Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has confirmed that diluted bitumen does not present additional corrosion risks in transport pipelines in a study set to be posted to their website next week.
If you’ve followed the pipeline debate in Canada, you’ve likely heard pipeline and oil sands opponents say that dilbit is highly corrosive and causes pipelines to rupture more frequently than conventional crude oil. Industry has, of course, disputed these nonsensical claims publicly—it’s illogical that companies would risk their massive investments in pipeline infrastructure transporting products with significant corrosion risk to pipeline steel. But you don’t need to take our word for it…
Government researchers have been testing oil corrosiveness for almost two decades. The latest study, conducted in 2012 for NRCan, concluded that diluted bitumen is not corrosive—it was rated 3 on a scale of 20, where anything 4 and below on the scale is considered non corrosive to pipeline steel.
If you’re inclined to believe dilbit is more corrosive than conventional crude oil given what you’ve been told by oil sands and pipeline opponents, you might be even more surprised to learn that NRCan’s study could not establish any difference between dilbit and other oil types:
"We did not see any difference whatsoever. We could not differentiate" [it from other types of oil] Sankara Papavinasam, a research scientist with Natural Resources Canada, told the Globe and Mail.
As for the claims that heat could cause diluted bitumen to be corrosive, the Canada Research Chair in Pipeline Engineering at the University of Calgary stated, "it's not an issue."
Alberta Innovates, an independent government body, published a literature review study in 2011 that also came to the conclusion that there is no scientific evidence supporting the claim that diluted bitumen presents a higher internal corrosion risk to transport pipelines.