2014-03-28 / Letters

Conventional crude? Not by a long shot

To the editor:

This newspaper (and others) have been printing full page ads from the oil lobby claiming that tar sands crude will benefit South Portland. False. Tar sands crude would change everything we prize about South Portland – the quality of our schools, the vitality of our neighborhoods, the attractiveness of our waterfront. Don’t be fooled by oil industry propaganda.

They claim that tar sands crude is just like conventional crude oil. Wrong. Tar sands is diluted tar known to the petroleum industry as dilbit. Dilbit consists of 40 to 70 percent tar or bitumen, and 60 to 30 percent diluting solvents. Mining tar sands requires the application of heat (by boiling water or steam injection) to melt the tar so it can be released from the sedimentary sand deposits. Once this tar is heated, it must be mixed with solvents to thin it for transport. Yes, the tar is thinned with toxic solvents so it can flow through a pipeline. If the bitumen/tar is left to cool without the added solvents it would be “as solid as a hockey puck at 50 degrees F,” according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Tar sands oil is not conventional crude oil. No conventional crude oil requires heat for recovery and solvents to make it flow.

The direct threat to South Portland: dilbit would be stored in the existing crude oil tanks next to our schools to await shipment to China or any other highest bidder. These oil tanks are designed with floating tops so that toxic solvents, including benzene, will evaporate into the surroundings 24/7. This is not a safe situation for our school children, teachers, staff and neighbors. The pipeline crosses the Crooked River and follows Sebago Lake, our public water supply. This pipeline could never be built today because current laws require petroleum facilities to be located at least 1,000 feet from a public water supply.

Support our city council and the work of the draft ordinance committee.

Robert Sellin
South Portland

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