Port Metro Vancouver harbour master Yoss Leclerc with Kinder Morgan spokesman Mike Davis

Bitumen floats in ocean, pipeline firm insists

Kinder Morgan denies oil sands crude would be sunken spill

Kinder Morgan officials are denying that heavy oil sands bitumen – already carried by tanker through Vancouver harbour – would sink if it ever spilled in the ocean.

Grilled by Metro Vancouver politicians Thursday, company reps called it misinformation in the media that diluted bitumen sinks in water, making a marine spill cleanup virtually impossible.

“The diluted bitumen and other products don’t sink,” said Mike Davis, Kinder Morgan Canada’s director of marine development and engineering. “They’re less dense that sea water. They float.”

He added any heavy crude oil could eventually sink if it “weathers” on the surface for too long, but added there’s no indication that would happen if a bitumen spill was boomed and cleaned within a reasonable period of time.

Mayors at the Metro port cities committee said later they were surprised to hear the claim – and skeptical.

So was B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake when asked for comment.

“The prevailing view is that bitumen will sink rather than float,” Lake said, but added more information might be needed.

The province’s newly released technical report on heavy oil pipelines specifically lists bitumen’s different properties  – and its potential to sink and complicate cleanup – as a source of higher risk.

Davis said the first trial shipments of bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands via the Trans Mountain pipeline through the Lower Mainland began in the 1980s.

He estimated between 20 and 30 per cent of the 300,000 barrels per day now flowing down the pipeline is either diluted bitumen or similar types of heavy crude oil.

If federal regulators approve the company’s plan to twin the 60-year-old pipeline and increase the capacity to 750,000 barrels, an estimated 300 tankers a year would go through Vancouver, up from about 70 now.

Kinder Morgan reps outlined tanker safety measures that include double hulls, segmented holds, two local pilots in command, the use of tethered tugs and a system to vet and inspect tankers for safety.

On land, Davis said staff fly the length of the pipeline in the Lower Mainland once a week and drive its length every two days in search of problems – in addition to the use of a leak detection system monitored out of Edmonton.

He also said the company wants feedback from Metro cities on what sort of legacy benefits they envision, a statement mayors saw as a prelude to cash offers to encourage their support.

North Vancouver City Mayor Darrell Mussatto challenged Kinder Morgan to agree to an independent audit of spill response times on both land and water – something Davis wouldn’t immediately commit to but said may be considered through the coming National Energy Board hearings.

Several mayors said they have little comfort in the emergency response capability after the incident in Burnaby in 2007, when oil gushed out of the pipeline after an excavator struck it.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan noted the spill response agency – Western Canada Marine Response Corp.  – has just 22 full-time staff and eight part-time workers and would rely heavily on other vessels and fishermen in event of a spill.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said she’s worried there could be finger pointing between Kinder Morgan and shippers as to who is responsible for a spill at or near the Burnaby terminal.

Davis said booms are set up around tankers when they load, meaning any spill at the terminal would be contained. He called the 2007 spill’s circumstances unique.

“They have to have a much, much more robust plan to deal with the potential eventualities,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said later.

“I continue to be very concerned about emergency response plans and protocols within Burrard Inlet,” said Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew.

“I am still to be convinced that what is there is adequate for what’s being transported today let alone future scaled-up shipments.”

Metro has not yet taken any position on the twinning project, although Vancouver, Burnaby and some other city councils have already opposed it.

Just Posted

LETTER: Bouquets to my neighbours for helping me heal

Christene Fitzgerald thanks her Agassiz neighbours for helping her out after a fall

Harrison Festival fundraiser dance to have ’70s theme and features Chilliwack band

Chilliwack band The Vacationers to perform at May 31 Harrison Festival Society’s fundraising concert

Seabird Island opens 50th annual festival

The weekend festival will see First Nations teams compete in soccer, three-pitch and canoe races

LETTER: Agassiz’s amazing new pump station

Edward Monro talks about Hammersley Pump, but also the need for driver support on Mount Woodside

LETTER: E-Comm makes connections for ambulance

E-Comm’s executive director explains why ambulances aren’t in their jurisidiction

VIDEO: Powwow shares culture at Seabird Island Festival

The 50th anniversary of the festival saw its first powwow

UN urges Canada to take more vulnerable Mexican migrants from Central America

The request comes as the United States takes a harder line on its Mexican border

Mistrial declared in Jamie Bacon murder plot trial

Bacon was on trial for counselling to commit the murder of Person X

B.C. VIEWS: Money-laundering melodrama made for TV

Public inquiry staged to point fingers before 2021 election

Canadian homebuyers escaping high housing costs by moving to secondary cities

In British Columbia, exurbs have grown in the Hope Valley and Kamloops

Feds lay out proposed new rules for voice, video recorders in locomotives

Transport Canada wants to limit use of recorders to if a crew’s actions led to a crash

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Third person charged in death of B.C. teen found in torched SUV

Inderdeep Kaur Deo facing charge of accessory after the fact to murder

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

Most Read