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Energy and Resources Kinder Morgan files preliminary plans for Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

A crude oil tanker is escorted by tugboats as it arrives at Kinder Morgan’s Westridge marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Kinder Morgan Canada expects to need roughly 150 kilometres of new route for the expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline, whose current path travels directly through dense urban areas in Edmonton and the B.C. Lower Mainland.

Late Thursday, the company filed a lengthy description of the project with the National Energy Board, an initial step toward a full regulatory application that is expected later this year.

The company proposes construction of a second 540,000 barrel-per-day pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. Lower Mainland. This so-called Line 2 will include 973 km of new steel and raise Trans Mountain's capacity to 890,000 b/d from its current 300,000.

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The Calgary-based company, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Kinder Morgan Energy partners, has declined to specify exactly where that steel will be laid, in part out of a desire to speak first with those who might be affected.

On Friday, however, it offered new details about how it will proceed.

In an interview, Carey Johannesson, the project's lead on regulatory and land issues, said the company does not anticipate having to buy any houses to build the new pipeline, and has instead worked to align its route with highways, railroads and power lines where possible.

The existing pipe runs directly through Edmonton; in that city, the company plans to dip south into an existing transportation corridor. Similarly, it is working to find a new way through cities such as Coquitlam and Burnaby, B.C.

"What we're going to try and do is minimize the amount of new easement we're going to need," he said.

Still, the company will need substantial amounts of new route. In some places it will need a so-called "greenfield" path, which may intersect lawns and backyards. Of 973 km of pipeline, 10 to 20 per cent will stray from the existing route, Mr. Johannesson said. He added, however, that the company intends to use the current pipeline's 18-metre-wide easement for much of its expansion – although it will need roughly double that during construction. Full details will be disclosed in a late 2013 application that has already reached 1,600 pages. Mr. Johannesson expects it to eventually fill more than 1.3 metres of shelf space.

The Trans Mountain project description documents concerns from community members and aboriginal groups, ranging from tanker traffic to the potential for a Kalamazoo River-type spill.

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The report states that dredging might be required to accommodate the construction of new docks, and says community members are concerned about the effects of feared dredging on tides and on West Vancouver's shoreline near Ambleside.

As an environmental concern, the project description report said "the release of total suspended solids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and metals during dredging for construction of terminal berths" is an issue to be monitored.

Critics warn project approval may prove difficult to obtain. The Trans Mountain expansion will bring an additional 30 or so oil vessels per month to the Port of Vancouver – with some 34 monthly tanker calls, up from about five currently – and many are less concerned about the pipe than the tanker traffic.

"You see what happened with Enbridge? Just wait," said Andrew Weaver, the climate scientist and Green Party candidate recently elected to the provincial legislature. He predicted the public outcry against the Kinder Morgan project will exceed the opposition to Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

"The grassroots pressure on this one will be so enormous that there's no way this will go through," he said.

Kinder Morgan has argued otherwise. According to documents unearthed by Greenpeace, the company has told Ottawa it believes its project is a "more economically viable, less environmentally risky alternative to Northern Gateway."

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