Whodunit? The Case of the Disappearing Dilbit

May 8, 2013

As the Obama administration ponders the coming decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, the "Case of the Disappearing Dilbit" has drawn increased attention.

Dilbit — or diluted bitumen — is the tar sands oil product that would be shipped south to Gulf refineries via KXL. Dilbit from Canadian tar sands was the product that spilled in July 2010 from the Enbridge Inc. pipeline near Kalamazoo, Michigan. It was the biggest tar sands oil spill in US history. Enbridge is the company proposing to build the KXL pipeline.

Just how much dilbit spilled into the Kalamazoo River and adjacent wetlands in 2010?  Well, it's really hard to say, because every barrel counted will mean extra penalties for natural resource damages to be paid by Enbridge. Hard, at least, for Enbridge and government agencies.

This week reporter Lisa Song — yes, the one threatened with arrest by ExxonMobil at its recent Arkansas oil spill — published the story of the Disappearing Dilbit. Song reports for InsideClimate News — yes, the online publication that just won a National Reporting Pulitzer for its coverage of the 2010 Enbridge spill.

Song noted that as recently as March 2013, EPA's website had shown 1,149,460 gallons of oil recovered from the Kalamazoo spill. Sometime in mid-March, she reports, that number was removed from the EPA site and replaced by one much lower, the amount Enbridge claims was spilled.

"In other words," Song writes,"36 percent more oil has been recovered than was spilled."