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Canada Approves $5B Pipeline Expansion

Friday, December 2, 2016

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the expansion plan for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Tuesday (Nov. 29), clearing the way for the company to expand the oil pipeline’s capacity nearly threefold.

The C$6.8 billion (US$5.09 billion) Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion will, according to Kinder Morgan’s plans, run from Strathcona County, Alberta (near Edmonton) to a tanker port in Burnaby, British Columbia (near Vancouver), staying mostly alongside the current Trans Mountain Pipeline, built over 50 years ago.

New, Reactivated Pipeline

The company says 73 percent of the pipeline will use the same right-of-way as the existing pipeline, 16 percent would follow other linear infrastructure rights-of-way, and 11 percent would require new right-of-way. The project involves 980 kilometers (609 miles) of new pipeline, and the reactivation of 193 kilometers (120 miles) of deactivated pipeline. It would expand the pipeline system's capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.

Tanker at Burnaby NC
All images: Trans Mountain Pipeline/Kinder Morgan

Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline, which conveys oil from the Alberta tar sands to Burnaby, British Columbia (pictured), where it can be transported by tanker ship, will move forward with an expansion plan after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the project.

The deactivated pipeline stretches are 24-inch lines, while the new sections will be mostly 36-inch pipe, with some sections of 42-inch. Kinder Morgan plans to coat the pipe with fusion bonded epoxy coatings, and use enhanced protective coatings such as concrete, abrasive-resistant FBE, or polyethylene in rocky areas to reduce the possibility of damage.

Pipeline segments will be tested with a high-voltage holiday detector before being lowered into place, and repairs will be made using an epoxy repair coating before installation.

The plan for the expansion also involves 12 new pump stations, as well as five new tanks at the Edmonton Terminal, and 14 new tanks at the Burnaby Terminal.


Opponents have argued that an increase in oil tanker traffic to Burnaby increases the risk of a spill in Vancouver Harbour, the terminus of Trans Mountain. The pipeline ends near Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area and the campus of Simon Fraser University.

TransMountain route

The company says 73 percent of the pipeline will use the same right-of-way as the existing pipeline, 16 percent would follow other linear infrastructure rights-of-way, and 11 percent would require new right-of-way.

Another proposed pipeline project, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, has been rejected by Trudeau’s government, which has expressed concerns about tanker traffic on the northern coast of British Columbia, where that twin pipeline’s terminus would be located.

Environmentalists have also voiced concerns that increasing pipeline capacity will increase production of Alberta oil sands crude, which some have characterized as particularly harsh on the environment.

Need to Expand Capacity

In October, Canada’s National Energy Board said in its annual report that Canadian pipeline infrastructure had not increased in capacity at the same rate as oil sands production, leading to a bottleneck that was limiting oil exports. The board also said the limited pipeline capacity was forcing more rail transport of crude oil.

Trans Mountain Pipeline maintenance

The expansion would nearly triple the capacity of the current Trans Mountain Pipeline, built over 50 years ago (shown here under maintenance).

Kinder Morgan applied to the NEB for approval for the Trans Mountain expansion in December 2013. The NEB announced in May 2016 that it recommended approval for the project. The project approval is subject to a total of 157 conditions, Kinder Morgan says, and the plans still require a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to be issued by the government.

The company hopes to begin construction in 2017, and begin operations in 2019.

Legal Challenges

The timeline, of course, only applies if the expansion stands up to the expected legal challenges. At least one indigenous community near the tanker port at the Trans Mountain terminal has already said it would challenge the expansion approval in court.

And environmentalists plan to challenge the expansion over concerns about endangered orcas, which live on the southern coast of British Columbia, where tanker traffic would be heightened if the pipeline is built.

According to McLean’s, Kinder Morgan president Ian Morgan told reporters on a conference call, “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and we’re looking forward to getting from ‘yes’ to starting to build.”

Rona Ambrose, interim leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, told The New York Times that she didn’t have high hopes for the project, despite Trudeau’s approval.

“I don’t think that will have a chance of being built,” Ambrose told the paper.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Environmental Protection; Government; Latin America; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Program/Project Management; Ships and vessels

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