BURNABY, B.C. Two suburban roads lay bare the promise and peril of a proposed $5.4-billion expansion to Kinder Morgan Canada Inc.s Trans Mountain pipeline through the densely populated Lower Mainland.
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VANCOUVER An inky-blue dawn breaks across Burrard Inlet as the oil tanker British Beech glides into view. On the bridge of the tugboat Raven, captain Don Westmoreland, 59, peers at a video monitor that registers the vessels bearing and speed. Thats our ship right there, he says.
At the corner of Schooner Street and United Boulevard in the Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam, a 24-inch pipeline cuts under the road, past a Starbucks and a Triple Os burger franchise, before diving under the Fraser River.
In 2002, Kinder Morgan threaded a 1,300-metre section of the pipeline under the road after seismic tests revealed soil along the river bank, where the pipeline had earlier been moved to accommodate a Home Depot, was subject to liquefaction, which made it unstable.
Its an example, said Greg Toth, senior director with the Trans Mountain expansion, of modern pipeline construction techniques in action. You can thread [a length of pipeline] down a street, put a stake in the ground and come up within a metre of that stake, he said in an interview at the companys Calgary office.
A rupture five years later of a transfer line on the Trans Mountain system pierced by a contractors excavator that sprayed 11 houses with a geyser of crude oil along Inlet Drive in nearby Burnaby underscores the flipside of such precision.
The two episodes shine a light on the urban geography the Canadian arm of the Houston-based pipeline company faces as it looks to more than double capacity on its Edmonton-to-Vancouver pipeline to 890,000 barrels per day, from 300,000 barrels today.
Burnaby accounts for 4% of the land area of Metro Vancouver, but about 10% of the regions population. It is the third-most populated urban centre in British Columbia, according to the municipal website.
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The citys community gardens, elementary schools and multimillion-dollar homes stand in sharp contrast to the largely rural landscape the expanded pipeline would traverse next door in Alberta.
The proposed expansion represents a massive intrusion into Burnaby, said Kennedy Stewart, the NDP MP for Burnaby-Douglas whose constituency includes Kinder Morgans Westridge dock and terminal facilities.
On a recent afternoon, he drove through a labyrinth of suburban streets within sight of Chevron Corp.s refinery, which employs 400 people, pointing to where the existing pipeline passes close to homes and schools. In some areas the 24-inch diametre pipeline is marked by a painted stripe on the pavement. In others, a yellow utility sign sticks up from the ground.
People are very concerned about their primary investments, which is their property, Mr. Stewart said. Burnaby has grown to such a degree that if the pipeline goes along the existing right-of-way there will be no choice but to expropriate land, he said.
Jeff Lewis/National PostThe proposed expansion represents a massive intrusion into Burnaby, said Kennedy Stewart, the NDP MP for Burnaby-Douglas whose constituency includes Kinder Morgans Westridge dock and terminal facilities.
The term is contentious, he acknowledges. But property owners need to know this stuff, because once the bulldozers are at your front door its too late to do anything.
Kinder Morgan, in a project information guide, says it has agreements in place with landowners along the proposed route from Edmonton, where the pipeline begins, to its terminus at Burnaby, who have allowed Trans Mountain to build and operate the existing pipeline.
The order-in-council issued in 1951 by Parliament, in addition to approving the original construction, included permission to expand the pipeline known as multi-pipeline rights. Thats really not what were hanging our hat on when it comes to selecting a route, Mr. Toth said.
Property owners need to know this stuff, because once the bulldozers are at your front door its too late to do anything
Instead, he said, company officials are meeting with the B.C. Ministry of Transport, BC Hydro and those with existing linear rights-of-way to determine alternative routing options where new buildings obstruct the pipelines path. We will alter our construction practices to fit the space, Mr. Toth said.
The expansion entails building two new, 30-inch diametre transfer pipelines from the Burnaby storage terminal to the Westridge dock, where volumes are loaded onto tankers for export.
It was a similar pipeline that workers punctured in 2007 when excavating a trench to replace a storm sewer line. No explosions, fires or injuries were reported, but roughly 250 residents voluntarily left their homes, according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada report into the incident. Some of the nearly 1,500 barrels of crude spilled made it into Burrard Inlet. The geyser spray hit two people.
The report found the pipeline was not accurately identified on design drawings that dated to 1957. Kinder Morgan exacerbated the spill by closing the wrong valve on the system, the report said.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan recalls the spill well. It happened on his watch.
To be put in a position like that as a municipality that we had to react with our fire department, our police, paying overtime, in order to try and prevent this from becoming an even worse disaster, you have to question whether these kinds of projects are reasonable to put on a dense, urban area, he said in an interview.
This is the second story in a three-part series.