Oil Safety Seems to Be Slippery

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 6:10 PM

The Alberta oil sands of Canada are home to 165.4 billion barrels (bbl) as of 2016. They expect an increase from 2.3 million barrels per day to 4 million per day by 2024, in order to keep pace with demand and provide jobs for Canadians. Treated to be used as gasoline and diesel, this substance is one of the leading causes of pollution in Canada. The Canadian oil sands located in Alberta are roughly the size of Florida, and concerns are being raised over the potential health affects. Not only are the oil sands toxins leaching into the soil, water systems, and being digested by animals; but, the oil sands emissions from development are causing substantial air pollution.

In a current study done by Environment Canada, scientists took 20 groundwater samples from areas near development of the Alberta oil sands. More samples were taken from areas farther out of the way in Alberta’s ponds. Upon further inspection, scientists found toxins in the groundwater samples collected at the different sites. A few samples had been collected beneath the nearby Athasbasca River, suggesting that tailing water is reaching the river system.

On April 29th, 2011, the public was informed of a crude oil spill east of the Peace River in Northern Alberta. The rupture on the pipeline had released 28,000 barrels of crude oil. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only oil pipeline incident Alberta has had to face. In June of 1970, a large pipeline broke in Northern Alberta, resulting in over 50,000 gallons of spilled synthetic crude into the Athasbasca River. The series of unfortunate events is still ongoing. It is critical that Canadians take notice of their country’s history in order to better prepare for their future.

To begin, persistent attention and practice of safety measures should be first and foremost instilled in the employees regimen who work the pipeline. According to the Huffington Post, “in the past three years, incorrect operation — which covers everything from failing to follow procedures to using equipment improperly — has caused an average of 20 leaks per year. That's up from an average of four annually in the previous six years” (Bickis, 2017). The consequences have resulted in oil coursing down rivers of Canadian wilderness. Though a high financial sacrifice, pipelines should be held to high safety regulations and should be constantly regulated.

Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA) is made up of oil sands producers who are working together to find ways to alleviate the impact of their work. According to COSIA’s chief executive, Dan Wicklum, the members had set a goal in 2012 to reduce their freshwater use intensity by 50% by 2022. As of 2017, they have reduced their freshwater use by 38%. COSIA uses a satellite as well to measure the impact of work being carried out at the oil sands. This allows them to obtain more accurate and frequent measurements.


Every day we support the drilling and transportation of oil by using products that rely on oil. We must do our part by lowering our dependence on petroleum products and using recycled and raw elements. Help us promote the importance of following safety procedures and reducing the use of the world’s fossil fuels. To learn more about Canada's oil sands and what you can do to help, visit Greenpeace; an independent global campaigning organization that acts to protect the environment and promote peace.

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