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Pipeline expansions for the transportation of Canadian crude to refining markets in the United States are currently under regulatory review. The transported oil originates primarily from the Alberta oil sands and consists of diluted bitumen, also referred to as dilbit. Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures completed a project for Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions reviewing the current status on the corrosivity of dilbit in pipelines as compared to conventional or ‘non-oil sands derived’ crude oil.
It has been suggested that dilbit has higher acid, sulfur, and chloride salts concentrations, as well as higher concentrations of more abrasive solids. It is furthermore suggested that dilbit transmission pipelines operate at higher operating temperatures compared with conventional crude, which would make the dilbit more corrosive, thus leading to a higher failure rate than observed for pipelines transporting conventional crude. This review examines these concerns in light of the properties of dilbit in comparison with conventional oils. In addition, statistical data are presented to show if the concerns are supported by operating experience.