Much of the discussion about TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline deals with the project’s potential impacts on society, the economy and the environment.
Recent conversations have been about an oil terminal and where to best build it (to complement one planned for Saint John, New Brunswick).
Today, there is much public debate and uncertainty around any proposed pipeline project. One thing, however, is for certain: oil offtake from an Energy East terminal will not be the first oil movement on the St. Lawrence.
Petroleum products among St. Lawrence cargoes
That’s because oil and other petroleum products are already moving on the river and Great Lakes in large tankers and have been for decades. In 2013 alone, the Port of Montreal handled around 500 ships carrying petroleum products.
Suncor knows first-hand about shipping oil on the St. Lawrence. Our Montreal Refinery is one of two refineries in Quebec that receives imported oil feedstock via the St. Lawrence, and ships petroleum products on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway.
Less imports, more exports
With access to reliable, competitively-priced western crude, refineries in Eastern Canada (primarily in Quebec and New Brunswick) will be able to significantly reduce reliance on oil imports from overseas. As well, Energy East opens up opportunities for producers such as Suncor to export western Canadian crudes to important new markets in the U.S. Gulf Coast or overseas.
Safe handling measures
Pipeline projects like Energy East are one part of an integrated transportation strategy to improve access to markets. Product from Suncor’s refinery in Quebec is also transported by truck, rail or ship to our customers. We have sophisticated management systems in place to ensure the safe handling and transportation of oil by both marine and rail.
Tanker safety and spill prevention
We recognize that marine emergency preparedness is an important issue, particularly for communities along the St. Lawrence. Along with government and other stakeholders, industry has a responsibility to ensure the St. Lawrence and the economic well-being and quality of life of people who live in this region is protected.
Every vessel Suncor charters or that calls on our facilities is required to meet all national and international regulations. Transport Canada also conducts vessel inspections on a routine basis.
As part of Suncor’s ship vetting process, we choose vessels that are suitable for our business. We look at past performance records and evaluate the vessel’s machinery, safety record, on board and shore management systems, crew competency and classification records. If the vessel fails to meet our safety criteria, we do not use it. We only use tankers less than 25 years old. Crude oil tankers older than 15 years undergo a Condition Assessment Program rating.
All crude vessels are double hulled, ensuring that in the unlikely event of an incident, there is greater possibility that the oil will be contained. (The International Maritime Organization has calculated that universal use of double hull tankers would have prevented 85 per cent of spills in the past.)
Timely response from experienced organizations is critical if a spill occurs. That’s why every tanker chartered by Suncor must enter into an arrangement with a certified marine response organization and have an oil pollution emergency plan.
In Eastern Canada, the Eastern Canada Response Corporation is the marine response organization certified by Transport Canada for ships and oil-handling facilities.
Strengthening rail emergency response
For Suncor’s crude oil rail shipments, we use only the newest generation of rail cars. These rail cars have a number of enhanced safety features including full height head shields, normalized steel, better puncture protection and pressure relief valve technology.
We’ve established an Emergency Response Assistance Plan (ERAP) for our rail movements throughout Canada, including the Montreal corridor. This Canada-wide ERAP was developed to comply with a new Transport Canada directive issued in 2014, which set out expanded requirements for shippers when moving flammable liquids such as crude oil, gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel and ethanol.
Suncor’s ERAP is a formal plan that would be activated to support local first responders in the event of a rail emergency and involves Emergency Response Assistance Canada (ERAC). Suncor is a leading industry supporter of ERAC, a rail emergency response organization with expertise in flammable liquids that provides around-the-clock emergency response personnel and support. As part of our commitment to public safety, we have helped to build the capacity of this growing organization to meet Transport Canada requirements and improve the safety of rail shipments throughout Canada.