BURNABY, B.C. – Kinder Morgan is pledging to protect against any threat of oil spills caused by its Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, as opposition to the project mounts in British Columbia.
The energy-shipping giant showed off its marine and storage terminals in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, detailing new safety measures it is promising to introduce if the $5.4-billion expansion is approved.
Senior director of marine development Michael Davies said Western Canada Marine Response Corp., the agency responsible for spill cleanup, will invest $100 million in new equipment.
Davies said the agency — which is 50 per cent owned by Kinder Morgan — will acquire five new bases along the tanker route and add 100 new jobs if the National Energy Board approves the expansion.
“I think they’re a good organization today, and they exceed all the requirements set by Transport Canada,” he said. “Looking forward, if the expansion proceeds, we’ll see an enhancement of their capability.”
Kinder Morgan hopes to triple the bitumen-carrying capacity of its existing Trans Mountain line by laying almost 1,000 kilometres of new pipe between Edmonton and Burnaby. The expansion would increase the number of tankers in Burrard Inlet to 34 per month from five.
The City of Vancouver and North Vancouver’s Tsleil-Waututh First Nation submitted critical expert evidence to the energy board last week that concluded the project would significantly raise the risk of spills. The Metro Vancouver regional council has formally opposed the project, and released a report concluding a major spill could expose up to 1 million people to toxic benzene fumes.
While Davies said Kinder Morgan is still reviewing the reports to see if the evidence is credible, the company has proposed several safety measures to minimize any threat.
New spill-response bases would be located at ports in Delta, Nanaimo, Sidney, Sooke and Ucluelet, he said. The $100-million investment is being paid for by a fee charged by Trans Mountain to shippers.
He also said that new rules would require tugs to stay with vessels for greater distances and pilots to remain on board longer.
On Thursday, a California-bound tanker picked up heavy oil from the Westridge Marine Terminal and left with two tugs tethered to it. A large containment boom is built around the dock.
The expansion proposal includes three new berths, additional delivery pipelines, a system to treat cargo vapours and a new fire protection system.
At the nearby Burnaby Storage Terminal, there are already 13 massive tanks storing petroleum and the company hopes to build another 14.
The National Energy Board is expected to make a decision in January 2016. Davies said while there is some opposition from interveners, there is also “a lot of support.”
“The project is about providing access to west coast markets for Canadian petroleum,” he said. “It’s something that’s important for Canadian oil production, which is an important part of the Canadian economy.”
— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.