Kinder Morgan oil spill volume from 2013 was quadruple the reported amount
“There's been more oil spilled than [Kinder Morgan] is saying,” pipeline critic David Ellis said last November. A March 2014 document reveals there was, in fact, quadruple the amount that the company initially reported to have spilled at Coquihalla Canyon.
He said he alerted the NEB back in January about information from a rare 1954 book, The Building of Trans Mountain, which notes that at a pressure limiting station located at Hope (near the Coquihalla pass), relief valves can spill oil into two 50,000 tanks so that pressure in the pipe from Hope to Burnaby may be reduced.
The book states on page 99:
"Using this pressure limiting equipment saved about $5,000,000 in the original line investment by avoiding need for heavier wall pipe to withstand high pressures during accidental shut-offs in the low sections of the system."
"Thinner pipe would make fatigue go faster. The thinner it is, the more effect the fatigue has on it," TransCanada whistleblower and former metallurgical engineer Evan Vokes said. He also raised issue with the fact that the company has had over 2,600 pipeline "anomaly digs" since 1984, which signalled that the Trans Mountain pipeline was not being very well maintained.
NEB spokesperson Sarah Kiley, however, said that thinner pipe does not necessarily mean increased risk of fatigue. She said there was once incident of overpressure in 2012 around 11km south of Clearwater, but said Kinder Morgan hasn't said the pipeline was stretched as a result.
Galarnyk noted likewise, stating:
"The pipe on our entire system is designed and maintained for safe operation at the established operating pressures."
Michael Hale, an intervenor for the NEB hearings on Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion and member of the Pipe Up Network, said he was "shocked" by the frenzy of repairs taking place along the existing pipeline route when he and his group went with Ellis to the area last August.
"We were quite shocked to see what was going on up there," Hale said. "We realized the company was doing a lot more than just oil spill cleanup. There were huge sections of pipe dug up, and it wasn't just oil spill cleanup. It made us wonder about the integrity of the old pipeline."
Photos by Wendy Major
He thought the company may have been rushing to fix existing flaws ahead of the application to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline.
As a result of the pipe cracking in June, the NEB had ordered Kinder Morgan to reduce its operating pressure by 20 per cent last August. But Galarnyk confirmed that the pipeline was now back at 100 per cent, everywhere except for the Edson to Hinton section. He said the section is being assessed and that the company would apply to lift the pressure in due course.
But critics ask if the company should instead be focusing on maintaining its existing pipeline before spending resources on twinning it.
"Shouldn't the company focus on making the existing Trans Mountain line safe, before wanting to expand bitumen shipments for export?" Hale asked.
Photo by David Ellis
Photo from The Building of Trans Mountain (1954) of pipe on Coquihalla Canyon. Below: photo of pipe along Coquihalla River.