TMEP: Let's Talk Tankers - Part 3

The current dispute between Canada and Saudi Arabia feeds nicely into the third installment of our 2018 Tanker series. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s recent suggestion that “there are other nations we can look at in terms of access to oil (CBC News)” is almost a perfect tie-in to this segment. To recap, in part one of our series, we looked at the effect of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project on tanker traffic off Canada’s west coast, determining the clear majority (roughly nine to one) of oil tankers moving from Alaska through the Salish Sea to Washington State are American, and the slight increase in traffic to accommodate expanding the pipeline would be effectively inconsequential. We also looked at the volumes of tanker traffic entering eastern ports. In part two, we explored the numerous new safety enhancements which will be implemented by both Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. (TSX:KML) and the federal government to ensure the risk of ship-sourced oil spills will be negated as much as possible. While the second installment focused on TMEP tanker traffic specifically, it highlighted the enormous safety and environmental precautions Canadian energy initiatives are required to go through – a standard not matched anywhere in the world on a scale comparable to Canada’s energy sector.

In this third installment of our series, we examine the top countries Canada imports oil from and the consequences of purchasing foreign oil through the lenses of corruption, human rights, and environmental performance – a timely connection to current policies and comments made by our federal leaders – which beg for an obvious solution.

To first understand where Canada ranks in the world’s top oil producing countries, – oil meaning crude oil, all other petroleum liquids, and biofuels – as of 2017 we were ranked fourth at 4.87 million barrels per day (U.S. Energy Information Administration), or a five per cent share of the world’s total oil production, behind the U.S. at 14.86 million barrels per day, Saudi Arabia at 12.08 million barrels per day, and Russia at 11.18 million barrels per day.

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Although we are one of the world’s top oil producing countries, lack of infrastructure connecting our oil reserves in western Canada to eastern provinces means we are extremely limited in the volumes of oil we can ship across the country, making it necessary to import oil from foreign exporters. The U.S. is our top supplier, sending 412,000 barrels per day north across the border (with much of this oil originating in Alberta and Saskatchewan), followed by Saudi Arabia at 87,000 barrels per day, and Algeria at 85,000 barrels per day being shipped here by tanker.


The U.S. exports oil to Mexico, Canada, China, Brazil, and Japan to list the top five countries. Saudi Arabia’s are Japan, the U.S., China, South Korea, India, and Singapore. Algeria exports oil mostly to France, Canada, the U.S., Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Nigeria’s top oil export countries are India, the U.S., Spain, South Africa, and France (Canada ranks 7th). Norway’s are the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany, France, and Sweden (Canada ranks 9th). Canada, with access to eastern ports, could not only supply all the oil needed in eastern Canada, but also reduce the amounts of oil imported to our European allies from other regions of the world.

Purchasing foreign oil means Canada is stimulating the economies of these countries (while internally damaging Canada’s growth prospects), and supporting regimes which do not share our environmental, human rights, corruption and rule of law standards and expectations.

It is important to understand the consequences of this and exactly what our money is contributing to – a topic ignored by our politicians and activists. The oil will come from somewhere, as clearly evidenced by Canada importing from and supporting Saudi, Algerian and Nigerian regimes.


Transparency International releases an annual Corruptions Index which ranks 180 countries by perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people. Countries are rated on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is highly clean.


In 2017, some of the countries supplying Canada with oil were awarded high or average scores, such as Norway, which was ranked third in the world with a score of 85, the United Kingdom, which was ranked eighth with a score of 82, and even the U.S., which was ranked 16th with a score of 75. Other countries, however, were determined highly corrupt, such as Iraq, which was ranked 169th in the world with a score of 18, Nigeria, which was ranked 148th with a score of 27, and Russia, which was ranked 135th with a score of 29.

Over the next 20 years, it is expected that 90 per cent of the world’s oil production will come from developing countries. Many countries which are rich in oil and gas are home to the poorest people, as the wealth stays in the hands of politicians and industry insiders. A big part of the problem is that revenues in these countries don’t get published and payments made to governments to exploit resources remain a secret. Corrupt leaders hide stolen funds unnoticed, and inadequate financial statements make it easy to disguise corrupt deals. Many companies don’t publish information and hide royalties, taxes, and fees they pay.

In 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation to repeal anti-corruption rules for energy companies set in place by the Obama administration. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”) was introduced in 2010 to increase transparency in the energy sector, making it mandatory for all American oil, gas, and mining companies listed on the U.S. Stock Exchange to report any payments they made to foreign governments and make this information available to the public. Civilians of energy-rich countries often do not see wealth generated by industry, as it goes straight to those with political connections. These rules made it possible for civilians to hold their governments accountable. However, Trump believed the rules stunted America’s opportunity on the international stage and that American businesses were put at a disadvantage. In a vow to put American business first, Trump abolished the rules, leaving financial reporting by American energy companies unchecked.

Canada was tied with the U.K. on the 2017 Corruptions Index at a ranking of eighth in the world with a score of 82. We follow strict regulations under the Canadian Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA) when it comes to reporting foreign payments and bribery provision.

Human Rights

The Human Freedom Index is co-published annually by the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute, and the Liberales Institut at the Friedreich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. It ranks the countries of the world based on personal, civil, and economic freedom. The institutes describe human freedom as the absence of coercive restraint. We looked at how countries supplying Canada oil ranked within the index, and as with the Corruptions Index, some scored well, such as Norway, which was ranked seventh out of 159 countries with a score of 8.57 out of 10, and the United Kingdom, which was ranked 11th with a score of 8.55. However, most countries scored poorly, such as Algeria, which had a human freedoms score of 5.05, ranking 153rd out of 159, Saudi Arabia, ranking 149th with a score of 5.37, and Nigeria, which ranked 133rd with a score of 5.92.


Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has committed numerous violations of humanitarian law. As of November 2017, at least 5,295 civilians have been killed and 8,873 wounded, according to the UN Human Rights Office. Human Rights Watch shows that there have been 87 unlawful attacks by the Saudi coalition since 2015, six unlawful airstrikes between June and September 2017 which killed 33 children, and the coalition has attacked civilian factories, warehouses, and other protected sites. Dozens of activists have been arrested and are serving long prison sentences in Saudi Arabia for peacefully protesting human rights abuses. In Algeria, authorities regularly arrest and prosecute peaceful activists, including those protesting about unemployment and public services, according to Amnesty International. Citizens continue to be persecuted for their religious beliefs, and the Labour Code continues to unduly restrict the right to form trade unions. Doing business with these countries and putting wealth in the hands of their corrupt leaders and political allies will only continue to lessen the humanitarian rights and freedoms of their citizens. Canada ranked 11th on the index with a score of 8.54.

Environmental Standards

The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is produced each year by Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. The EPI provides a basis for comparing, analyzing, and understanding environmental performance for 180 countries. Countries are scored and ranked based on their environmental performance in a variety of categories. Results show a positive correlation with country wealth, as meeting sustainability goals requires monetary resources to invest in human and environmental health. Of the top countries that supply Canada with oil, the U.S. rated 27th out of 180, Saudi Arabia 86th, Algeria 88th, Nigeria 97th, Norway 14th, Kazakhstan 101st, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) 139th, United Kingdom 6th, and Azerbaijan 59th. Countries with low scores, for example Côte d’Ivoire, are falling short when it comes to emissions and waste leading to environmental contamination.

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Côte d’Ivorie’s methane emissions intensity specifically is ranked 142nd of 188 countries, and its black carbon emissions intensity is ranked 165th. According to the Fraser Institute, out of the highest earning OECD (The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, Canada ranks 10th of 33 for environmental performance, based on air quality, water quality, greenhouse gases, air emissions, water resources, forests, biodiversity, agriculture, and fisheries. We are also the first country to commit to regulations which limit damaging and wasteful methane emissions from new and existing oil and gas facilities nationwide, and we have committed to reducing the waste of natural gas by 40 to 45 per cent in the next eight years.


Jagmeet Singh’s contention that the Trans Mountain pipeline project should not go ahead, as shown in recent social media posts in which the NDP Leader attested that a “rigged process … [made it] clear [the] pipeline should not be built (Twitter)” and that the “pipeline is a bad deal that won’t solve the problem (Twitter),” as well as numerous appearances and speaking engagements at anti-pipeline rallies does not seem to take into account that our need for oil is growing, and this oil needs to come from somewhere. As Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said in May of this year, Singh’s statements are “absolutely, fundamentally, incontrovertibly incorrect in every element (Global News).” The social license of the energy sector cannot be reduced to a single project or attribute. The bigger picture must be considered. When examining the countries currently supplying Canada with oil, human rights indecencies, corrupt political leaders, and countless blights on the environment are things that cannot be overlooked. Our high standards on corruption, environmental regulation and human rights and our reflecting high rankings across the board in numerous reputable global performance indexes in these categories make Canada the best choice for Canadian energy.

TMEP: Let's Talk Tankers - Part 2

In part one of our 2018 Tanker Series, we discussed oil tanker traffic off Canada’s West Coast, where these tankers originate, their routes, and what they carry. We also looked at the impact an increased number of tankers to support Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. (TSX:KML)’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project (TMEP) will have on this traffic. This increase in tankers has raised concern surrounding potential of an increased risk of oil spills in the Pacific Region. In fact, a , recent Angus Reid Institute Poll found that 67 per cent of all Canadians are concerned about the potential of oil spills in Canada. In this installment, we will take a closer look at Canada’s oil spill history and the new safety measures being proposed by both Kinder Morgan and the Canadian government to negate these types of accidents.

Globally, oil spills have been in decline since the 1970s, and while they have been particularly rare in Canada, and especially on its West Coast, they have occurred periodically. The following statistics depict the frequency of these spills, as well as their locations and causes:

 Source:  ClearSeas

Source: ClearSeas

 Source:  ClearSeas

Source: ClearSeas


64 per cent of notable spills were on the Atlantic coast due to the sheer volume difference in vessel traffic over that of the Pacific coast, and of the spills that did occur in the Pacific region, none were tankers.

Though there has never been a serious oil spill off the West Coast in Canadian waters, the risk does exist, and those opposed to TMEP site this risk and the effect ship-sourced oil spills have on the environment, water supplies, and local marine habitats as the one of the biggest reasons for their opposition. The closest significant spill we can look toward to gauge this impact was the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez accident in which the oil tanker struck reef in Alaska's Prince William Sound, spilling 10.8 million US gallons of crude oil over the next few days. This incident, however, served as a catalyst for the rules and safety regulations for oil tankers to be completely overhauled and mandated globally, significantly minimizing the risk of a similar occurrence.


Canada’s Existing Preparedness and Response for Ship-source Oil Spills

Transport Canada outlines the many measures it has in place for spill prevention in Canadian waters. All vessels must:

  • Follow international rules for preventing collisions at sea
  • Have up-to-date nautical charts
  • Have a passage plan
  • Be equipped with tracking and monitoring equipment
  • Report their information

Furthermore, all tankers must be double-hulled to operate in Canadian waters, which means they have two complete layers of watertight hull surface. The inner hull is typically a few feet within the outer, which forms a redundant barrier to protect seawater in the event of a leak. Extensive inspections are also conducted. Canadian vessels are inspected under the Flag State Control Program and foreign vessels by the Port State Control Program. Law requires Canadian tankers to be fully inspected once per year.

ClearSeas outlines further measures in place to prevent spills from taking place:

  • Marine Pilots: licensed Canadian navigational experts that maneuver vessels through congested waters
  • Navigational Aids: a complex system of visual, auditory, and electronic aids to warn of barriers and mark routes
  • Tug Escorts: small navigational vessels which escort loaded tankers to sea by slowing, stopping, or steering


Kinder Morgan’s Safety Enhancements

In addition to its existing Marine Spill Response Regime, Kinder Morgan has proposed additional measures to mitigate navigation risk, including:

  • A newly established shipping channel for East Burrard Inlet off West Vancouver
  • An expansion of tug escorts of outbound laden tankers through the Strait of Georgia and at the western entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait
  • Extended pilot disembarkation to Race Rocks instead of Victoria
  • Enhanced Situational Awareness techniques such as safety calls by pilots and masters of laden tankers, tactical use of escort tug along shipping routes, boating safety engagement and awareness program

Kinder Morgan has also proposed response enhancements for the Salish Sea and Strait of Juan de Fuca; the company has the support of the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC), which will implement the following:

  • An investment in WCMRC of over $150 million
  • Five new response bases and new vessels added strategically along BC’s southern shipping line (three of these will have 24/7 operations)
  • This will ensure response capacity resident in Salish Sea will be 20,000 tonnes – twice Transport Canada’s Tier 4 capacity
  • Spill notifications in Port of Vancouver will have a two-hour response time
  • Spill notifications outside any port between Vancouver and the western entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait will have a six-hour response time


Liability: Who’s Responsible?

In Canada, full responsibility for an oil spill lies with the shipowner. However, there are programs set in place to help offset these costs, including The Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund, which is funded by levies collected from oil cargo companies, and International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds.


Final Thoughts

While the risk for ship-source oil spills will exist as long as oil is transported by water (note that over 50% of global oil supply is transported via water every single day), significant and extensive measures have been taken and will continue to be taken to minimize this risk.  Canadian oil develop continues to hold the highest environmental standard globally, and TMEP is no exception. One safety advantage tankers leaving Canadian West Coast ports have is that they must have a marine pilot on board who is familiar with and has been trained in British Columbia, while many foreign vessels, such as those carrying oil between Alaska and Washington state, could be operated by a crew who have never been through the Salish Sea and are unfamiliar with its terrain. It is far more likely for these foreign-originating vessels to incur an incident which would result in a spill than for those originating in Canada.

TMEP: Let's Talk Tankers - Part 1

Years ago, few of us in the energy sector would have predicted the national conflict Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. (TSX:KML)’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project (TMEP) has created. Deliberations over the project, which will twin the existing pipeline, in operation since 1953, between Strathcona County, AB and Burnaby, BC, have been long-winded. With the May 31, 2018 deadline for the company to abandon the project fast approaching, the question of safety in relationship to tanker traffic off Canada’s West Coast has become one of the many environmentalist hotspots.

In the first part of our 2018 Tanker series, we review tanker traffic (current and post-TMEP), where the current traffic is destined, and the associated oil volumes. Our second part will dive into spill risk and spill history in or near Canadian waters and discuss the potential risk of increased tanker traffic due to TMEP. In our final piece we will wrap everything up and hopefully include good news regarding the continuation of the project.

Where is Trans Mountain Pipeline Currently Moving Oil?

Currently, four percent of the oil coming from Trans Mountain’s Edmonton Terminal goes to the Kamloops Terminal where there are two storage tanks. 33 percent goes to the Burnaby Terminal where crude oil is delivered and temporarily stored in 13 storage tanks for distribution to Westridge Marine Terminal for shipping. 9 percent goes directly to Westridge, which in addition to shipping crude oil also receives jet fuel that is then delivered to Vancouver International Airport through the jet fuel pipeline system. And finally, 54 percent of crude oil moved by Trans Mountain Pipeline goes to the Puget Sound System in Washington for delivery to the state’s refineries at Anacortes, Cherry Point, and Ferndale.

Tanker Facts

Over half of the world’s oil travels by tanker. The capacity of these vessels is measured in dead weight tonnes (DWT), which is the total weight a ship can carry including fuel cargo, crew, and provisions. This weight can range from a few thousand DWT on smaller vessels to 550,000 DWT on the largest.

Canada’s oil tanker movements are primarily out of its seven largest shipping ports: Vancouver, BC; Quebec City, QC; Montreal, QC; Come by Chance, NF; Newfoundland Offshore; Port Hawkesbury, NS; and Saint John, NB. According to Transport Canada, these ports see approximately 20,000 tanker movements annually, and of these, 17,000 (85 percent) are off the Atlantic Coast. Below is a snapshot of the transportation of oil as cargo in Canadian waters by region:

Energy East, its logical development, and its potential benefit can be discussed another day. On the West Coast, where we will focus our discussion, Canada saw roughly 197,513 vessel departures and arrivals in 2015. Of these, 1,487 were tankers, making up 0.75 percent of total traffic. Oil on the West Coast is moved primarily through three ports: Prince Rupert, Kitimat, and the largest, Vancouver. Approximately 700,000 barrels of oil per day move through the Vancouver region via barges, and refined tankers, and each month five outbound tankers carrying crude make their way to the ocean.  TMEP is forecast to increase this number to up to 37, which will account for 14 percent of today’s marine traffic in Port of Vancouver. Aframax tankers, which have a capacity of 80,000 to 120,000 DWT or 850,000 barrels, are the largest tankers permitted to operate out of this port, and this will not change after TMEP. To accommodate the increased volume TMEP will create, Burnaby’s Westridge Marine Terminal will undergo a significant expansion based on the loading of tankers up to Aframax size. This will include the construction of three new berths, though it is unlikely they will ever all be full at the same time. After TMEP, this terminal will move as much as 630,000 barrels per day (bpd) of the total 890,000 bpd expected to be moved by Trans Mountain after the expansion project.

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Canadian vs. American Tankers

At any given time, the current ratio of Canadian tankers to US tankers in the Salish Sea (the collection of Puget Sound, the Juan de Fuca Strait, and the Strait of Georgia near Vancouver) is roughly one to nine, meaning marine traffic off Canada’s West Coast is primarily American by a large percentage. There are five refineries in Washington state versus one in British Columbia to drive this discrepancy. The following map represents tanker traffic density in the Pacific region and the route Alaskan tankers take from Alaska to Washington State. The amount of tanker traffic in the Juan de Fuca Strait (which is bordered by British Columbia to the north and Washington state to the south) is astounding – mostly due to the amount of volume INTO Washington. Approximately 1.2 million barrels per day travel through the Strait, and of these, about 500,000 barrels are en route to the Seattle area and have mostly come directly from Alaska.

Washington is heavily reliant on foreign oil imports, as the state is not permanently connected to the U.S. oil market. 46 percent of the state’s oil was imported by tanker in 2017, with the remaining amount supplied by trains and the existing Trans Mountain pipeline. In 2017, 102 million barrels of oil moved through Washington Ports. According to Washington’s Department of Ecology, up to 70 percent of oil imported by sea came directly from Alaska. This oil must cruise the entire British Columbia coastline, whereas oil tankers filling up at Burnaby’s Westridge Terminal head straight West to the open ocean.

Examining the Risk

Even after TMEP, the number of tankers carrying diluted bitumen from British Columbia will be miniscule compared to foreign tankers travelling through the same waters. However, the increase in volume has still raised some alarm, especially regarding the potential of spills and the environmental impact they bring with them. In our next installment, we will explore the history of oil spills in Canadian Waters, both on the East and West Coasts, and the safety and preventative measures being proposed by Kinder Morgan and the Canadian Government to negate these accidents.

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