For the past three months Suncor has been transporting diluted bitumen from the tar sands in northern Alberta to a storage facility at Sorel-Tracy, which is located at the confluence of the Richelieu River and the St. Lawrence River just east of Montreal.
Their plan is to continue to transport oil by rail to this port and to fill 20 to 30 tankers a year that would travel on the St. Lawrence River to export markets.
On Sunday September 21, the 250-metre long, 44 metre-side Minerva Gloria arrived at Sorel-Tracy. It will be the first oil tanker to carry diluted bitumen from the tar sands on the St. Lawrence River. CBC reports, “Only a year ago, ships wider than 32 metres weren’t allowed in that part of the St. Lawrence River, but the federal government increased the allowable size in December 2013.”
It is expected that the Minerva Gloria will carry 150,000 tons of heavy crude on the St. Lawrence River next week. It will reportedly travel to a refinery in Louisiana or Texas. The storage facility at Sorel-Tracy is owned by Quebec-based Kildair Service Ltd. which is now fully owned by New Hampshire-based Sprague Operating Resources.
Suncor’s plans are raising concerns about the St. Lawrence River and drinking water for local communities.
“Communities along the rail lines that carry the bitumen have mounted protests against Suncor’s shipments, and [Sorel-Tracy resident Elias] Harvey worries about what its transfer to tankers like Minerva Gloria could mean for the St. Lawrence River. ‘There’s nothing in it for us. All it brings us is the threat of polluting the river’, Harvey told Radio-Canada. ….Monique Hains and other members of the group Alerte Petrole Rive-Sud said a spill in the St. Lawrence would mean disaster for the environment and riverside communities. ‘Imagine a spill, it would be catastrophic. Three million people rely on the St. Lawrence River for drinking water’, she said.”
In her March 2014 report Liquid Pipeline: Extreme energy’s threat to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow wrote, “To protect the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River we must ban all transport of tar sands bitumen on, under and near the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.”
The Council of Canadians joins with the David Suzuki Foundation in calling for an immediate end to this project, a real public debate, and a full environmental review and evaluation of the implications of this project.
For more please read the CBC News report First oil sands bitumen tanker arrives in Sorel-Tracy port. Please also see the Radio Canada International report Supertankers in the St. Lawrence.