A key Enbridge Inc. natural gas pipeline in British Columbia has ramped up capacity, and Trans Mountain Pipeline Corp. says it is making progress toward getting its oil line up and running by the end of the week.
Trans Mountain shut down its 1,150-kilometre Alberta-B.C. oil pipeline as a precaution on Nov. 14, citing concerns about the impact of last week’s heavy rainfall, floods and landslides. Weather worries also led Enbridge to shutter a section of its Westcoast natural gas line, restricting flows to southern B.C.
As of Monday morning, Westcoast was transporting 1.63 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas – surpassing the volume it transported at this time last year.
Enbridge spokesperson Jesse Semko said in an e-mail on Monday that even though one section of the Westcoast pipeline is still closed, the company increased capacity on another part of the system.
Mr. Semko said Enbridge’s ability to increase transport along the Westcoast line was due to several years of reliability enhancements and expansions, including new compressor units.
Trans Mountain said in a statement on its website on Monday that it is optimistic its pipeline would be operating in some capacity by the end of the week.
It said more than 350 people have been working around the clock to restart the route, which supplies about 90 per cent of the Lower Mainland’s fuel needs.
In response to the severing of oil supplies, the B.C. government on Friday imposed a 30-litre limit for fuel purchases for non-essential vehicles in some parts of the province, and temporary price controls for fuel.
Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth said on Saturday that the province is in talks to have fuel shipped from the United States by barge, but those deliveries would take several days.
Ron Wong, an engineering professor at the University of Calgary, said ground movement is a major design problem for pipeline engineers. But he added that risk-management planning for pipeline routes takes into account geotechnical possibilities such as landslides, mudslides, avalanches, erosion and the freeze-thaw cycle in Canada’s winters.
“They will choose the route with the least risk, and they will make it bypass those areas with high risk. It’s common sense,” Prof. Wong said.
He said the biggest challenge in the case of Trans Mountain is the massive size of the affected region.
Over the weekend, crews hiked or were airlifted into areas that still have no road access so they could continue assessment of the pipeline. The company said ground inspections of the line should be complete by the end of the day, weather permitting. It added there is no indication the pipeline has leaked.
Using six helicopters and 80 pieces of heavy equipment, Trans Mountain crews are clearing roads, installing temporary bridges and diverting watercourses in the Coquihalla and Coldwater regions.
The company said sections of the pipeline between Hope and Merritt need to be re-covered after mudslides and flooding washed out the soil. It also may decide to cut out and replace some sections of the line (such as long portions where river water had flowed into the pipeline right-of-way).
As a precaution, Trans Mountain said it is deploying spill-response equipment trailers to places where crews are working on the line, including containment booms in river areas near or downstream from work sites.
“Trans Mountain is optimistic that we can restart the pipeline, in some capacity, by the end of the week,” the company said.
“Key to successful execution of the restart plan will be access for equipment, fair weather, and no new findings of concern.”
Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.