A new study conducted by the Fraser Institute, a non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank, has concluded that transporting oil and gas by rail is much riskier than moving it by pipeline.
Utilizing newly compiled data from Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) and Transport Canada, the study, Safety in the Transportation of Oil and Gas: Pipelines or Rail?, finds that the rate of occurrences (incidents or accidents) per million barrels of oil transported is more than 4.5 times higher for rail than it is for pipelines for the period 2003-2013.
“Federally regulated pipelines in Canada currently move just under 15 times more hydrocarbons than do the railroads. But with increased production and continued opposition to new pipeline infrastructure, more and more oil is being pushed to rail – a mode of transport which is more likely to experience a spill,” said study lead author Kenneth P. Green, Fraser Institute senior director of natural resources studies.
Between 2003 and 2013 — because of larger transport volumes — pipelines did experience more occurrences compared to rail (1,226 versus 296). But, according to the TSB, the vast majority (99 per cent) of those incidents or accidents did not damage the environment.
The study's detractors say there is no safe way to transport oil and given the threat of climate change the discussion should be centered on the need to reduce the transmission of petroleum.