Trans Mountain Pipeline operators ignored alarms warning of Abbotsford oil spill: report

By Gordon Hamilton, Vancouver Sun

Kinder Morgan’s Sumas terminal or tank farm sits across from the intersection of McKee Road and Sumas Mountain Road in Abbotsford. Residents who smell vapours report to the emergency number.
Kinder Morgan’s Sumas terminal or tank farm sits across from the intersection of McKee Road and Sumas Mountain Road in Abbotsford. Residents who smell vapours report to the emergency number.

A National Energy Board report reveals that Trans Mountain Pipeline operators ignored warning alarms for three-and-a-half hours before responding to a gasket failure that resulted in a crude oil spill last January at its Sumas tank farm near Abbotsford.

It took six hours after the first warning sounded for Trans Mountain’s Sumas operator to arrive on the scene, where a spill was discovered. The crude oil did not escape from a containment area but noxious fumes were released into the atmosphere, affecting nearby residents.

The NEB estimates 90,000 litres of crude oil escaped.

This latest oil spill report comes at a time when pipeline owner Kinder Morgan is applying to expand the pipeline’s capacity from 300,000 barrels a year to 750,000 barrels to feed Asian markets. It has given the company a black eye, said Ben West, of the Wilderness Committee.

The report is critical of monitoring staff at Trans Mountain’s control centre at Edmonton, stating that the control centre operator failed to set an alarm within the required time limit of 15 minutes after an oil transfer had taken place at the Sumas tank farm the evening of Jan. 23, and then failed to respond to leak warning alarms that sounded every hour until the operator’s shift ended.

The NEB report finds that the leak was detected later than it should have been, the control centre operator did not follow procedures and there were improper alarm settings in a recently-installed data acquisition system. The board states Trans Mountain Pipeline has identified corrective actions to address the report’s findings.

“The board finds that these actions are appropriate to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future.”

The report, which was released earlier this month, states that the operator assumed the alarms were being caused by high winds and did not send a field technician to investigate.

Further, the operator failed to understand that the volume in the tank was dropping.

“The night shift CCO (control centre operator) did notice the trend, but considering the initial volume change as relatively small, interpreted the cause as a weather event, not a possible leak,” states the report.

The spill happened at an undetermined time around midnight Jan. 23 as a result of a gasket failure on the roof of a tank caused by pressure from frozen water in the roof drain system.

The temperature was cold and a strong wind was blowing. There had been a transfer of warmer crude oil into the tank earlier in the evening; after the transfer, the control centre operator failed to set the warning alarm.

There were two alarm systems, a new system and a legacy system. The new alarm was set at 11:26 p.m., Jan. 23 but the one that the operator was to use for monitoring, the legacy system, was not set until 1:11 a.m., Jan. 24.

At 2:39 a.m., Jan. 24 the first alarm from the legacy system was received. The command centre operator decided it was a false alarm.

At 3:11 a second alarm was received, from the new system being installed on the pipeline, but the operator again assumed it was a false alarm.

At 4:11, a third alarm was received. The centre operator deemed it notable but did not see any change in the tank level so left a note on it for the day shift.

A new shift arrived at 5 a.m. The day operator reviewed tank levels but determined the one-cubic-metre change was within the accuracy level of the measuring device.

At 5:47 the fourth alarm was received and at 5:50, the operator called the Sumas terminal operator to investigate. The terminal operator arrived on the site at 6:50, discovered the leak and closed the roof drain, isolating the source.

The control centre received the first odour complaint at 7 a.m.

The fact that, similar to Enbridge’s 2010 spill on the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, Trans Mountain Pipeline staff ignored warning alarms raises concerns over Trans Mountain’s plans to twin its Edmonton-to-Burnaby pipeline, said Jay Ritchlin, director-general of the David Suzuki Foundation.

“Even with highly advanced systems you will have a spill. This case seems to be a really egregious case of human error. It’s tragic. What you have is the release of a chemical that does significant harm to human health and the environment during the peak period when you could actually hope to do something about it,” he said. “I think people are seeing more and more instances of spills … and are seeing difficulty in getting any realistic response. I think it will make people more suspicious that these kinds of things can be run safely.”

After the spill, Kinder Morgan spokesperson Lexa Hobenshield said the only threat to residents was from nuisance odours.

In an email Tuesday, she said: “We take all incidents at our facilities seriously. Kinder Morgan Canada completed a thorough investigation and learned lessons after oil from a storage tank was released into a fully contained area on KMC’s Sumas Terminal property on January 24, 2012.

“As a result of our investigation, we have established new prevention and community notification measures, which we have communicated to the Sumas Mountain community, and will continue to provide updates as needed.” (What are these?)

Abbotsford resident and pipeline opponent Michael Hale, who discovered the NEB report, said it reinforces his concerns.

“There seems to be a propensity on the company’s part to minimize the seriousness of what was involved,” he said.

ghamilton@vancouversun.com

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Kinder Morgan ignored warnings in Sumas Mountain oil spill: report

As Kinder Morgan visits Fraser Valley communities holding open houses on its Trans Mountain oil pipeline twinning project, the National Energy Board (NEB) has issued a critical report into the company’s oil spill in Abbotsford earlier this year.

On Jan. 24, 110,000 litres of oil leaked from a holding tank at Kinder Morgan’s Sumas Mountain terminal site. The cause was pressure on a gasket caused by freezing water, according to the NEB.

The report issued earlier this month to interested parties and posted on the NEB site on Nov. 22 found “the leak was detected later than it should have been,” the company’s management of procedures was “inadequate” and that the operator “failed to recognize the leak situation” on two occasions.

Critics of the company and its Trans Mountain pipeline say the report reveals deficiencies in Kinder Morgan’s response to leaks.

“When I ask the company about the risk of spills they point to the spill at the tank farm in Abbotsford in January this year, which they claim was ‘quickly contained,'” Michael Hale, Chilliwack resident and member of the PIPE UP network said. “Over 110,000 litres of a noxious petroleum product were spilled. The more information I get, including this report from the National Energy Board, suggests that the containment was not that simple or quick.”

In material handed out at the Chilliwack open house on Tuesday, the company says: “Trans Mountain pump stations and terminals have monitoring and spill containment systems that are rigorously maintained and meet NEB standards.”

The comparison has been made to the huge oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010 that was not noticed by Enbridge’s monitoring system in Edmonton for 17 hours.

In the Abbotsford spill, the NEB report said that at 2:39 a.m. on Jan. 24, a “creep” alarm was received at Trans Mountain’s Edmonton control centre but it was determined to be a false alarm due to high winds.

A second alarm at 3:11 a.m. was also dismissed as false.

It took two more alarms and a shift change before a terminal operator was sent out at 5:50 a.m. to attend the Sumas site and investigate the cause of the alarm.

At 6:50 a.m.-four hours after the first alarm-the operator arrived on site, discovered the leak, closed the valve and isolated the source.

There were no injuries or environmental damage as the leak was contained to the site although noxious fumes were released that affected neighbours.

The NEB was notified of the leak at 8:16 a.m. after the Transportation Safety Board and before the nearby Auguston Traditional School, the Abbotsford Police, FVRD, Fraser Health and MLAs John van Dongen and Randy Hawes, among other agencies.

Since 1961, there have been 78 reported spills on the Trans Mountain pipeline some of which were below the reportable threshold of 1.5 cubic barrels.

More than 70 per cent of all spills have occurred at pump stations or terminals, according to Kinder Morgan.

The company is currently amid public consultation meetings on a $4.3-billion twinning of its 1,150-kilometre pipeline. This would more than double the capacity from 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 750,000 bpd.

For its part, Kinder Morgan representatives say they have learned from recommendations made after every spill.

Critics are quick to point to incidents such as the one in Abbotsford as a cause for concern.

“Including the spill 2012, there have been a total of four major spills since Kinder Morgan bought this line in 2005,” said Chilliwack resident and PIPE UP member Sheila Muxlow. “One in Abbotsford in 2005 spilled 210,000 litres into Kilgard Creek. A spill of 250,000 litres in Burnaby in 2007 caused people to be evacuated from their homes, a cleanup that took over a year and fines levied on Kinder Morgan. Another spill in Burnaby in 2009 resulted in 200,000 litres being spilled at the tank farm there.”

The Nov. 22 report concluded: “The NEB expects companies to demonstrate a commitment to continual improvement in safety, security, and environmental protection, and in promoting a positive safety culture and strong management systems. The Board is satisfied that TMPU’s corrective actions are appropriate to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future.”

phenderson@chilliwacktimes.com

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BP oil spill cleanup toxic to key species

Using oil-dispersing chemicals during the massive 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico likely did far more damage than good to a crucial aquatic animal, according to new research that wades into the hotly contested question of whether and when to use the chemicals following an oil spill.

The dispersant used by oil company BP, when mixed with crude oil, was found to be 52 times more toxic than oil alone to some microscopic plankton-like organisms called rotifers.

About 6.8 million litres of the chemical – called Corexit 9500A — were released into the Gulf of Mexico to try to mitigate the devastating underwater petroleum leak caused by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig on April 20, 2010.

An oil-covered brown pelican sits in a pool of petroleum off the Louisiana coast on June 5, 2010. Oil-spill recovery efforts sometimes have to choose between allowing oil to flow into sensitive coastal fish and bird habitats, or dispersing it into subsea depths where it can kill plankton-like species.An oil-covered brown pelican sits in a pool of petroleum off the Louisiana coast on June 5, 2010. Oil-spill recovery efforts sometimes have to choose between allowing oil to flow into sensitive coastal fish and bird habitats, or dispersing it into subsea depths where it can kill plankton-like species. (Sean Gardner/Reuters)

At the time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other government bodies agonized over whether to use dispersants and, if so, which ones and how much.

Dispersants cause giant pools of spilled oil floating atop the sea to break up into tiny droplets that then dilute with water just below the surface. The process helps creatures including turtles, birds and mammals that need access to the surface, and also ensures less oil flows ashore where it can choke coastal wildlife. However, it increases the amount of oil just below the surface, potentially contaminating the organisms that live there.

Scientists at the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes in Mexico and the Georgia Institute of Technology now say Corexit 9500A is far more harmful than previously thought to a key dweller of those sub-surface depths.

They studied the effect of oil, of Corexit 9500A, and of various mixtures of both on five species of rotifer from the genus brachionus. The rotifers are a core element at the base of the Gulf Coast food chain, where they’re eaten by crabs, shrimp and small fish.

The research, released online Friday ahead of its publication in the February 2013 issue of the scientific journal Environmental Pollution, found that on their own, the oil and dispersant were equally toxic. But when combined, the oil and dispersant increased toxicity to one of the rotifer species by a factor of 52.

“What remains to be determined is whether the benefits of dispersing the oil by using Corexit are outweighed by the substantial increase in toxicity of the mixture,” said study co-author Terry Snell, chair of Georgia Tech’s biology school. “Perhaps we should allow the oil to naturally disperse. It might take longer, but it would have less toxic impact on marine ecosystems.”
EPA tested on shrimp and fish

The research paper looked at rotifers because they’re a common litmus test in ecological studies of toxicity, due to their sensitivity and quick reactions to contaminants.

Previous studies on oil-spill dispersants, particularly ones done by the Environmental Protection Agency while the BP well was still leaking, looked at other organisms. The EPA’s tests were based on shrimp and a small fish that lives in estuaries called a silverside, and they found that nearly all dispersants, when mixed with oil, were no more toxic than the oil alone.

Oil dispersant and a sheen float atop the water off the coast of Louisiana in May 2010, in the midst of the BP spill. The latest study on dispersants says they may cause far more harm than previously thought to aquatic organisms called rotifers.Oil dispersant and a sheen float atop the water off the coast of Louisiana in May 2010, in the midst of the BP spill. The latest study on dispersants says they may cause far more harm than previously thought to aquatic organisms called rotifers. (Matt Stamey/Houma Courier/AP)

That may have led the agency to permit more dispersant to be used than it would otherwise have allowed.

“Our study indicates the increase in toxicity may have been greatly underestimated following the … well explosion,” said Roberto-Rico Martinez of the Mexican university, the rotifer study’s lead author.

The issue has been hotly debated in the United States ever since the Deepwater Horizon exploded. The Senate’s environment and appropriations committees both held hearings on the use of dispersants in summer 2010, and several environmental groups have sued the EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard over the regulation and use of the chemicals.

The new study emerged as three BP managers were in court this week for arraignment on criminal charges related to the disaster. A fourth worker, a former BP engineer, also faces charges.

In all, the British Petroleum oil leak was the largest offshore petroleum spill in U.S. history, sending 4.9 million barrels (584 million litres) of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

No million-barrel tankers in plan: Kinder Morgan

Author
Jennifer Moreau

Kinder Morgan is not expecting giant Suezmax tankers in the Burrard Inlet, should the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion go through, contrary to the company’s original pitch to investors in 2010.

Greg Toth, project director for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, said there’s a lot of misinformation about the pipeline, and the company is hoping to clear up misconceptions at two public information sessions in Burnaby this Saturday and Monday.

“The common ones are everything from the size of tankers – that we’re going to be moving super tankers, and our business case for expansion is really predicated on the same size of tankers we use today, the Afromax class tankers,” Toth said. “That’s the maximum size of ship we load today.”

Afromax is a class of tankers that can carry 650,000 barrels of oil if fully loaded. (Kinder Morgan’s customers load their Afromax tankers to 90 per cent capacity, according to Toth.)

“There will be smaller tankers that we also load,” Toth said. “It’s really the shippers of the oil that make the arrangement of the oil for transportation. It may be a mix

of Afromax tankers and the smaller Panamax tankers and some barges.”

Suezmax tankers have a maximum capacity of 1 million barrels when fully loaded, and according to an earlier presentation to investors from Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson, Suezmax tankers were definitely in the picture.

The 2010 presentation outlines the expansion plans for the Westridge Marine Terminal and lists Suezmax tankers in the future and expanded dock capacity with two berths.

According to the presentation, Port Metro Vancouver was supportive of the expansion.

Kinder Morgan’s $4 billion expansion plan will more than double the line’s capacity from 300,000 barrels a day to 750,000. The Trans Mountain pipeline is the only line that runs oil prod-

ucts from Alberta to the West Coast.

Burnaby-Douglas MP Kennedy Stewart has been following the pipeline issue since he was elected in spring 2011, and he was given a copy of the presentation when he met with Anderson.

“They were quite clear from the beginning (that) their expansion included

dredging under the Second Narrows Bridge and bringing in a larger class tanker, but I suspect there’s been some pushback from the public on this and they’ve dropped it from their proposal,” Stewart said. “If you ask the investors who have signed these long-term contracts with Kinder Morgan, I’m sure they are counting on this as part of the plan.

“I think it’s ecome an inconve-ient truth for the ompany,” he said. They’ve done their olling, I’m sure, nd they know this s a major sticking oint, and so they

are going to deny that this will ever happen in the future, that this is not connected.”

According to Kinder Morgan spokesperson Ali Hounsell, Anderson’s 2010 presentation was old information from before the company’s “open season.” (The open season was a call out to shippers, to see whether they would sign up for long-term contracts should the pipeline expansion go through.)

“It’s not being considered anymore,” Hounsell said. “Really, Trans Mountain, Kinder Morgan is indifferent to the size. We just thought in 2010 that was one of the ideas the customers might be interested in, that they might want or need the commitment to larger ships to support the expansion, but that wasn’t the case.

“In the end, the shippers are committed to the expansion based on the existing regulations, including the limitations in the Port Metro Vancouver harbour operations manual that restricts the size of the vessels.

“So, it was not, in the end, needed. All that was before the open season process,” she said.

Kinder Morgan has yet to apply to the National Energy Board for project approval.

The company’s two open house information sessions will be on Saturday, Nov. 24 at Stoney Creek Community School, 2740 Beaverbrook Cres., drop in from 1 to 4 p.m.; and Monday, Nov. 26 at Eagle Creek Restaurant at Burnaby Mountain Golf Course, 7600 Halifax St., drop in from 5 to 8 p.m. www.twitter.com/

staff reporter
© Copyright (c) Burnaby Now

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Ottawa may try emotional tack for pipeline support

By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Ottawa may try to tug at Canadians’ emotions as a way to build public support for building pipelines to ship growing crude production to the West, East and South, the federal natural resources minister said on Friday.

The International Energy Agency’s new forecast of booming U.S. light oil production has only added urgency to the need to build pipelines so Western Canadian crude can get to new markets, such as Asia and Eastern Canada, as the United States edges closer to self-sufficiency over the next 15 years, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said.

But many Canadians, enamored with their country’s natural beauty, remain wary of the environmental impacts of such proposed projects as Enbridge Inc’s Northern Gateway pipeline to the Pacific Coast from Alberta and new pipeline capacity to Montreal and points east, Oliver said.

Having already devoted major efforts to explaining the economic reasons for such developments with statistics and forecasts, it is time to communicate “at an emotive level”, he told a Calgary business audience.

“I think we have to realize that this is a huge challenge, because if we don’t get people on side, if we don’t get the social license, politics often follows opinion,” he said. “We could well get a positive regulatory conclusion from the joint panel that’s looking at Northern Gateway, but if the population is not on side there’s a big problem.”

He described shifting public opinion as the biggest challenge facing the need to build energy infrastructure in Canada.

Oliver decried some environmental groups that he said will oppose any and all energy developments out of hand. They would not be the target of such communications.

He has already delved into the emotive. At the start of the Northern Gateway hearings early this year, he issued a statement blasting “environmental and other radical groups” who only want to block Canada’s aims at diversifying energy trade.

A new campaign aimed at Canadians across the country would be somewhat less provocative, Oliver suggested.

“There’s a history in the country of resource development being part of the lives of Canadians and the prosperity of Canadians, and I think if we can make people understand how resources are so integral to Canadian history, that’s something a lot of people in this country feel proud about,” he said.

The joint review panel hearing the Northern Gateway application faces deadline of the end of 2013 to issue a decision on the project, which would move 550,000 barrels of Alberta crude a day to the West Coast. From there it could be shipped across the Pacific on tankers.

Environmental and many aboriginal groups staunchly oppose it. Enbridge and TransCanada Corp have also proposed projects to move oil to Eastern Canada, though opposition to those concepts is building as well.

Oliver denied that he was becoming less supportive of Northern Gateway, saying he had never promoted a specific project, just the need to move oil to the coast.

(Editing by M.D. Golan)

© Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved.

Risks not worth it

Author
Lise Kreps

Dear Editor:

Re: Pipeline is near schools, Burnaby NOW, Nov. 28.

I, too, am a parent concerned about the Kinder-Morgan pipeline’s effect on Burnaby schools. Not only are three schools close to the current pipeline – Stoney Creek, Lyndhurst, and Forest Grove – but it also passes within a block of Burnaby North Secondary School, Capitol Hill Elementary School and Confederation Park Elementary School. At the intersection of Gamma and Dundas, it passes by the corner of my child’s school playground in Confederation Park.

When this same pipeline broke in North Burnaby in 2007, it sprayed oil on houses over 100 metres away, contaminating gardens and even getting inside open windows. 250 residents had to be evacuated.

Surely we cannot afford to increase the risk of this hazard for six of our local schools.

Lise Kreps, Burnaby
© Copyright (c) Burnaby Now

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