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What is Dilbit?

Posted by Winnipeg Chapter on June 18, 2015 at 8:10 PM

DILUENT + BITUMEN = DILBIT


The Energy East Pipeline will carry diluted bitumen (also called dilbit) and other crude oil products.

Bitumen is steamed or strip mined from the sandy tar sands soil in Alberta, and is too thick and sticky to flow through a pipeline. A toxic, volatile diluent must be added so that the bitumen can be shipped.

The bitumen contains sand, silt, heavy metals and other contaminants as well as sulphur. The sulphur portion of the bitumen is about five percent by weight, and can contribute to creating hydrogen sulphide in the pipeline.

Some of the contaminants, and all the sulphur, remain after processing with diluent to form dilbit.

The diluent constitutes up to 30% of the dilbit and comes from a variety of sources, with the most common being natural gas condensate. Pentane is a main constituent of the diluent (about 9%) but the exact composition depends on the sources used and it varies from batch to batch.




Christina dilbit blend is very common and includes several volatile, toxic, environmentally persistent components (POPs) such as benzene, a known carcinogen. POPs (or Persistent Organic Pollutants) resist normal breakdown and accumulate in organisms, with potential significant impacts on human health and the environment.


The proposed Energy East pipeline will repurpose an existing natural gas pipeline that was not designed to carry dilbit. Dilbit contains abrasive sediment that will erode the pipe. Dilbit also contains chloride salts and toxic hydrogen sulphide that are both highly corrosive. The pipeline itself is known to already have many small, continuous leaks. When it is carrying dilbit, those leaks could expose the public to deadly hydrogen sulphide.


The natural gas pipeline is not designed to accommodate the pressure surges associated with liquid (dilbit) service. The pressure surges could easily rupture the pipe.


There are many economic and environmental reasons to say NO to the pipeline. Sources and more information can be found in the recently released report, “Potential Impacts of the Energy East Pipeline On Winnipeg.”


Contributor: Mary Robinson - Council of Canadians Winnipeg Chapter Chair

Categories: No Energy East Pipeline

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