A suggestion from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley that the proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion be rerouted to a new terminal such as Tsawwassen is being dismissed by Kinder Morgan Canada.
Notley told a conference in New York that the project might have a better chance of success if the company would “be creative” and develop a new tanker port rather than sticking with the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, where opposition has been intense.
The Alberta premier backs the $5.4-billion Trans Mountain project and has said she wants at least one “drama-free” pipeline built to carry oil to new markets.
Kinder Morgan previously studied possible alternate locations for the terminal, including Roberts Bank in Delta, as well as sites in Washington State, but ruled them out because of significantly higher costs and environmental impacts, and regulatory issues in the case of a U.S. location.
Developing a Roberts Bank site north of Deltaport would add $1.2 billion to the cost of the current proposal, according to a Trans Mountain filing with the National Energy Board in 2014.
It would require a seven-kilometre trestle extending into the Strait of Georgia to support pipelines and a roadway, and100 acres of land for petroleum storage tanks.
Kinder Morgan assumed Westridge and the existing pipeline to Burnaby would continue to operate in order to serve the Chevron refinery there, as well as a jet fuel pipeline to YVR airport.
The Tsawwassen area terminal would avoid crossing the Fraser River and traversing some densely populated areas, but the pipeline would be 14 kilometres longer.
Much bigger oil tankers holding nearly three times as much oil could come to the new terminal off the mouth of the Fraser River because they would not be limited by the depth of Burrard Inlet.
“The ability to service larger tankers is a key benefit of locating a tanker terminal at Roberts Bank,” said the filing.
It cautioned that while bigger tankers would mean fewer sailings and less probability of an oil spill, any that did occur might be larger.
Kinder Morgan spokesperson Ali Hounsell said the company is confident expanding the existing terminal is the best option.
“Given the current terminal’s proximity to the existing pipe, its proximity to a working harbour with spill response resources and well-established tanker transit routes and protocols, we feel Westridge terminal is the safest location that will also result in the least environmental impact.”
Delta South independent MLA Vicki Huntington denounced Notley’s suggestion of a new terminal, which Burnaby politicians have also raised before.
“Delta’s foreshore is a completely inappropriate location for the Kinder Morgan terminus, and would put the most valuable ecological habitat in Canada at risk,” Huntington said. “The Fraser River delta is an internationally significant area for millions of salmon and shorebirds.”
The project would nearly triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline to 890,000 barrels a day and result in a seven-fold increase in tankers plying Vancouver harbour.
Oral hearings before the NEB were to begin last month but have been on hold while Trans Mountain resubmitted evidence.