Kinder Morgan plans work all along Trans Mountain line, starting in September 2017
by Gordon Hoekstra, Vancouver Sun, June 8, 2017
Kinder Morgan’s schedule for the $7.4-billion Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion shows construction work is to start as early as Sept. 1.
The detailed schedule was filed recently with the National Energy Board, one of 157 conditions that must be met in order for the Houston, Texas-based company to begin construction.
It shows the large scope of the project where land clearing on some portions of the 1,150-kilometre pipeline route will begin in September.
Pipeline construction will take start as early as October in Alberta, with boring of a tunnel through Burnaby Mountain scheduled to start in March 2018.
The first detailed look at how construction is to unfold brings into relief that while there continues to be legal and political fights to stop the project over concerns of an oil spill and increased oilsands emissions, the company is gearing up to start construction in less than three months.
Kinder Morgan declined an interview on Thursday on its construction plans and scheduling – and any delays they may potentially face.
In a written statement, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain spokeswoman, Lizette Parsons Bell, said people should expect construction will take place according to the schedule. “However the schedule is subject to refinement as we work through detailed engineering, design and construction planning and meeting conditions,” she said.
The project would twin the existing pipeline and nearly triple capacity to 890,000 barrels a day, providing a conduit for bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to the coast and opening new markets in Asia.
The project has federal and provincial regulatory approval, and the backing of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but there are more than a dozen legal challenges by First Nations, municipalities and environmental groups that have yet to be heard.
An NDP-Green alliance is expected to take power in B.C. within a month, with both NDP Leader John Horgan and Green Leader Andrew Weaver saying they will do everything in their power to stop the project.
That includes possibly joining the legal challenges from First Nations, and potentially denying provincial permits, for example for logging along the route.
Hilary Novik, an analyst at the political risk consultancy firm Eurasia Group, said political developments in B.C. are being watched carefully, including any uptick in intensity of protests. She cited a recent event where activists chained and locked themselves to a fence outside Kinder Morgan’s Westridge terminal in Burnaby.
She said her company is also watching to see whether Trudeau will continue to back the project should “massive” protests materialize as in North Dakota against the $3.7-billion Dakota Access oil pipeline.
“We do think he will stand by his approval,” said Novik, based in Washington, D.C.
She said that’s because Trudeau has already invested too much political capital not to see the project built.
Another potential headache for Kinder Morgan is more than 400 statements of opposition, an unusually large number, that have been filed with the NEB on the detailed route.
The NEB will determine which of those are valid – some certainly will be ruled invalid – and a panel will be set up this fall to hear arguments from the company and landowners and others who believe the pipeline route has a direct effect on them and should be changed.
If the NEB panel decides the route should be changed in some areas, the company would need to re-do planning work for a new route, say NEB officials.
Ian Stephen, a campaign director for the Chilliwack-based Waterwealth Project, filed an opposition letter although he does not own land directly on the route.
Stephen is among those in Chilliwack who believe the twinning of the pipeline is a risk, if there is a spill, to important wetlands and to the aquifer that supplies drinking water in the area. Changing the route outside the aquifer, and moving the existing pipe outside the aquifer, would solve the problem, he said.
Highlights from Trans Mountain’s detailed construction schedule
- Development of sites to stockpile equipment and material to begin Sept. 1 almost everywhere along the 1,150-kilometre route.
- Pipe shipments begin in late September.
- Stringing and welding of pipe is to take place by as early as mid-October near Edmonton and other Alberta locations, but not until the summer of 2018 in the Chilliwack area and in October 2018 in the Kamloops area.
- Land clearing to begin in Langley, Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby beginning in the first week of September, with pipeline construction to begin in January 2018.
- Boring of a tunnel through Burnaby Mountain is to begin in late March 2018.
- Construction to begin in September on the expansion of the Westridge marine terminal, where tankers will take on the bitumen.