When the Trans Mountain pipeline was built across British Columbia 60 years ago, it was hailed as an engineering marvel because of the rugged terrain it had to cross, including the Rocky Mountains and the dizzying Coquihalla Canyon.
The geography has not changed, but the province has – bringing Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. a daunting new set of challenges as it proposes to twin the line from Edmonton to an expanded deep-sea port near Vancouver.
A submission the company filed this week to the National Energy Board shows the 1,000-kilometre line would diverge in several locations from the 1953 route to avoid heavily urbanized areas, provincial parks and First Nation reserves.
But B.C.’s population has quadrupled to 4.5 million since the Trans Mountain pipeline was built, and the new line would still have to transect some busy urban areas, seven provincial parks and 13 reserves. Raising the environmental stakes, it would also cross 500 rivers and streams, add 14 new bulk-oil storage tanks on the waterfront in Burnaby, and provide berths where up to 34 tankers a month will be loaded with diluted bitumen for shipment through Vancouver harbour and past Vancouver Island.
The project has already overcome some significant hurdles. In 2008, a 158-kilometre section of new pipe was laid along the existing right-of-way through Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park. Now, Kinder Morgan wants to add 987 kilometres to link to that section, increasing the overall capacity of the pipeline to nearly 900,000 barrels a day from 300,000.
Trans Mountain stated that it decided early in the planning process to follow the existing route “to the greatest extent practical to minimize environmental and socio-economic effects and facilitate efficient pipeline operations.”
But “it was not possible in all locations,” the submission said, noting that the new pipeline would parallel the first one for only 73 per cent of the distance, with 17 per cent in other right-of-ways and 10 per cent in a new corridor.
“A large portion of the urban development in the Lower Mainland, Kamloops and elsewhere occurred after construction of [the 1953 pipeline],” the submission said. “Likewise, the seven provincial parks potentially encountered by the project have been established since [it] was built.”
The company is proposing to divert from the existing route to bypass the community of Westsyde in Kamloops and make a “jog” to miss Jacko Lake, a popular fishing area. It would also avoid the narrow and treacherous Coquihalla Canyon route and instead follow the Coquihalla Highway and an existing Spectra gas line.
The company stated that several “minor deviations” are being considered to avoid First Nations reserves near Chilliwack, and Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park.
“From this point onwards to the Fraser River crossing, urbanization in Langley and the City of Surrey has sufficiently encroached on the existing … right-of-way in the past 60 years to make [a parallel pipeline] not feasible,” the submission stated. “For this reason an alternative pipeline corridor was sought.”
The proposed route would cross two golf courses and then follow the Canadian National Railway right-of-way and the new South Fraser Perimeter Road corridor on the south side of the Fraser River before crossing the river near the Port Mann Bridge.
Because of heavy urbanization near the existing route in Burnaby and Coquitlam, Kinder Morgan proposes to keep to industrial lands and then follow railway easements through the Brunette River Conservation Area.
The submission stated the expansion is needed because of growing export demands. With oil sands crude production expected to grow to 5.17 million barrels a day by 2037 from 1.95 million, Kinder Morgan notes that even if all the proposed pipelines in the West were built, the Trans Mountain capacity would still be needed.