Cleanup Problems

emrbency responder with faces mask, helmet, gloves, firepants, carrying firehose over his shoulder
Emergency Response & Clean Up Challenges

Cleaning up a tar sand spill poses special challenges since Dilbit is heavier than water. The heavier components of Dilbit, due to the raw bitumen, will sink.

Therefore, a spill may require more dredging than a conventional oil spill.[1] Sunlight causes the bitumen crude to form a dense, sticky tar substance which is hard to remove.[2]

In the State Department’s analysis of the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Keystone XL, the agency admitted that it cannot fully analyze the chemical transported since the Dilbit make-up is considered to be proprietary information. As a result, the EPA has stated that it cannot fully determine the full spill impacts that tar sand crude would have on groundwater.


1.^The Northern Great Plains at Risk: Oil Spill Planning Deficiencies in Keystone Pipeline System, Plains Justice, 2010, p. 7,

2.^Understanding Oil Spills and Oil Spill Response, Environmental Protection Agency, 2009, Chapter 2: Mechanical Containment and Recovery of Oil Following a Spill,