Corrosive accusation – by Brenda Kenny (National Post – March 13, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Brenda Kenny is chief executive of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.

No truth to claim bitumen more damaging to pipelines

There is no doubt that public persuasion and influence are powerful tools. But with that knowledge comes responsibility. Fact-based evidence and scientific studies are the way in which our association chooses to engage Canadians about pipeline matters.

However, there are others who prefer to create myths about our industry’s safety performance. It seems the intent, or the tactic, is to instill fear in the public and paint our industry as irresponsible operators of critical energy infrastructure.

For the past two years, there has been a manufactured myth circulating that diluted bitumen is corrosive in pipelines. It began with a report created by the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). This report tried to “prove” diluted bitumen is more corrosive than conventional crude. We know that this is not true, but it is easy for the public to believe this myth when the report appears to be genuine and scientific. The reality is, many of the allegations in the NRDC report are completely false, including the one about diluted bitumen.

For over 60 years, pipelines have been safely transporting oil and gas products underground with very few incidents. Most of the time, people don’t even realize that they are operating beneath our feet. But manufacturing a myth in the hopes of preventing pipeline projects from accessing new markets and ultimately contributing to our Canadian economy seems to be a good way for these organizations to put fear and worry into action.

And given the advent of social media, in which the speed of information is measured in nanoseconds, that myth quickly becomes the assumed truth. It’s no different than the telephone game you played as a child. The problem is, we are not children and this is not a game.

But, real scientists do not make up myths and they do not take things for granted. They are meticulous. They are thorough. And, they seek answers to tough questions with an unbiased point of view. Organizations such as NACE International, formerly known as the National Academy of Corrosion Engineers, is a good example of real scientists searching for the truth.

Last fall, NACE International cited 16 studies dating back over 20 years that compared corrosion rates between conventional crude and diluted bitumen. None of these studies found evidence to determine that diluted bitumen was more corrosive than conventional crude. NACE International is the most recognized, global organization dealing with corrosion matters.

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