Spill estimate grows to 110 barrels from 25
By MIKE YOUDS
A pair of oil spills along the Trans Mountain pipeline between Merritt and Hope were caused by a dent and a faulty seam weld, according to an engineering assessment obtained by AM News.
The spills, described as minor by pipeline operator Kinder Morgan Canada, took place last June 12 at Kingsvale south of Merritt and on June 26 in the Coquihalla Canyon south of the highway summit. Both led to the immediate shutdown of the pipeline for repairs and extensive follow-up testing before it was allowed to return to full operating capacity.
A dent believed to have been made during construction caused the first spill, while the second is attributed to a 50-milimetre crack in a seam weld. Both “anomalies” were detected by inline inspection, says the report from Kinder Morgan.
Less than a cubic metre was spilled at Kingsvale, whereas the canyon spill was much larger and is now estimated to have been 110 barrels as the company’s site cleanup efforts continue. That spill was originally reported to be 25 barrels.
The revised figure is based on oil recovery to date, said Andy Galarnyk, external relations director of Kinder Morgan Canada.
“As cleanup efforts at this location will continue in 2014, KMC will continue to do what is necessary to ensure that regulatory criteria for cleanup and remediation are being met,” Galarnyk noted in an emailed response. “Once cleanup efforts have been completed (late fall 2014) the release volume may be further revised if site data warrants change.”
A small but vocal group of pipeline watchers raised concerns about the Coquihalla spill, having previously raised objections to the 61-year-old pipeline’s continued operation along an important salmon tributary of the Fraser River. In its proposed expansion project, Kinder Morgan is looking at a routing alternative to the canyon, a particularly steep and rugged section of the pipeline once called the “Roughest Inch” because of its challenging engineering and construction.
David Ellis, a pipeline critic, said the engineering assessment of the spills raises additional questions about the integrity of the old pipeline. He wants to see the pipeline shut down along the Coquihalla River. The dent that caused the Kingsvale leak was caused during construction in 1953 and Ellis wonders how many other dents have so far gone undetected.
“It’s 61 years,” he said. “The fatigue’s certainly catching up with all the past defects.”
However, a National Energy Board spokeswoman said this is not believed to be a problem.
“While the Board is not aware of any further similar dents in this pipeline, Kinder Morgan Canada has, and will continue, to assess the hazard posed by dents, including conducting inline inspections,” said Sarah Kiley.
Kiley said it is not unusual to have spill size estimates revised upward over time, which was the case in the canyon. Release volumes behave differently according to environmental conditions, so that final estimates are not available until remediation is complete.
Ellis suspects the 2013 spills were a wakeup call to Kinder Morgan, which is currently seeking NEB approval of its Trans Mountain expansion plan with public hearings to get underway soon. The problems weren’t properly detected by their in-line detection equipment, so how would they know others don’t exist, Ellis reasons.
The report states that the Kingsvale dent was picked up by its inline inspection but the equipment didn’t correctly characterize the anomaly as a dent with gouging. The canyon spill was detected by odour during an anomaly investigation after inline detection.
The company has in the past questioned Ellis’ credentials and barred him from entering its remediation sites.