You may think that oil is oil. But in actual fact there is a wide variety of types of crude oil. And we know that WesPac’s proposed oil terminal would handle three especially dangerous types of crude oil:
Fracked Bakken shale oil from North Dakota, which is a relatively pure and light oil. However, it’s so light that it is quite volatile and explosive. In 2013 and early 2014 there were five explosions of trains carrying this kind of oil; one exploded in the center of a Québec town in July 2013 and killed 47 people. The federal government has recently issued a warning about this oil.
For more background, check out our fact sheet about Bakken shale oil.
Fracked Monterey shale oil from southern California, which is a much heavier oil, contaminated with a lot of sulfur and heavy metals. The sulfur gives this oil a bad smell. Because this oil is so much thicker than regular crude oil – more like molasses – it doesn’t flow easily on its own. This means that often other substances (called “diluents”) are added to it. Often these substances are volatile and harmful to human health.
Tar sands “bitumen” from Canada, which is extremely heavy and thick. This is also contaminated with a lot of heavy metals and sulfur, and much of this sulfur is in the form of “mercaptans”, which are a special class of extra-stinky chemicals. Mercaptans are added to your cooking gas in extremely small amounts so you can detect a gas leak. Tar sands are also transported with diluents such as benzene, which causes cancer.
Tar sands spills are incredibly hard to clean up – a tar sands spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2010 is still not cleaned up three years later. A tar sands spill in the Bay could harm fishing for many, many years.
For more background, check out our fact sheet about tar sands.
WesPac has told us that it intends to bring in the explosive Bakken shale oil. In their comments on the EIR, the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) gave evidence that an additional, unadmitted goal of the project is to bring in the heavier, dirtier crudes – Canadian tar sands and Monterey shale oil. All three of these types of crude oil are incredibly dangerous and shouldn’t be transported through towns and handled near homes and schools.
In addition, all three types of oil cause a lot of damage when they are extracted – the two types of shale oil are produced by fracking, and the tar sands are strip-mined in a way that is turning a Florida-sized forest into a toxic moonscape.