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LOOKING BACK/AHEAD: Kinder Morgan flew under the radar

Compared to the controversy over Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, Kinder Morgan’s own pipeline project has practically flown under the radar.

The company is proposing to twin its 60-year-old, 1,150-km Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs between Edmonton and Burnaby. The project would increase its capacity from the current 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 750,000 bpd to allow for increased overseas exports of bitumen crude oil from the Alberta oil sands.

That would also significantly increase the number of oil tankers using Burrard Inlet, a fact not lost on local environmentalists, residents and First Nations.

Burnaby-Douglas New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart, whose riding includes the final stretch of pipeline as well as the Westridge Terminal, has been vocal in raising concerns including the fact property owners along the eventual pipeline route could face expropriation if they can’t reach an agreement with the company.

Kinder Morgan secured contracts with customers for the expanded pipeline earlier this year, showing it has a market for the project.

Meanwhile, Chevron Canada applied to the National Energy Board (NEB) for priority access to capacity on the pipeline to ensure an adequate supply of crude to its North Burnaby refinery, something that could be threatened by the overseas demand for Alberta crude. In recent years the pipeline has had more requests for capacity than it can accommodate, resulting in all customers seeing their capacity reduced.

Chevron has had to augment the supply of crude it gets through the pipeline with crude shipped in by tanker trucks, and is looking into rail shipments as well, Chevron spokesman Ray Lord said in an interview last June.

Burnaby council officially opposed the Kinder Morgan project. The Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, whose traditional lands includes Burnaby, joined a campaign which, under indigenous law, bans tar sands pipelines through traditional First Nations territories and tankers transporting oil sands crude within salmon migration routes on the B.C. coast.

Opposition groups sprang up, including Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE) and the Fraser Valley’s Pipe Up Network.

And reports of how an Enbridge pipeline spill was handled in Kalamazoo, Mich., highlighted the issues, including health concerns, related to spills of heavy bitumen crude, the same product the Trans Mountain expansion would be designed to carry.

Through it all, Kinder Morgan has continued with its lengthy process, with public open houses across B.C. and Alberta.

Further public information sessions and discussions will be held through the fall of 2013, with comments and concerns to be incorporated into its expansion application with the NEB. That is expected in late 2013 and will  include a potential corridor for the twinned pipeline.

If it gets the NEB’s approval, the company would, by late 2014, come up with a detailed specific route within that corridor which would go through its own NEB approval process.

If it gets the final go-ahead, the company will spend $4 billion and two years building the expansion, which would then go into service in late 2017.

For more information on the project and how to provide feedback: www.transmountain.com, info@transmountain.com or 866-514-6700.

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