quayside location of the Bitumen Terminal will be linked to the plot via a system of pipelines running underneath a culvert.

Both terminals are expected to be constructed and operational by around the end of 2013, Vermeulen said. “We are looking at a 12-month timeframe for the completion of the terminals after the handover of the culverts to the parties concerned, which will happen around the end of this year or early next year. Based on this timeline, the terminals are expected to be in operation by the end of 2013.”

Vermeulen also praised the Special Economic Zone Authority of Duqm (SEZAD) for its role in facilitating discussions aimed at attracting investors to the area. “SEZAD has been very helpful and supportive in creating a proper economic environment that makes the Special Economic Zone viable and profitable for players to come and invest in Duqm.” Port of Duqm launched its ‘Early Operations’ phase on August 12, 2012, designed to enable ships to bring project cargo for the oil and gas industry in the Wusta Governorate, as well as material for Duqm’s infrastructure and project development. A 300-metre section of the quay wall has already been operationalised for the berthing of ships.
Already two cargo ships have called Duqm since the start of ‘early operations’, with a third port call scheduled on August 27.

By C.Prabhu

August 13, 2012

Asphalt Event in Europe

The upcoming Asphaltica exhibition in the Italian city of Padova will be a major launch venue for new asphalt road technologies. The sixth edition of Asphaltica, the only European event dedicated to asphalt, bitumen and road infrastructure, will take place from 21 - 23 November 2012 at the PadovaFiere exhibition centre. This exhibition is an important meeting place for industry professionals wanting updates on the latest and most interesting technological and regulatory developments.

The show also gives industry professionals the chance to discuss foreign markets and future challenges. The event is aimed at engineers and professionals including those from contractors, public and private entities. The show also targets those involved in the management of road networks, as well as users of machinery, equipment, materials and technologies for the production of conglomerates. The Asphaltica 2010 event attracted 180 exhibitors and over 10,000 visitors and was organised jointly by PadovaFiere and the Italian Association of Asphalt Bitumen Roads (SITEB).

This event will feature a strong conference programme, as in the past, which is being organised by SITEB. Issues covered will be technological efficiency and sustainability, cost optimisation, environmental impact and safety of workers, road performance standards and their application. In addition, new for 2012 will be the Road Safety conference, which will cover all aspects from the road safety technology to the design of intelligent infrastructure.

Soruce - World Highways

August 11, 2012

Transport Minister's Concern on Shortage of Bitumen

The bitumen supply shortage is straining road maintenance in South Africa, and could lead to smaller projects, such as pothole repairs, being deferred to focus on major infrastructure projects, Transport Minister Ben Martins said this week.

The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, as well as the N1 and N2 toll road projects could also be affected by the shortage of bitumen, which is used to produce asphalt for road construction.
Responding to a question by Congress of the People Eastern Cape Member of Parliament Zola Mlenzana, Martins stated that although there were no measures in place to alleviate the local shortage, the department had been engaging with the relevant stakeholders to find a sustainable solution.

“Various members of the Southern African Bitumen Association formed a consortium for importing bitumen and the Department of Transport provided support by recommending the relaxation of import duties on bitumen, while the South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) is providing support with the logistics planning requirements to ensure that bitumen received at the ports is cleared with minimum delays,” he indicated.

Ndebele added that Sanral had also been in talks with the road construction industry to directly import bitumen from abroad.

“The success of this initiative will determine the future direction to be adopted with regard to direct importation of bitumen by the road construction industry,” the Minister said.

Meanwhile, Martins said although delays or shortages in bitumen supply had been identified, his department was not aware of instances where it impacted on the retention of jobs, or the creation thereof.
“The primary reason for the shortages is due to oil companies experiencing unplanned shut downs at the refineries or not having sufficient storage capacity to maintain minimum bitumen reserves during shutdowns,” the Minister pointed out.

Also contributing to the shortage was the fact that oil companies planned their maintenance shutdowns during the peak bitumen consumption periods, which rendered them unable to supply sufficient quantities of South African Bureau of Standards-specified grade bitumen.

Martins said it was also established that bitumen consumers, such as asphalting-producing companies, did not always collect their orders on time from the refineries.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb

August 2, 2012

Asphalt and Cancer- Is there a Link ?

Roofers and road construction workers who use hot asphalt are exposed to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published this week in the British Medical Journal Open shows that roofers have higher PAH blood-levels after working a shift and that these high levels of PAHs are linked with increased rates of DNA damage, and potentially with higher cancer risk.

“We’ve known for some time that roofers and road workers have higher cancer rates than the general population, but we also know roofers have a higher rates of smoking, alcohol use and higher UV exposure than the general population. It’s been difficult to pinpoint the cause of higher cancer rates – is it due to higher PAHs or is it due to lifestyle and other risk factors?” says Berrin Serdar, MD, PhD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center and assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at the Colorado School of Public Health.

Her study, completed with colleagues at the University of Miami, studied 19 roofers from four work sites in Miami-Dade County. Participants’ urine samples, provided before and after a 6-hour shift, showed that after acute exposure to hot asphalt, PAH biomarkers were elevated. Overall, biomarkers of PAH exposure and oxidative DNA damage (8-OHdG) were highest among workers who didn’t use protective gloves and workers who also reported work related skin burns, pointing to the role of PAH absorption through skin.

“PAHs are a complex mixture of chemicals some of which are known human carcinogens. They are produced by incomplete combustion of organic materials and exist in tobacco smoke, engine exhaust, or can come from environmental sources like forest fires, but the highest exposure is among occupational groups, for example coke oven workers or workers who use hot asphalt,” Serdar says.

“We can’t say with certainty that exposure to hot asphalt causes roofers’ increased cancer rate,” Serdar says, “but that possibility is becoming increasingly likely. Hot asphalt leads to PAH exposure, leads to higher PAH biomarkers, leads to increased DNA damage – we hope to further explore the final link between DNA damage due to PAH exposure and higher cancer rates in this population.”

Serdar and colleagues at the CU Cancer Center have initiated a wider study of roofers in the Denver metropolitan area. This study will simultaneously investigate air, blood, and urine levels of PAHs and their link to DNA damage in samples collected over a workweek.
Source-  abcforums