January 25th, 2022

Letter: Trans-Mountain pipeline holds strong

By Letter to the Editor on January 6, 2022.

Dear editor,

Geez, houses washed away, major highways and roads washed out, huge steel bridges washed out, rail lines washed out, oil pipeline washed out of the ground. Yet not even one drop of oil escaped from that Trans Mountain pipeline that has been in service for 53 years carrying Alberta crude oil to the B.C. lower mainland.

Each weld joining the pieces of pipe together in that pipeline had three welding passes by three different welders making them super strong joints. The new approved TC line that will run alongside the existing line should be even safer. Two train derailments in the last few weeks in Alberta – not carrying oil thank goodness!

Hello all you anti pipeliners and David Suzuki types!

John MacLaren

Medicine Hat

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16 days ago

Dear John (nice name), thanks for bringing the subject up. It raises the opportunity to bring up some concepts and facts that you and the readers may not be aware of. I’ll be a little condescending and keep the sarcasm to keep on the tone of your letter (also to Dr. Suzuki), so don’t take it personally.
So, because we haven’t seen a duck covered with oil, we should celebrate and make more pipelines. Geez, do you really want us to hold to such low standards?
There is good reason to believe the 53 years old pipeline is already leaking. Corrosion is inevitable, especially on stress points due to too much bending and poor workmanship during construction. Luckily the polymer coating can still hold a spill (until it doesn’t, like in Kalamazoo River 2010) and no one looks for smaller leaks under a river. What was the reaction when the pipeline got exposed last month? Just quickly dig it deep down again and celebrate!
Out of sight out of mind.
Trains get derailed at a certain rate. If a train carries oil there is an impact due to quantity carried. Risks are ranked for the occurrence and severity.
If a pipeline leaks, the severity is the highest. For communities, for the water we drink, you know, those things we take for granted. Occurrence on the paper for feasibility studies is one in 2000 years, and pipeline design is for major weather events like this rain in 1 in 200 years. So if another rain comes next year, do you think they will revisit the design or check the pipeline?
Risk is not only for spills for but also for explosions in the already overcrowded tank farm in BC. In the case of a boil-over (like in Buncefield 2015), then a hundred thousand people living in the SFU university campus will be stranded, looking down, at a burning mountain. Luckily, we have fire chief Mr. Bowcock challenging the multi-billion dollar crown (recently Texan) organization.
But if you look up (on the internet) on actual spills, you will see they are more frequent than you think or want to be aware of (BP alone had it once a year until the big disaster in 2010).
Sadly (or exactly because of this approach of no-news-good-news), construction standards are not much higher today. Just last month Transmountain asked permission to redrill under Fraser River in BC, after an opening of a sinkhole on a major highway, using trial and error on soft and untested soil. I hope the welds have not seen much stress during the push & pull, so in a few years they don’t fail under the river. As expected, they recommended no further engineering studies (so they continue using trial and error). I hope CER rejects their request and demands proper engineering planning, so we do not need to face 2 million gallons drilling fluid spill as Energy Transfer Partners did in 2018 when drilling under a river in Ohio.
Finally, a short story about risk management. Once, I asked my teenage son “I don’t want to see you coming back home that drunk again!” Sure enough, he stopped bringing his friends to our house and started going out on sleepovers. Now I hope I do not get a call from the hospital, or see him on the news.
We always have the option to look down, though, and be happy when we don’t see oil or a burning hill.
Until you do, and then it will be too late.
John Roche