From 1974-78, I was a process engineer working at the now defunct Imperial Oil Ioco refinery on Burrard Inlet near Vancouver, B.C.. In the photo below, you can see how beautiful the setting was.
It was an opportunity to put my university training into practice. In those days, Ioco received light Alberta crude oil via the Trans Mountain pipeline and turned it into refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, propane, bunker oil and asphalts.
As a “contact” engineer my job was to interact with the refinery operators, monitor, report on and optimize the operations. I was initially assigned the pollution control units of the plant that do the cleanup and then to the crude unit that did the major distillation splitting of the crude oil as it entered the plant – about 40,000 barrels a day then.
I remember peering into red-hot furnaces where the pipes containing crude oil would be glowing red, climbing towers to inspect gauges and equipment, and urging the operators to open the valve a little more to increase production. We wore a little fabric H2S indicator that if it turned brown, meant you were being poisoned and to get out right away! It was the best of times and the worst of times.
Well, Ioco refinery closed in 1995 and was converted to a products terminal. It now receives refined petroleum products from Alberta via the Kinder Morgan (former Trans Mountain) pipeline and ships them out by barge, tanker, truck and rail, all over B.C.
The Kinder Morgan company also sends unrefined heavy (oil sands) crude oil to Vancouver now for trans-shipment to foreign refiners via tanker. They propose to expand the capacity from 300,000 barrels to about 900,000 barrels/day by twinning the line. This is causing much consternation among indigenous and local communities along the route. They are concerned about:
- increased risk and environmental impact of pipeline break and spill
- increased risk of shoreline leak at the Burnaby tanker terminal
- increased risk of tanker leak in the Burrard Inlet, Vancouver harbour and up and down the lower Mainland coast
I tend to sympathize. Oil sands crude is very thick and although mixed with a dilluent, would tend to make a spill extremely hard to cleanup as it would be very sticky, heavy and coating. Going from 2 outgoing tanker loads/week to 6 or more certainly does increase the risk of an accidental spill that could damage nature and wildlife for many years to come. Finally, the motive of Kinder Morgan is to make profits for its shareholders. Is this a valid reason to increase the risk of such devastation to people’s livelihoods, communities and to nature?
I say no, despite my nostaligic fondness for the industry, that pipeline and the engineers who build and maintain it. Stop the pipeline expansion now! And consider making your next car purchase a hybrid or electric one to reduce fossil fuel demand and reduce carbon emissions!
Express your opinion on this important decision to Prime Minister Trudeau by signing the petition to stop this pipeline expansion now.