I have always felt that the choice of Kitimat BC (which lies at the end of a long narrow fjord) as the destination for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline was odd. Surely a narrow winding fjord presents a navigational challenge for large oil tankers.
But put on your Enbridge supplied rose-coloured glasses and all of a sudden that pesky narrow fjord is no longer a problem:
About 1,000 square kilometres of islands have disappeared from Douglas Channel in an animated depiction of Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker route.
The project would send bitumen by pipeline from Alberta’s oilsands to Kitimat, where it would be loaded onto tankers for export to Asia.
A video on the Enbridge website shows Douglas Channel as a wide open funnel leading from Kitimat to the Pacific, omitting the narrow channels, islands and rocky outcrops that make up the potential tanker access route.
Now take off those rose-coloured glasses and see if you can spot the difference:
The Enbridge view of Douglas Channel would make anyone who knows the area chuckle, said Eric Swanson of the Dogwood Initiative.
“In reality, it’s a twisting path through rocky islands and granite outcroppings, including 90 degree turns, but it’s shown as a sparkly, open channel,” he said.
“They are certainly painting a rosy picture of a very complicated and dangerous waterway.
There is a good reason up until now there has been a moratorium on tanker traffic on the BC coast; it is as treacherous as it is beautiful.
We’re so optimistic when it comes to our picture of how the future will unfold.
Take a brief look at the tide chart for Kitimat, BC.
Now, picture the ebb and flow process of the typical 4m tide as it squeezes up and down the various channels leading to Kitimat.
Note here* the singularly poor nature of the proposed navigation route for reliably anchoring if need be in the face of wind or tidal current. Note also the proximity of navigational hazards for much of the passage, and the distance from tug assist unless tug assistance (tugs; VLCCs cannot be pushed about readily by a single tug) is ready to hand.
Tankers are equipped with but a single engine. These engines are not 100% reliable.
Several hundred tanker trips per year will be necessary to move product from Kitimat to market.
What are the odds of perfect tanker propulsion performance for several thousand tanker trips from Kitimat to the ocean? Presumably it’s possible to calculate that.
What sort of tug assistance/escort will be necessary to >guarantee< that every one of the several thousand burdened tanker passages will be fully protected in the event of a propulsion failure, even when confronted with stiff tidal opposition?
*Rosy navigation proposition prepared at industry behest.
Feynman again: “Reality must take precedence over public relations…nature cannot be fooled.”