Transporting oil by pipelines is more than twice as safe as using rail, and marine tankers are safer still with a markedly improved safety record over the past 40 years, according to a new study released by the Fraser Institute, a Canadian policy think-tank.
The study updates previous research that finds pipelines are 2.5 times less likely to experience a spill than rail, with an occurrence rate of 0.03 accidents per million barrels of oil shipped by pipeline between 2004 and 2015, compared to 0.08 accidents per million barrels of oil shipped by rail over the same period. Marine tankers, by comparison, have a spill rate of less than 0.001 per million barrels of oil shipped.
While oil shipped by tanker has increased from 1.4 billion tonnes in 1970 to 2.9 billion tonnes in 2015, the amount of spillage has plummeted by 98%. Specifically, in 1970, there was 383,000 tonnes of oil released in spills globally compared to just 6,000 tonnes in 2016.