Get to know dilbit, it’s going to be around a lot

Dilbit’s real name is diluted bitumen, and in a decade or so, if TransMountain has its way, there’s going to be a lot of it around

Dilbit’s real name is diluted bitumen, and I say my friend, because in a decade or so, if TransMountain has its way, I believe there’s going to be a lot of it around, on our beaches, in pools on forest floors and in kilometre-long slicks around broken tankers abandoned in the North Pacific. We will all get familiar with Dilbit and familiarity is the first stage of intimacy.

Here’s dilbit’s story:

You take semisolid tarsands, dissolve them in millions of litres of organic solvents so you can transport them by pipeline. Oh, yes, we have to build the pipeline first, and of course, there could be small environmental downsides, like contamination of watersheds, destruction of habitat, etc.

Then, having gotten the stuff by pipeline to Kitimat B.C., we put it onto supertankers and negotiate the tricky waters between Kitimat and the open Pacific Ocean. At the destination, somewhere in China, the dilbit is offloaded. The solvent is separated out of it and shipped back to Kitimat, in a different supertanker, to continue the cycle.

It’s true. Somewhere, someone, thought up this plan and two huge multinational companies, Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, are confident enough it will come to pass to invest serious money to make it so.

And if those darn tree huggers have their way and manage to put a spoke in their wheels, why, the companies can just keep coming back, year after year until the huggers are tuckered out and they get what they want.

If, as I believe is highly likely, there’s an accident in the stormy waters around Alaska and Northern B.C., these corporations aren’t on the hook for anything. Each supertanker will be registered to a limited liability company, which will regretfully declare bankruptcy, leaving the governments of B.C. and the U.S. to do what they can to clean up. It’s not likely that much will be possible, and a thick blanket of dilbit could one day be making landfall at a beach near you.

Michael ScottFrench Creek

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