May 31, 2013

Government Push - Need of the hour for Bitumen

“There are times when governments have to give industry a helping push.”

That according to former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, during a conference in Sarnia, Ont., aimed at making sure the rest of Canada gets a piece of the economic pie from the oil sands development.

Former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna told a conference in Sarnia, Ont., Monday that the Alberta oilsands need a “helping push” from Ottawa. (Sun Media News Services)

Former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna told a conference in Sarnia, Ont., Monday that the Alberta oilsands need a “helping push” from Ottawa. (Sun Media News Services)

The Bitumen: Added Value conference drew about 150 industry leaders from Sarnia-Lambton, Ontario and Alberta to talk about how the country can not only pull the thick bitumen from the ground and export it to the US but to refine it here, bringing more jobs to Canada. “Theoretically, we could lead the world in growth if we could just get this off the launch pad,” McKenna told the group.

McKenna said the TD Bank Group, of which he is the deputy chair, estimates Canada is losing between $25 and $30 billion each year by failing to upgrade the bitumen in this country.
Jim Stanford, the Canadian Auto Workers chief economist, said, “You don’t have to be a PhD in economics to see there is a potential problem there…Canada’s over-reliance on a staples economy has been with us since Confederation.”

Stanford said the resource needs careful development. “We need to actively manage the resource wealth to increase its benefits…we have to be cautious of how it is developed and abandon the Gold Rush effect,” he said, adding it drives up costs.

Stanford said the federal government needs to take a key role in that by creating a national energy policy — a term most politicians shy away from since it still holds bad connotations from Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Policy in the 1980s. But he believes that is changing.

“I think the federal government realizes the limitations of a reliance on raw bitumen exports; they’re open to an alternative vision of added value in Canada.” McKenna said the federal government has to get behind the industry and offer financial help to make refinery projects feasible.

Clem Bowman, founder of the Bowman Center for Technology Commercialization, agrees. He noted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in 2006 that Canada would be an Energy Superpower. But he says the federal government needs to inject cash into the industry just as governments in the past supported visionary projects like the St. Lawrence Seaway and the national railway.

“The risk is high for visionaries to take,” said Bowman, adding the politics of that risk is part of the reason the federal government has yet to provide support to build upgrading facilities. “Someone has to put up some upfront money at the start.”

Stanford said the federal government could increase the wealth generated by the oil sands by insisting on Canadian content rules. “We have wasted the opportunity to use Canadian equipment,” he said. “We have obviously wasted the opportunity to add value to bitumen.”

Stanford added federal and provincial governments need to work together to grow the wealth and hold the petroleum industry accountable on its costs, including its costs to the environment.”

McKenna said simply moving the bitumen to the East Coast would be a good start. “Pipelines are perhaps the clearest value-add to build,” he said. “They provide lower priced commodities and allow for larger profits.” McKenna added pipelines “allow companies access to more competitive markets and that makes industry more valuable.”

HEATHER WRIGHT, Sun Media News Services

May 30, 2013

Resurfacing or Repairing

Thank you Mid Sussex Times for printing my letter re potholes on May 2.

In the same edition page 21, Mr Geoff Lowry, Head of Highways and Transport, says that a “£4million maintenance programme” has begun.

This involves spraying road surfaces with a bitumen and then a layer of stone chippings being placed on top of the bitumen but the potholes are not repaired just filled with bitumen and stones settled on top. Roundabouts are not included in the repairs, the bitumen and chippings seem to stop at junctions. Then some other body comes later and white/yellow lines the road but the road cannot be lined until there are no loose stones on the road as paint does not adhere to loose stones.

This method of works causes nothing but misery to the motorist with stones flying hitting the cars’ body work, if unlucky chip/crack the windscreen. The stones also get pushed to the side of the road by cars, then are washed into the drains by the rain, which then have to be unblocked by gully emptier. Mr Lowry states that more than 150 roads county wide are being done. He also asks that motorists be patient while work is being done.May I suggest that WSCC is again wasting the public’s monies in a totally useless exercise of re-surfacing. Until WSCC comes to grips with doing a proper and properly inspected job of repairing the potholes that the county is plagued with, £4 million would make a huge hole ( excuse the pun ) in repairing the potholes, if not completing the repairs.

West Sussex County Council: get your priorities right, first repair the roads properly and not just put a layer of bitumen on the roads which makes the road look pretty but has disappeared within weeks.
By Frank Milligan - Source - Midsussex Times

May 29, 2013

Bitumen Facility- A Health Risk ?

Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes is halting drilling until emissions are reduced.Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes is halting drilling until emissions are reduced. (CBC)
There is no scientific evidence linking health symptoms to emissions from the CHOPS tanks.There is no scientific evidence linking health symptoms to emissions from the CHOPS tanks. (CBC)
Thera Breau moved her family from their Peace Country home when her children experienced unexplained health problems. Thera Breau moved her family from their Peace Country home when her children experienced unexplained health problems. (CBC)
A family is blaming emissions from a nearby heavy oil production site for chasing them from their Peace Country home of seven years in northwestern Alberta.

Thera Breau says the decision to move came down to the health of her young kids who started experiencing unexplained health problems.

"They had urinary incontinence with a strong smell of ammonia," said Breau, who also noticed speech problems and skin rashes developed by her toddler.

Breau made the decision to move on the morning of Mar. 18 when she took her five-year-old son to catch the bus in front of her house.
"His eye was twitching so bad that he had a temper tantrum." Breau said.

"The air stank so I called the ERCB (Energy Resources Conservation Board), and decided I didn't want to live here anymore until I could be told that it was safe."
The Breaus left their rural bungalow, moving to a small rented home in the nearby community of McLennan.

Not the first to leave

Breau's family is not the first to pack up and leave the area. At least six other families have done the same.
Mike Labrecque, 60, moved from his home southeast of Peace River last year as his health was deteriorating.
He dropped 40 pounds and was experiencing allergic-type reactions such as hives and difficulty beathing. He now lives in a cabin along a lake without power or water and has seen a noticable improvement in his health.

When he does venture back to his property, he needs an industrial-strength gas mask in order to breathe comfortably.

"It's very depressing, I know I will never be able to live here again," said Labrecque through a gas mask while standing in what was the kitchen of the house under construction on his abandoned property.
"My body has suffered way too much damage... my body is totally allergic to the air here."
As for the possible cause of the fleeing residents' difficulties, all point to a relatively new process of extracting bitumen from underground in the region called Cold Heavy Oil Production with Sand, or CHOPS, where heavy oil is pumped from the ground and stored in heated tanks which produce emissions that form an aerosol-type plume.

No scientific evidence linking emissions to symptoms

Though there is no scientific evidence linking fumes from the tanks to any of the symptoms experienced by area residents, many blame the emissions for their ailments which began, they say, when new wells were drilled by Baytex Energy in 2011.

While the ERCB regulates smaller industrial energy operations such as CHOPS, it monitors the air only for sour gas and sulphur dioxide.Breau and the other families are convinced there are harmful substances in the emissions going unmonitored.

In March, Alberta's minister of energy made a trip to the Three Creeks region northwest of Peace River to assess the problem. It was following that visit that the Alberta Government took the unusual step of turning down an application by Baytex Energy to increase the number of drill sites.
Minister Ken Hughes told CBC News the Mar. 22nd decision was "unprecedented."

"What I could detect was that there was something in the air that was different than the rest of Alberta," Hughes said.

"This kind of development was experiencing different emissions, and different air quality problems."

Drilling company studying emissions

Further development by Baytex Energy won't be approved until the emissions are drastically reduced or eliminated entirely, he said.

Baytex Energy of Calgary declined to be interviewed for this story, but in an email exchange, Chief Operating Officer Marty Proctor said the company has undertaken "numerous operational enhancements" to reduce emissions and improve communications with residents.

While the displaced residents are seeking compensation from the company, they say it's not just about the money. Residents say they would move back to their homes immediately if they felt their health was no longer at risk.

Baytex Energy is now unertaking an extensive air emissions study, and said it will speak further to the allegations of harmful emissions when the study is complete.

Source - CBC News

May 22, 2013

Diluted Bitumen is More Corrosive and unhealthy - Protestors

Activists’ latest rally targets Enbridge pipeline project
LIZ BERNIER, The Observer
A major protest gathered outside City Hall Tuesday as a group of local activists joined to protest new developments with Sarnia’s oil pipeline.The Enbridge Line 9 Project, which would use a preexisting pipeline to carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to Eastern Canada, was the focus of the protest.

Over 50 people participated in the protest, which began outside Sarnia City Hall and ended outside the Best Western hotel, where a two-day conference on the value of bitumen oil is taking place.The protest was organized by Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia Against Pipelines (ASAP), a local activist group that was formed in response to the Enbridge Line 9 Project.

ASAP organizers are concerned about the effect diluted bitumen will have on the preexisting pipeline, which was built in the 1970s.

Protest Organizer Samatha Elijah said that the pipeline was not designed to carry bitumen, which ASAP argues is more corrosive than the light crude oil that the pipeline currently carries.

“The reason why I got involved — because of my children,” she said. “What are they going to inheret if I don’t do anything? So I want as a parent to do the responsible thing for my kids.”

“The only benefit to these tar sands is money. But what good is money if you have sick children? What good is money if the land that you walk on is diesased and polluted?” Protestors came from Toronto, Hamilton and Windsor to support ASAP’s cause.

“There are already different groups all along the pipeline route that are just as invested,” Elijah said.
The Idle No More movement also had a strong presence, particularly since the Line 9 Project crosses 18 different First Nations Territories.

Ken Hall, Enbridge’s Senior Advisor of Public Affairs for Eastern Canada, said that the protestors are misinformed about diluted bitumen.

“They are making the claim that diluted bitumen is more corrsive to piplines, and therefore it creates a higher risk,” he said. “This is not true.”

“There are several reports that have been prepared by scientific groups, by independant consultants, by universities, all of which conculde that there is no evidence to suggest pipelines that carry diluted bitumen are more subject to corrosion than pipelines that are carrying other types of oil.”

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association lists a number of these studies on their website, Hall said.
“We’re very aware of the feelings of people in Ontario such as the (ASAP) group that’s protesting, who have this concern about the pipelines,” he said. “So we’re doing everything that we can do to ensure that our pipelines operate safely. And that is our number one priority.”

But Elijah remains unconvinced.
“The only benefit that (the pipeline) has is economic,” she said. “But you’re willing to risk health, you’re willing to risk the environment, you’re willing to risk your future generations for pieces of paper.”
“To me that does not add up.”
--- --- ---

The facts on Line 9:

• The Line 9 pipeline was built in 1976 and runs from Sarnia to Montreal.
• The Line 9 Project is a reversal of the flow of oil. Currently, oil is coming from east to west (Montreal to Sarnia). The Line 9 project will cause the oil to move from west to eat (Sarnia to Montreal), so that Quebec and Eastern Canada have access to bitumen from Western Canada.
• Line 9A is Located between Sarnia and Westover. The reversal plan has already been approved by the National Energy Board for line 9A.
• Line 9B is the section of pipline between Westover and Montreal. Approval is pending for Line 9B.
• The Line 9 pipeline passes through nearly 100 communities and many major rivers and streams that flow into Lake Ontario.

Source - The Observer

May 21, 2013

Less Levy & Poor Road Maintenance

THE Democratic Alliance (DA) on Sunday cited two independent studies — by the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) and the Southern African Bitumen Association — as proof that the South African Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) is misleading the public on the necessity of toll roads.

DA transport spokes-man Ian Ollis would approach Transport Minister Ben Martins and Sanral chief Nazir Alli to "account for their failure to adequately explore the use of the fuel levy to fund road maintenance".
Mr Ollis said the AA study conducted in 2008 reveals that abolishing the dedicated fuel levy in 1988 resulted in significantly less spending on road infrastructure and maintenance, resulting in the deterioration of the quality of roads.

After 1988, the levy went to the fiscus and the Treasury uses it for any purpose it deems fit.
Mr Ollis said on Sunday it was the DA’s policy that the fuel levy should again be ring-fenced so that these funds would be used solely for road infrastructure and maintenance and not for other purposes.

Spokesman Vusi Mona said Sanral was not responsible for the allocation of funds. "Treasury decides what goes where. If he (Mr Ollis) has studied other studies, such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa report, he would see that the fuel levy is not enough.

"Last year Treasury aimed to collect R42bn from the fuel levy but only managed R40bn. If you look at the N1 and N2 road maintenance projects in only three provinces that has already consumed the money from the fuel levy."

Source Garden Route Media

May 15, 2013

Bitumen Contractor Fined

ROCK N Road Bitumen has spent more than $1 million on upgrading its safety management system following the death of an employee.

On November 15, 2010, traffic controller John Halligan died after being struck by a spreader truck at a resurfacing roadworks site at Glenden.

The company pleaded guilty yesterday, in the Mackay Industrial Magistrates Court, to failing to discharge workplace health and safety obligations and was fined $40,000 and ordered to pay $7878.40 in costs. No conviction was recorded.

This is the second workplace death that has put the Mackay-owned company in front of the court.
In May 2008 mother of three Rondell Purcell was doing maintenance on a 16-tonne multi-tyred roller when she was struck by a truck and killed at a roadworks site on Sarina-Homebush Rd.

Rock N Road Bitumen was fined $80,000, and the company told the Daily Mercury it had spent a "hell of a lot of money" on safety improvements. The court heard yesterday the company was sentenced over Mr Halligan's death on the basis they didn't comply with their own procedures. Prosecutor Valentina McKenzie, acting on behalf of the division of Workplace Health and Safety, said there was no communication between the truck drivers and traffic controllers about where the traffic controllers would be and there was no designated area for the traffic controllers working that day.

Defence solicitor Sam Betzien said Rock N Road Bitumen "recognised it had fallen short of the standard" imposed by the Health and Safety Act. She said it was not a case where there were no procedures in place.
Magistrate Damien Dwyer said "procedures were in place, but weren't enforced during the day".
"If they had ensured the safety procedures were in place... this tragedy wouldn't have occurred."
Rock N Road Bitumen has 60 days to pay the fine.


May 14, 2013

Storage Constraints for Bitumen

A combination of growing oil sands production and congested pipelines is creating new opportunities for midstream companies that have cavern or tank capacity to spare.

The waiting game for proposed pipeline projects such as Keystone XL or the Trans Mountain expansion, along with a new focus on rail transport, has resulted in growth of an industry segment many consider a sideline: Storage.

“As the industry continues to grow, and as the industry continues to look for different ways of accessing markets, whether it’s by pipeline or by rail, all of that growth requires additional storage – particularly when the pipelines start to become full,” said David Smith, chief executive of Keyera Corp., a midstream company that focuses on natural gas processing and natural gas liquids, but also has a significant storage business.
“When the pipelines start to become a constraint, then you can see you just can’t put more product down the pipeline. You need to be able to stage it through storage.”

Whether they use above-ground steel cylinders, or underground hallows that formerly contained salt but can now hold tens of thousands of barrels, there have always been companies that choose to keep oil, natural gas or natural gas liquids in storage while they wait for a better price or a different market.
However, some companies say demand for such storage is increasing due to the additional layers of logistics that now accompany shipping oil out of Western Canada.

The nearly 2 million barrels of bitumen a day produced by the oil sands industry is expected to increase to 3.8 million barrels a day by 2022, according to Alberta’s energy industry regulator.

At the same time that production is ramping up, shipping out of Edmonton or Hardisty, Alta. – two key takeoff points for Western Canadian oil – is not as easy as it used to be. Space on pipelines is more difficult to find and many companies are increasingly looking to rail transportation for at least a segment of their production. The industry is anxiously awaiting decisions on a number of proposed, but not approved, pipelines they hope will alleviate constraints on getting oil out of landlocked Alberta.

Reynold Tetzlaff, a Calgary partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the east-central Alberta town of Hardisty – a jumping off point for shipments of crude south to United States markets – “is becoming a bit of a hub for tanks.”

For instance, Gibson Energy Inc., a large midstream company, has announced 1.7 million barrels of new storage tank capacity in the past seven months. Gibson operations vice-president Rick Wise said the main reason storage and tanking demand is going up is due to increasing oil production, and “the only thing new is the pipeline capacity isn’t enough to take away all the barrels that want to leave Western Canada to markets.”

Wise said companies are asking for more storage capacity because they believe new pipelines will be built, and they will eventually have the ability to ship even more. “There’s probably a pent-up demand for storage, for tankage, but as soon as pipelines are announced – whether it’s Gateway or Keystone XL – the demand for tanks is going to really increase.”

Keyera’s Smith says oil sands production growth is also fuelling a demand for storage space for condensate – an agent used to dilute highly viscous bitumen so it can be transported. Condensate has to be imported to Alberta, and oil companies want to ensure it’s on hand when they need it.

Smith said companies such as his are using rail to bring condensate north, and others are moving crude oil or diluted bitumen south. More storage is needed to facilitate the loading and the offloading of all these products.

`“The more you’re trying to put those products onto rail cars, the more storage you need in order to be able to operate those facilities efficiently. They’re not as steady a state as a pipeline is,” Smith said.
Source- BNA

May 10, 2013

Vale's dilemma Over Bitumen

THE intention of the council to lay the old railway path with asphalt/bitumen surely runs counter to its own stated objective in its corporate plan 2010-2014 to protect and enhance the Vale’s natural and built environment.

And to adhere to principles of sustainability and sustainable development – specifically to conserve, restore and enhance the Vale’s built and natural environment, keeping it safe, diverse and pleasant.

To turn a railway walk into an asphalt/bitumen space will run the risk of: lInviting and attracting motorised users thereby potentially causing (excessive) noise pollution, safety risks for pedestrians and non-motorised users, waste pollution through significant greater use, and disrupt the natural wildlife embedded in the flora;

lIncreasing issues of water run-off as asphalt/bitumen will not absorb water; lInvolving the council in great maintenance costs in the mid and longer term as the asphalt/bitumen breaks up and needs replacing.
Additionally, why are trees along the walk being cut down at the height of the bird-breeding season?

Phillippa John-Cooke and Granville John Westbourne Road Penarth

May 9, 2013

Bitumen Bandits is Australia - Unfair Trade Practices

MT Larcom residents have been warned to be wary if approached by traders offering bitumen laying or other home maintenance services.

The Office of Fair Trading is investigating a number of reports of a group of itinerant traders offering bitumen laying services in the area.

Typically these operators do a substandard job which then has be fixed by a qualified trader, costing twice as much.

Residents are urged to be wary if approached by traders offering bitumen laying or other home maintenance in return for upfront cash payment. Fair Trading said bitumen bandits usually claimed they were working on construction sites in the area and offered to do the job for a low price with leftover material.

It is illegal for door-to-door traders to take any upfront payments or deposits for services valued at more than $100. Consumers must also be given a 10 business day cooling-off period and be provided with documentation to enable them to cancel the contract at any stage during this period.

Residents should also be wary of traders with no business address or those that can only cite a post office box, suite number, email address or mobile phone as their contact details.

Anyone with concerns about traders who have approached them door-to-door should take notes about the trader and the registration number of their vehicle, and contact the Office of Fair Trading via or call 13 74 68. 

Source -Centraltelegraph

May 7, 2013

Road Re-Sealing in Fiji

In response to many queries on road resealing and construction, the Fiji Roads Authority (FRA) is now pleased to advise that resealing is finally underway in Suva, and will begin to be done in full swing throughout the country from now onwards on many existing sealed roads.

As it is a relatively new exercise on Fiji roads, the FRA feels that our users should be informed of the process and what to look out for in terms of driving safely over the new seal.

This is done to waterproof the existing sealed roads by adding another layer of bitumen and stone. Reducing the amount of water that gets into a road extends the life of the road for between 5-12 years depending on the traffic volumes and type of reseal applied.

Many of these roads will have some repair works done on the worst sections prior to resealing and the finished reseal is likely to be rougher than a brand new road but will last a lot longer than if no work is done at all.

The Authority says that the sealing of your streets is like painting your house thus protecting and extending the life of the road, while making it safe to use.

FRA is addressing the large backlog of resealing that is required on Fiji’s sealed roads and has an ambitious target of delivering over 100km of resealing each year.  This means that over the next few months travelers will frequently come upon worksites with a lot of activity.

Chief of FRA, Neil Cook has asked the travelling public to take care when driving through a reseal site as loose sealing chip will be present for a few days after it has been applied which can be slippery when driving too fast, and can cause broken windscreens when vehicles don’t abide by the speed restrictions that the contractors put in place during the reseal operation.

He has expressed his concern that all drivers need to abide by the instructions given at the worksites, as driving through bitumen spray or driving on uncovered bitumen can cause irreparable damage to vehicles. Road marking will also not be present for a few days after resealing so drivers should take care especially when driving at night.

The Fiji Roads Authority appreciates the co-operation of the public in building better Fiji roads.

Source -The Jet Newspaper