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Fine Print

Canadians must be able to trust that government will engage in appropriate regulatory oversight, including credible environmental assessments, and that it will respect the rights of those most affected, such as Indigenous communities. While governments grant permits for resource development, only communities can grant permission.

2015 Federal Liberal campaign platform

From FAST to SLO

Update: see article in November 2016 World Pipelines magazine.

The oil and heavy hydrocarbons pipeline industry is facing a confluence of issues which are steadily eroding acceptability of their operations in the eyes of the public. This reduces the operator's Social Licence to Operate (SLO). To note a few of these issues:
the existing infrastructure is aging and some is operating beyond the original design life span
the materials being transported are more hazardous (e.g., Bakken crude) or more environmentally damaging (e.g., dilbit and heavy oils) than the conventional sweet light crude of four decades and more ago
post-spill investigations indicate a pervasive inability of operators to detect failures, even in relatively new pipelines (e.g., 2015 Nexen rupture in 1-year-old double-wall pipeline)
more often than not, spills are detected by individuals not related to the pipeline operator (e.g., Kalamazoo, Nexen, Mayflower)
despite filing spill response plans with regulators, there appears to be a consistent lack of preparedness and response capacity near the spill events when they occur; it takes days to put authorized responders, equipment and materiel on scene
initial operator reports invariably underestimate the amount of product spilled, and how long it will take to carry out clean-up operations
local authorities and first responders are left out of the communications loop

When designated spill responders do arrive on scene, their tool box is filled with obsolete and ineffective tools.

Booms are usually put into place well after the spill has moved beyond containment points. Booms sized for use on lakes and rivers are not effective in river currents above 1 knot, or in waves above 0.5 metres, or in water where ice is present, or in swampy or marshy terrain. Herded oil still has to be picked up with another tool.

Conventional small skimmers do not pick up oil quickly, are prone to breakdown to the large number of small, fragile moving parts, and require manual operation. They can only be used during calm weather conditions during daylight hours. Oil continues to spread during storms and at night.

In situ burning is not viable close to land. In any case, burning oil usually requires the use of large quantities of accelerants, and produces large quantities of soot, greenhouse gases and air pollution.

Absorbents can pick up oil, but render it unrecoverable and create large volumes of toxic waste.

Dispersants do not remove oil, they break the oil up into smaller droplets, making it more bio-available to marine life, thus increasing the effect of the oil on the organisms. Dispersed oil sinks into the water column or to the water bottom, where it continues to do environmental damage for years or decades afterwards (e.g., Ixtoc spill).

These response tools and practices simply aren't good enough. Worse still, better and less expensive tools are available to take their place, but industry is not making a serious effort to evaluate them, let alone make use of them. At RESTCo, we know these innovative tools. We have spent years seeking them out, researching them, testing them and evaluating them. From this experience, we have developed a set of criteria which we use to determine if an oil spill response tool is acceptable.

1. The product is effective at removing oil from the environment
2. Recovered oil is stored in air-tight containment to stop evaporation of volatiles, stop the weathering process and retain value of the recovered oil
3. The product can be deployed quickly to the spill scene (the fire department model)
4. The product minimizes exposure of responders to the oil
5. The product does not increase the level of damage to the environment and human health, short term and long term
6. The product does not convert one environmental problem (spilled oil) into another (air pollution, pollution of the water column and water bottom, large quantities of toxic waste which has to be disposed of at special sites)
7. The product is cost-effective compared to current practice - including the cost to the environment
8. The product contributes to the full remediation of the contaminated site(s)

Better still if the product can recover the spilled product before it weathers and the recovered product can be used subsequently.

RESTCo subscribes to the IDROS philosophy of spill clean-up: Immediate, Definitive Recovery of Oil Spills.

RESTCo has gathered together a suite of oil spill response products which live up to the criteria noted above, and which can address the range of spill scenarios (terrain type or on water, spill progression, product types, climate conditions, etc.) We call our approach FAST: Full-suite Advanced Spill Technologies.

The FAST suite includes:
pre-spill planning including environmental snap shots, identification of vulnerable and critical locations, lists of stakeholders, their roles and contact information within and outside 'business hours'
innovative gravity skimmers which do not require booms, can operate during inclement weather and at night, and which pick up over 90% of the oil in a single pass, with minimal water by-catch
re-usable adsorbent fabric which picks up hydrocarbons, but not water, and can be mechanically squeezed to extract oil, then returned to service (US EPA listed)
a bio-remediant which can be sprayed onto new or old spills, rendering the oil non-toxic virtually instantly, and reducing the remaining hydrocarbons to water and carbon dioxide in days to weeks (US EPA listed)
a polymer powder appropriate for clean up of small, contained spills, creating plastic mats which render the oil non-toxic and can be recycled into plastic products (US EPA listed)
hydrocarbon sensors (test equipment) to determine when spill clean-up is complete
training for first responders on use of the equipment and materials, and,
pre-deployment of equipment and material, including with first responders.

From FAST to SLO
The Obsolete Toolbox
World Pipelines magazine article on Social Licence to Operate
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