Crude oil and tar sands are pumped through Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline with National Energy Board approval, says a spokesperson for the company.
And tar sands in the form of diluted bitumen is no more corrosive than conventional crude oil, according to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.
“With respect to the question of (the Trans Mountain) pipeline age, pipelines are proven to be the safest and most efficient means of transporting large volumes of crude oil and natural gas over land,” Kinder Morgan spokesperson Lexa Hobensfield said in an email to Black Press.
“Our industry safety record is first-class compared to any other way to move large quantities of energy that people need and use every day.
“This is absolutely by far the safest and most environmentally sound way to do that.”
But Fraser Valley residents concerned about Kinder Morgan’s plan to “twin” the pipeline that runs from Alberta oil fields to tankers waiting in Vancouver are “networking” with others down the valley nonetheless.
The diluted bitumen, and the impact of a pipeline rupture on the Fraser Valley’s underground water supply, was a concern heard at a meeting last week of the Pipe Up Network, said organizer Wendy Major.
“It’s like sandblasting the inside of the pipe,” she said, about bitumen moving through the pipeline.
David Lavallee, whose documentary film “White Water Black Gold” was shown at the Pipe Up meeting, also insisted that diluted bitumen is “much more dangerous” than crude oil and could not be cleaned up like a conventional oil spill.
He said Kinder Morgan seems to have found an ally in the Conservative government of Stephen Harper and was even able to get approval to “clear-cut a swath” through a national forest for its pipeline.
“They won’t talk about the things they should talk about, which is spills and their spill record,” he said.
In January of this year, a Kinder Morgan tank farm on Sumas Mountain in Abbotsford saw a 110,000-litre spill, and in July 2007, a Burnaby construction crew hit the pipeline and 234,000 litres of oil shot into the air for 25 minutes, covering nearby homes and flowing into Burrard Inlet.
Kinder Morgan has promised extensive community consultations before proceeding with the twinning project, and the company president has met with the Chilliwack mayor.
Hobensfield said any changes to products pumped through the pipeline must be approved by the National Energy Board, which includes “an opportunity for public comment” in the process.
She said Kinder Morgan has “an extensive integrity and maintenance program in place to ensure the pipe and associated equipment are well operated and maintained.”
“Pipelines are monitored 24/7 at a control centre equipped with sophisticated computerized sensing and control systems,” she said, with “automatic leak-detection alarm systems, automatice shut-off devices and devices that monitor the internal condition of the pipe.”