Canada oil no more harmful to pipelines than other crude-report

Tue Jun 25, 2013 12:00pm EDT
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WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) - Heavy Canadian oil is no more likely than other crudes to cause pipeline leaks, a U.S. report said on Tuesday, deflating an argument by opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Producers of heavy crude, or bitumen, from Canada's oil sands, dilute the oil with light hydrocarbons so it can flow through pipelines.

Environmental groups contend the mixture corrodes the insides of pipelines because of its acidic and mineral content. The debate about the corrosiveness of Canadian oil has intensified after several high-profile leaks involving the crude.

Opponents of Canadian oil sands projects have used the argument as the Obama administration considers permitting TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry up to 830,000 barrels per day of Canadian and domestic oil.

But the National Research Council report, required by a 2011 pipeline safety law, said the oil mix was no different than other crude oils. "Diluted bitumen does not have unique or extreme properties that make it more likely than other crude oils to cause internal damage to transmission pipelines from corrosion or erosion," the report said.

The National Research Council is part of the National Academies, a group of private nonprofit institutions that advise government on science, technology and health policy.