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October 28, 2017 5:21 am

Which Will You Pick, Oil By Rail Or Pipeline

Friday, March 13, 2015 @ 3:43 AM

We find ourselves in the province of BC making a decision as to whether we want the Enbridge Pipeline, or do we want the crude oil from the tar sands moving by rail.

The increase in the movement of crude oil by tank railway car has increased dramatically . Even the efforts by U.S. President Barrack Obama to prevent the Keystone pipeline from being built may be for not as the railways get into the business of moving the crude by rail.

The same situation will come into play in this province, and regardless of how the government  may feel in the matter, the railways will be able to move the product to the terminals at the ocean.

So we will come down to a matter of do we want rail cars bringing the crude for off load to the tankers, or do we want it arriving via pipeline?

That decision will not only take (for the most part)  the First Nations out of the equation but also those who don’t want the product near any rivers and streams in BC.

Enbridge has to be laughing given that the opposition they formerly faced will almost certainly melt away when the citizens of the province are told the crude oil will move by rail tanker. Given the two methods of transporting the product , the pipeline is much safer and so what will the people of the province settle for?

One analyst predicts that CN and CP  volume of crude will reach over 400,000 loads a year in 2015. If you add in the fact analysts  say CN and CP have had double digit growth in crude oil tank movement  last year alone (CN’s was 8.2%) you see where the action will take place.

The issue will boil down to which will you accept.

I’m Meisner and that’s one man’s opinion.


On the two methods proposed for oil transport, the one with a pipeline will cross many rivers and streams, some in mountainous, very inaccessable terrain for a lot of the year and an oil spill in some of those regions would be impossible to clean up properly anytime, let alone from under many feet of snow. Spring runoff would spread the spill farther. A leak in a pipeline will inevitably spill a lot more oil, once a leak is detected, than a rail car or two.
Anyone looking at the company’s record at not properly cleaning up the many, preventable oil spills they have had and then trying legal means to absolve themselves of their responsibility in this area, and then taking their promises for doing a better job, at face value is, I’m afraid, pretty naieve.
Shipping oil by rail has its problems as well. The railways have traditionally followed river courses as much as is practicable, as well as some very rugged terrain. Oil spills there also can be a disaster in trying to contain or clean up properly. Their record for accidents involving spills is also less than stellar. The oil they spill is in smaller quantities but can spread through water very widely and quickly. We depend on our water.
The product the piplines would carry, as well as the condensate coming back should also be considered quite toxic. We do not need more toxins in our enviroment.
Neither of these methods confronts the question of the loaded ships heading out through the inside passage, which in itself, is another huge envoromental risk apart from the land transport of the product.

Well since CN Rail doesn’t seem to be able to keep their trains on the track, ( they just dumped a bunch of oil from tankers into a river back east) and the Pipeline Companies have trouble keeping the oil in the pipeline on flat land, ( so not sure mountain terrain will be their forte), and Tankers can leak, that really doesn’t give us much of a choice..

option three… let them figure out another route other than through BC?

but it is going to happen…

I agree with bcracer… let them find another route not through BC and not using the BC coast as an export terminal for tar sands oil. Problem solved, and no tanker cars nor any new pipeline for tar oil and condensate.

We don’t need to push that dirty polluting energy source condoning Alberta’s massive environmental destruction… massive environmental destruction for elusive profits and they still run a $6 billion dollar a year deficit.

If Alberta is set on finding a place to move their oil then they should get to work on the East Coast pipeline where it would actually do some good for Canada and Canadian energy security.

Harper’s lack of respect for BC on this issue will cost the conservatives in the next election I do believe.

Moving tar sands oil is not in the same environmental risk category as moving natural gas. BC benefits from natural gas sales, but only gets liability for oil trans shipments across our province and from our coast.

For man power that benefits BC… likely the real choice is not between rail and oil for a product that should not even be allow to transit BC, but rather between allowing such a huge liability risk to BC or selling LNG instead. When LNG goes ahead we won’t have the man power to even consider Northern Gateway anyways unless using foreign workers.

‘That decision will not only take (for the most part) the First Nations out of the equation but also those who don’t want the product near any rivers and streams in BC.’

I have a feeling it will be up to the courts to decide if First Nations are out of the equation, but not before a long battle. The railroads still cross the traditional territories. Although there won’t be new construction like with the pipelines, but it sure seems like a lot more maintenance would be required.

It’s an interesting tactic to try and split the vote like this, making everyone choose one way or the other.

I thought BC was taking too long and the LNG ship had sailed.

I choose pipeline it’s still the safest method of transportation in Canada despite what the Eco-terrorists seem to think

Canada first. Pipeline east, the 2 million barrels we import a day should stop before there is any talk of exporting oil from the west coast. The Energy East pipeline has more capacity than Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan expansion combined.

gitterdun “I thought BC was taking too long and the LNG ship had sailed.”

Sorry, gitterdun, you are confusing two different products. Enbridge is oil from the Alberta tarsands – ie, bitumen, which requires the dilutant/condensate to move it via a pipeline. LNG is natural gas (aka methane) that is super-cooled from a gas to a liquid and transported by pipeline/tanker trucks. (by the way LNG tanker trucks are all over BC already as LNG is shipped by Fortis from location to location, including Washington, Hawaii, Alberta, Yukon and other places).

So, two different pipeline proposals, one for oil and the other LNG, two different ship-loading terminal types, both underway at the same time.

LNG may or may not be too late for the markets but has nothing to do with Enbridge’s Gateway oil pipeline proposal.

The real problem is the world’s dependence on oil. I wish that we could find something safer to replace it…………but that isn’t happening. They system is crazy importing oil on one side and exporting on the other…..

Also, I just don’t like building new ports when there are already ports exporting oil. Why not increase usage at the ones already in place rather than spreading more risk down the coastline. The more ports, the more areas in risk.

missing Poppa – I think gitterduns comment was directed more towards Eagleones comment than the editorial.
Dearth – what exactly is an “eco-terrorist”? Anyone who opposes building a pipeline across BC? or just those who have actually taken part in willful damage and danger to people? I haven’t seen any of the latter yet to do with this pipeline, have you? So branding those against Enbridges pipeline is eco-terrorists shows you attended the “propaganda school of misinformation” under Joe Oliver.
I am sure there are lots of first nations on the coast who would disagree with you Ben about rail taking them out of the loop. And I think the bigger concern has always been tanker traffic off our coast and since that hasn’t changed I don’t think it has taken anyone out of the picture.

The tracks are not up to the task of safely accommodating heavily loaded tanker car trains.

Do a YouTube search on Plasser&Theurer. There are eye opening videos about fully computerized, mechanized and robotized rail replacement and maintenance trains in use for many years in Europe and some other countries like Brazil.

I have never seen anything of the sort in Canada. The transport is only as safe as the tracks. The cars will keep falling off the tracks and into rivers and lakes without bringing the system up into the 21st century.

Shouldn’t there be 3 options?

-By rail.
-By pipeline.
-none of the above.

Like tell you, would you like an arrow or a bullet in the head. How arrogant is that.
How about thinking of what is important for sustaining life. Like preserving precious water for spawning salmon. After all money can’t be eaten.

Posted on Friday, March 13, 2015 @ 10:13 AM by maverick 1965

Shouldn’t there be 3 options?

-By rail.
-By pipeline.
-none of the above.


Option 3 would require a radical change in the Western way of life, a change that I doubt 99.9% of the population would embrace. We all want the benefits of an oil based society but heaven forbid we accept the mess associated with that lifestyle.

We all know CN lousy track record for derails, last year CN released the true numbers of derailments and if memory serves it was a couple a week, they did not have to officially report most of them because it happened in their yards and there was no release of anything harmful to,the environment.

Rail spills are a double whammy as more than likely not only will,they spill, but they will also start burning. If you look at the path the train will have to take then it’s a disaster waiting to happen. How many cars will be in load ? CN has been caught before using the wrong engines to pull the loads through the mountains, they have used praire engines that are not suited for mountain travel.. If they have done it before they will do it again. When there is a derail not only will it more than likely be a remote area, it will probably cause a forest fire as well as massive contamination of the surrounding area and any watershed near. There is also a good chance of lose of life.

Pipelines are safer, if they are built and monitored correctly. That is the kicker…monitored correctly. Who trusts big oil companies anymore…no one.


Option3 would not require a radical change in our way of life. We simply do not need to export this oil from the west coast. Eastern Canada has more than adequate demand to cover the proposed capacity of both Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain pipelines. The Energy East Pipeline is a made in Canada solution that would

1: Eliminate the need for a West Coast pipeline and tankers

2: Encourage domestic refining of Canadian oil and add jobs to our economy

3: Ensure safe and reliable oil supply for Canada

4: Ensure that we are using ethical oil

5: End our need to entangle ourselves in the Middle East.

China wants our oil. We want cheap Chinese goods. Until we change what we want, there is a huge demand for pipelines to the West Coast.

It is our oil. We can still buy Chinese goods as long as Canadians have jobs and money. No need for pipelines to the West Coast.

No need for trains to carry oil to the West Coast either.

Why can’t oil go East. There’s an interesting article in Bloomberg discussing that.

1. You have to deal with the Irving family who own pretty much every refinery and port out that way. They like the idea, they just won’t commit to taking a set amount, and if they decide they don’t like you, they can pretty much shut you down.

2. You have to go through Quebec. If you think the cut of the take B.C. wants is bad, wait till you see what Quebec asks for. Not to mention now you have to get 6 provinces on board vs one.

3. The customer is actually West. The demand for Alberta oil is in Asia. Going East increases the overall transport cost. There is actually sufficient supply for the East Coast already, Alberta oil would just be extra.

4. First Nations – they have them going East as well, and they’re no more likely in favour of it than B.C. first nations – and a lot more of them to make deals with.

But Ben’s article doesn’t offer option C, because rail is already legal, no one can stop it because it’s a federal responsibility, so essentially we’ve got a choice, – rail, or just take it up the blank and let them build the pipeline. Sure, people can block rail lines for awhile, but sooner or later, every protester ends up in jail, and the problem with blocking rail lines, is they don’t carry just oil, so stop one train, stop all trains, and suddenly our food and other supplies have to trucked – a yet even greater environmental disaster.

CN Rail already moves coal trains to Prince Rupert. The trains would be heavier than oil trains so weight on the track is not an issue. Track maintenance is an issue, however I’m sure if they decided to ship oil by rail they would do the necessary maintenance. Just good business sense.

Unloading hundreds of rail cars at a time in Prince Rupert or Kitimat might be a bit of a problem. Especially in the winter.

We already have two crude oil pipelines from Albert to Vancouver. One runs through Taylor, Prince George to Kamloops to Vancouver, and the other runs through Jasper, Valemount, Blue River, Kamloops. So having crude oil pipelines in BC is nothing new.

At some point we will have to weigh the risks against the benefits. My guess is that the pipeline will be in the National Interest, and therefore will go through.

Ski 51

1. The Globe and Mail has reported, “Since 2012, the billionaire Irving family has been advocating a proposal called Energy East.”

“In October 2012, representatives from Irving Oil and New Brunswick’s government travelled to the western Canadian oil hub of Calgary to present their alternative: a west-east oil pipeline that would go all the way to the Atlantic. Irving Oil had asked for the meeting, according to a person who attended. Waiting for them in a conference room were Canadian provincial energy officials, executives from TransCanada, and representatives from industry heavyweights Canadian Natural Resources, Imperial Oil, Suncor, and Shell Canada.”

“According to (New Brunswick energy minister Craig) Leonard and others at the meeting, Mike Ashar, at the time the CEO of Irving Oil, outlined how a pipeline east across Canada to Saint John could help get Alberta’s oil efficiently to the world market, paving the way for higher prices and the potential for expanded production. Ashar said the pipeline could provide a reason to build Canada’s first oil sands upgrader – a facility that processes tar sands into a product that can be more easily refined into gasoline, diesel and other fuels – on the Atlantic coast. There, lower labour costs and easy access to imports could reduce the facility’s multibillion-dollar price tag by 40 per cent, according to an attendee who asked not to be named.”

Why would the Irvings shut the oil down if they plan on refining it and shipping it?

2. From the G&M

“Quebec’s energy regulator is voicing support for TransCanada Corp.’s $12-billion Energy East pipeline project but warns that the company must ensure natural gas customers don’t pay for its switch to an oil conduit.”

3.Alberta to Beijing is roughly 8700km. Alberta to Halifax is about 4800km. There is more than enough oil supply for everyone at the moment. That is why the price of oil keeps dropping.

4. First Nations will require negotiations either way. However the threat of a maritime oil spill renders going west a no go for many coastal first nations. East will be easier.

While oil shipment by rail is legal, the infrastructure to store and ship the oil is not yet in place, and the First Nations on the West Coast would have a veto over their construction, so it is still a highly speculative, and as I remarked earlier, unnecessary endeavour.


If Canada’s National Interest is taken into account, then the Energy East Pipeline is a clear winner over transporting oil to the West Coast by either rail or pipeline. Of course if you are talking about China’s National Interest, then Northern Gateway is the way to go. Depending on who you vote for in the next election, will decide which way the oil will flow.

Vote Harper and the oil will go to China. Vote either NDP or Liberal and the oil will stay in Canada.

Thx Herbster – good points. Bloomberg article reported that too, but Irving’s weren’t willing to commit to a set volume. Essentially Irving wanted the option to go to the cheapest on the market.

Not sure about your point 3. Alberta to Beijing via Halifax is 15,000 km as the crow flies, but in reality, you have to go around south Africa and back up again. The pacific ocean is pretty much a straight shot across. I have no idea what the extra freight charge would be, but essentially it’s a short pipeline to the BC Coast, vs a long one to the East Coast, and then a long tanker journey to Beijing, vs a shorter tanker journey from B.C. I think the additional freight probably kills any extra price advantage. And it is China that wants our oil, not Europe or the U.S. They already have enough supply.

I wish there was a third option. Personally, I think we’re in way too much of a hurry to get rid of our resources, and willing to take too much risk to do it.

As for the so called billion dollar insurance policy against spills, that only helps if the insurance company is solvent when it happens – think AIG. And even then, it’s like a car accident – sorry you can’t walk anymore, here’s some cash. Some environmental disasters can’t be cleaned up, and money won’t make it all better.

Between its gas stations in Eastern Canada and NorthEastern USA, Irving can refine and sell Albertan oil at world price and benefit themselves and Canadians by creating refineries to do so. My point #3 was that it is more economical to ship to Eastern Canada, than it is to ship to China. Once the oil reaches Eastern Canada, there is no need to ship it overseas.

herbster – gotcha. Actually, this is quite a perplexing problem that has to make one wonder. So China wants our oil – but they are right next door to the Middle East, so the Middle East ships their oil to the North American East Coast, and then we’ll ship our oil from the West Coast to China? Something just doesn’t add up here. From what reading I’ve done, it appears that China has excess refining capacity, and can refine way cheaper than we can. I think the end game here is, ship oil to China, refine it, ship gasoline back to Canada.

How can a lower labour cost possibly create enough of an advantage for all the shipping, of course, I imagine a refinery and China probably doesn’t have to worry about costly environmental equipment and safety plans.

I think the attraction for China is that our oil is pretty much headache free. Once you start having to import it from the Middle east, eventually you get entangled in their politics, and what once seemed cheap, is no longer, as we are finding out in Iraq. I would prefer Canadians do our own refining, and leave the military adventures (and expense) to others!

“Once you start having to import it (the oil) from the Middle east, eventually you get entangled in their politics, and what once seemed cheap, is no longer, as we are finding out in Iraq.”

All the politicians at the time swore by their honour that the so-called involvement in Iraq was not about oil but about weapons of mass destruction! After they did not find any of those they went for the oil instead?


At the end of the day its the USA who want our oil, and who we have been selling it to for the past 100 years. Problem is, they are our biggest customer, and basically dictate the price they will pay, knowing full well we have no alternative.

If we had the pipeline to the West Coast, or East, then that opens up other opportunities to sell this oil, and basically forces the US to pay us world prices if it wants our oil.

All these assumptions took place of course before there became a glut of oil on the market. Once we get back into a shortage situation things will once again start to move.

For Canada its all about markets, competition, and price.

This is a pretty comical piece. Maybe you should stick to gossip and speculation about local politics, Ben. Even if it were true, that “WE” had to choose between rail and a pipeline, it’s not even a question of which common sense and basic mathematics would choose. Rail would be unquestionably the better choice for this province, because for starters the limited capacity would mean that much less would move, the total environmental impact of a spill would be much mitigated, it would create more jobs and investment and would have much less impact when the winds change. However, since there isn’t anywhere near the capacity with rail that is wanted, it’s a total red herring. The pipeline will still not ever be built though. It will be tied up in the courts until it’s an anachronism.

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