Margot Cormier Splane Visual Artist

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Internationally Award Winning Artist

Pandora’s Trojan Horse Patrols the Pipeline


Acrylic on Canvas ~ 2013
30 x 38″ ~ 77 x 96 cm

Pandora’s Trojan Horse Patrols an oil pipe line through a pristine treed landscape. A spill could cause great harm to landscapes and waterways.

I am not sure how I feel about shipping oil through a pipeline. Certainly there are a lot of environmental risks involved, however if the oil has to be moved, I am not sure that putting many hundreds of additional trucks on the road would in the end a better environmental choice. Putting bitumen through a pipeline on the other hand is an easy call, it is a very bad idea. A report that CIBC, ( a Bank), created was widely quoted by the Harper government, and industry as proof that the only way forward in the oil industry is to build more pipelines to get the raw bitumen out quickly. This report is prefaced with the following quote “the firm (CIBC) may have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of this report.”

Conventional crude is a liquid that can be pumped from the ground and shipped through pipelines directly to refineries. Bitumen is too thick to be pumped, there are two ways to retrieve it, surface bitumen is mined with shovels and processed to remove the sand and clay. Underground bitumen is extracted by injecting steam and solvents into the ground and pumping the heated bitumen up to the surface. The recovered bitumen is 1,000 times more viscous than light crude oil, and is the heaviest crude oil used today. If the bitumen is piped in this unprocessed state, it has to be diluted with a high cost light crude or gasoline solvent, also known as condensate. This condensate which makes up between 25 and 50 % of the diluted bitumen by volume, has to be imported from outside of Canada at a great financial cost, and with a vast increase in Tanker traffic, and a whole new set of pipelines required to bring the condensate into the oil sands to blend with the bitumen.

The environmental risks posed by a bitumen spill are many times greater than with a conventional oil spill. Most of the chemicals found in conventional oil are middle weight, “light enough to float, but too heavy to gas off into the atmosphere.” When a spill of diluted bitumen occurs it separates into condensate and bitumen. The condensate made up of a light crude or gasoline and solvent blend is very volatile and evaporates into the air causing serious air quality problems. The bitumen is heavy, and sinks into the bottom of river beds, or deeper into the soil making it extremely difficult and costly to remove. Almost 3 years after the bitumen spill in the Kalamazoo River, the cleanup is still not complete.

If we build a vast infrastructure to pipe out raw bitumen and a second set to pipe in condensate at 4 or 5 billion dollars a pipeline, we will be locked into a cycle of exporting raw resources with no value added, and with the bulk of the profits going to mostly foreign owned oil companies. We need to look at what is in the long term best interest of Canada and the environment, and that is to build refineries and process the bitumen close to the Oil Sands. This would eliminate the need for a vast system of condensate pipes, it would eliminate the huge cost of condensate which would no longer be needed to dilute the bitumen, and the synthetic crude produced while not being without risk, would be a far safer, value added, and less controversial product to send through a pipeline.

This painting has participated in the following International Exhibit;

Painting on the Edge, Federation of Canadian Artists Gallery, Vancouver BC 2013