Transporting Alberta Oil Sands Products: Defining the Issues and Assessing the Risks [open pdf - 2MB]
"Oil sands are unconventional hydrocarbon deposits that consist of clay, sand, water, and a highly viscous petroleum product known as bitumen. Over the past decade, extracting bitumen from oil sands has become profitable as oil prices have increased and extraction technologies improved. With the rapid growth of the oil sands industry in Alberta, production is expected to grow from 1.25 million barrels per day (mbl/d) in 2011 to around 3.75 mbl/d by 2030. Most oil sands products are transported to market via existing and proposed pipelines; however, a sharp increase in the use of rail and marine transport can be expected while new pipelines are constructed to match the increasing production of oil sands products. […] Little research is currently available regarding the behavior of oil sands products spilled into water, and how they weather in the environment. Most tests have been conducted in the laboratory, so predicting the actual behavior of oil sands products for a range of spills is difficult. […] There are additional gaps in policies and regulations that warrant scrutiny as transport of oil sands products and other unconventional oils increases. Federal and state railway regulators have previously played relatively minor roles in oil spill planning, but the rapid increase in rail transport of petroleum products and recent high-profile accidents involving oil and rail tank cars suggest the agencies with regulatory oversight over rail transportation should consider increasing effort for spill contingency planning."
NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OR&R No. 44; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Technical Memorandum NOS Office of Response & Restoration No. 44
University of New Hampshire, Coastal Response Research Center and Center for Spills in the Environment: http://www.crrc.unh.edu/