Kinder Morgan announces plans to increase capacity of Trans Mountain pipeline to Vancouver

Trans Mountain pipelne
The Trans Mountain Pipeline (Kinder Morgan)

Kinder Morgan, of Houston, Texas,  said Thursday, April 12, 2012, it plans to proceed with expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline system from Alberta to the BC Lower Mainland. The company made the announcement after what the energy industry calls an “open season,” a search for customers where it received “strong binding commitments” from existing and new shippers. They pledged commercial support to an additional 660,000 barrels per day of bitumen sands crude from the pipeline. Demand has been high and reports say Kinder Morgan has had to ration petroleum products for its existing customers.

The 20 year commitment from the customers means the pipeline capacity would increase to 850,000 barrels per day from 550,000 barrels. That would make the eventual capacity of the Kinder Morgan pipeline much larger than Enbridge Northern Gateway’s proposed 525,000 barrels per day.

In a release,  Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada said, “We are extremely pleased with the strong commercial support that we received through the open season, which reinforces the appeal of our project and our approach. This strong commercial support shows the market’s enthusiasm for expanding market access for Canadian crude by expanding an existing system.”

Now Kinder Morgan has to get approval from the National Energy Board and acceptance from the local communities along the pipeline route from the Alberta bitumen sands to the terminals and refineries in Vancouver and in Washington state and for tanker export.

“This support from the market better defines the project and enables Kinder Morgan Canada to fully engage the local communities. We are still early in the engagement process of the project,” Anderson said in the release. “We share respectful, open relationships with many communities and organizations interested in our business. We are committed to an 18 to 24 month inclusive, extensive and thorough engagement on all aspects of the project with local communities along the proposed route and marine corridor, including First Nations and Aboriginal groups, environmental organizations and all other interested parties. We will also consider providing financial support to local communities for environmental initiatives. We have been planning for this day for many years and we are keen to start in depth engagement this summer.”

Kinder Morgan says the preliminary scope of the proposed project includes:


  • Projected capital cost of approximately $5 billion.
  • Twinning the existing pipeline within the existing right-of-way, where possible.
  • Adding new pump stations along the route.
  • Increasing the number of storage tanks at existing facilities.
  • Expanding the Westridge Marine Terminal.

Anderson added, “We anticipate filing a facilities application initiating a regulatory review with the National Energy Board in 2014. If our application is approved, construction is currently forecast to commence in 2016 with the proposed project operating by 2017.”

In addition to extensive engagement, the company will conduct traditional land use and environmental and socio-economic studies, and undertake detailed engineering and design studies, the release says.

The Trans Mountain proposal, like the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is a “facilities application,” and one uncertainty facing the company will be the highly controversial decision by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to speed up all future project applications of that type. Environmental groups have already expressed strong opposition to the speed up, while the energy industry has said faster application approval is long over due.

As well as the facilities application, Kinder Morgan says it will file “a commercial tolling application to review the company’s proposed commercial structure for the expansion. This filing, which is anticipated in summer 2012, will seek National Energy Board approval on how the company will charge its customers for transporting their product through the proposed expanded pipeline.”

Kinder Morgan says that for almost 60 years, the 1,150-km Trans Mountain pipeline system has been safely and efficiently providing the only west coast access for Canadian oil products, including about 90 percent of the gasoline supplied to the interior and south coast of British Columbia.

However, the continuing controversy over the Enbridge Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects, together with some accidents including the spill of 100,000 barrels of light crude near Abbotsford, has raised the profile of the Kinder Morgan line and therefore will likely bring more public scrutiny. Any increase in the capacity of the pipeline will also mean more tanker traffic in the already crowded waterways of the Vancouver harbour system and along the west coast.

Last June, Kinder Morgan also proposed the building of second pipeline from the bitumen sands to the west coast, roughly following the route of the Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat. There was no mention of that project in today’s announcement.


BC understands Gateway won’t create long term jobs, poll for Cullen shows

A poll released by Skeena Bulkley Valley MP and NDP leadership candidate, Nathan Cullen, shows that the majority of B.C. residents understand that the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project will not create long-term employment.

A release from Cullen’s office says that 61% of respondents to the Mustel poll believe that “most jobs are short-term and many long-term jobs will be lost because unrefined oil is being shipped to other countries for refining.”

This result contradicts an earlier Ipsos Reid poll conducted in December 2011. In that poll, respondents cited employment and economic reasons to be the main benefit.

“People get that the project will not create permanent jobs,” said Cullen said. “We certainly want jobs in my riding, but people are not going to settle for short-term cash instead of long-term value-added jobs.”

It its initial submission to the Joint Review Panel, Enbridge states that the project will offer less than 80 direct permanent jobs in B.C., Cullen’s release says.

“Most have understood that this project poses major risks to the environment. These poll results show that British Columbians see that there would be economic losses as well.”

The poll also showed that the majority of B.C. residents are aware of the proposed pipeline project, and that opposition outweighs support for the project.

A total of 87% are familiar with the proposal and have read or heard something about it. 46% oppose the construction of a pipeline in contrast to 37% who support it. The remaining 17% are undecided or do not have an opinion.

“The results convey what I’ve already heard on the ground,” said Cullen, who commissioned the survey. “There is simply too much at risk to push the project through.”

These findings also contradict the earlier Ipsos Reid poll where only 42% of respondents were somewhat or very familiar with the project. It also showed that only 32% opposed the pipeline.

“It appears that at the same time knowledge of the project is growing, so is opposition,” said Cullen.

The Mustel survey was based on 500 interviews completed by telephone (landlines and cellular) January 25 to February 8, 2012 with a margin of error of +/-4.4% at the 95% level of confidence.


Kitimat Council to consider new Enbridge forum after warning about avalanches on pipeline route

Douglas Channel Watch
Angus McLeod and Margaret Stenson, members of the environmental group Douglas Channel Watch, wear "ocean blue" scarves at a meeting of the District of Kitimat Council, March 5, 2012. The "ocean blue" scarves represent the group's determination to protect the oceans. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

District of Kitimat Council will consider a motion at its next meeting on March 19 to hold a second community forum on the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

The notice of motion was introduced by Councillor Mario Feldhoff after a request for a new forum by the environmental group Douglas Channel Watch.

Murray Minchin called for the forum after a presentation to council about the avalanche dangers at Nimbus Mountain, where Enbridge plans a tunnel through the mountain.

Minchin said Enbridge has not done a forest survey on Nimbus Mountain where the pipeline would emerge from the tunnel. However, a survey by Douglas Channel Watch members of tree growth on Nimbus Mountain, Hoult Creek on the pipeline route and Hunter Creek which are tributaries of the Kitimat River, shows strong evidence of previous avalanches which could cause serious damage to the twin bitumen and condensate pipelines.

Minchin says that documentation filed by Enbridge with the Joint Review Panel shows that while an Enbridge response crew could reach a breached pipeline in that area in four hours, it would also take four hours for as much as two million litres of diluted bitumen spilled in that area to reach the Kitimat River estuary.

The lower slopes in the area have a large population of young, small, closely packed trees and lumpy rock material on the forest floor that show that it is periodically “swept clean by avalanches,” Minchin told the council.

The young trees in the area are small because they are growing on rockfall, and there are no mature trees. There are large boulders on the lower slopes, another indication of avalanche or rock fall, Minchin said.

He showed images of middle aged hemlocks farther up the slope near the proposed tunnel exit that sometime in the past had their tops ripped off. Damage to the spreading branches of the trees on one side indicate that the trees were hit by an avalanche when they were young.

There is evidence of a major rockfall on the mountain about 50 metres above the proposed tunnel exit with rock fall material clearly visible on the forest floor. The curve of the hemlocks in the area indicate that there is still downhill movement on the slope, Minchin said.

That means, he said, that with the plans calling for the twin pipelines to be suspended 200 metres in the air over Hoult Creek, that could be hit by an avalanche.

He said the presence throughout the area of “avalanche alders” combined with the fact that there are no hemlocks, is an indication, Michin said, of regular avalanche activity.

Giant boulder brought to Houlte Creek by an avalanche
This photograph from Douglas Channel Watch shows a giant boulder and a fallen hemlock in area close to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline at Houlte Creek, BC. (Douglas Channel Watch)

He showed a photo of a large boulder, perhaps the size of a carport, 100 metres from the proposed tunnel exit that was brought to the area by an avalanche.

He said a study of the age of young balsam would tell an expert when the last massive avalanche occurred “but it won’t tell us when the next one will occur.” The steep slopes on Mount Houlte, leading to the pipeline route along Houtle creek mean that area which feeds the Kitimat River has seen many avalanches in the past.

The pipeline then goes into the Hunter Creek area, which Minchin says, Enbridge’s own experts have warned is also vulnerable to avalanches. At Hunter Creek, avalanche debris could temporarily dam the creek, and then, when the debris is released by spring melt or water pressure, that could a create a flash flood; a flash flood that could damage the pipelines.

He pointed to the fact the cleanup of the Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan had been shut down for the winter because the bitumen becomes too sticky to move. He then asked how much longer would it take to clean up a spill under the winter conditions of the Kitimat area. Noting that Enbridge has admitted the Kitimat river would be closed for fishing for “at least four years” he asked “How long will the cleanup take…eight twelve? And where would Kitimat get its water?”

Minchin concluded by saying if there is a pipeline breach at Hoult or Hunter Creeks, despite Enbridge’s plans, the Kitimat River downstream from those creeks would be polluted for years.

He then asked that council organize a new public forum, with three representatives, one from the Haisla First Nation, one from Enbridge and one from an environmental group, adding. “The mayor of Dawson Creek has been trotted out at every one of these forums and is irrelevant, which is why we ask that three people speak to the forum.”

Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District votes to oppose Gateway

The Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District has voted to formally oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The vote on Saturday followed a similar vote by Terrace on Feb. 13.

While Terrace chose to adopt the same resolution against the pipeline and coastal tanker traffic adopted last summer by the Union of BC Municipalities, the SQCRD was more careful, because the resolution had to be seen as not affected the other business for the port of Prince Rupert, especially the lucrative container traffic.

The resolution read.

Therefore, be it resolved that the SQCRD be opposed to any expansion of bulk crude oil tanker traffic as well as bitumen export in Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound in British Columbia.

In the preamble to the resolution the regional district says it believes that the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline will “result in increased crude oil tanker traffic and risk of accidental oil spills in northern coastal waters in British Columbia.

So far, Kitimat, the proposed port, has voted not to take a decision until after the report of the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel.

“This is another powerful statement that elected local governments in Northern British Columbia are opposed to the Enbridge Gateway oil tanker and pipeline project,” said city councillor, Jennifer Rice to the Northern View.

“Any effort to ram this project through will be a direct attack on our First Nations, the fishing industry and other coastal economies. We encourage development, but the risks are too great with this particular proposal.”