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Why Justin Trudeau should approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion

by John Brian Shannon

Disclaimer: I have my own renewable energy website and I contribute renewable energy blog posts to another website — so I’m obviously a proponent of renewable energy.

However, back in the day I was an entrepreneur who learned about dealing with various levels of government, about operating within regulatory frameworks, and needing to budget carefully for future large scale projects.

With the foregoing in mind, I offer the following comment about the Kinder Morgan pipeline project proposal (the TMX expansion) that is planned to run from Edmonton, Alberta through to the Westridge oil refinery (Chevron) in Burnaby, BC:

  1. Unfortunately, there are still places where renewable energy won’t work in a cost-effective manner. Eventually, renewable energy technology will develop and become feasible everywhere on the planet. But we still need oil & gas in the meantime.
  2. The past 5 Canadian Prime Ministers and probably a similar number of British Columbia and Alberta Premiers gave tacit approval to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion which led the company to believe the twinning of the pipeline would be approved.

For the federal government or any province to pull the rug out from under a company that has been led along for two decades to believe their project would be approved — and which provides a valuable service for people who drive cars and trucks in British Columbia and Alberta — would be unthinkable and two-faced.

The TMX Expansion should be approved based on those points alone as both Conservative and Liberal federal governments have promised the project would be a ‘Go’ and KM proceeded on that basis.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE IF KINDER MORGAN WAS OPERATING IN A TPP COUNTRY: The various levels of government in Canada could be sued for not following through on their tacit approval in recent years — and Kinder Morgan and possibly Chevron would likely win a court judgement worth billions of dollars which Canadian taxpayers would be forced to pay. Not only that, but a TPP court could still order the pipeline built!

However, there is another option which I will cover below.


About the Westridge Refinery in Burnaby, BC

At present, one tanker per week leaves the Westridge refinery (Chevron) in Burnaby BC, sometimes carrying 50,000 or 100,000 barrels of oil, gasoline, diesel, kerosene, or more exotic hydrocarbons like naptha, xylene, toulolene, and other volatile liquids. But once the 2nd pipeline is built, one tanker per day will leave the Westridge refinery.

All of these are explosive liquids and in an accident where fire occurs could easily destroy (yes, entirely destroy) the 2nd Narrows bridge or the Lions Gate bridge, which is why they run under those bridges at 4:00am to enhance their margin of safety. (Thankfully, there are no terrorists in our region)

Kinder Morgan TMX Expansion

FILE PHOTO: Two ships pass under the Lions Gate Bridge that links Vancouver with North Vancouver. Image courtesy of CBC.ca


Proposal to Enhance Shipping Safety in BC by Relocating the Westridge Refinery to Deltaport

I propose relocating the Westridge refinery in Burnaby BC to Deltaport BC, and that the federal government of Canada and the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta offer significant investment, allowing public safety to be dramatically improved.

NOTE 1: I’ve spoken to Ray Lord who is highly respected within the petrochemicals industry and remains the chief spokesman for Chevron’s Westridge refinery and he seemed interested in my idea to move the refinery to Deltaport.


Instead of a 2nd Pipeline – Move the Oil by Rail to Deltaport

It’s magic that Deltaport is the terminus for CN Rail and by using the rail option to move petroleum it means the proposed 2nd pipeline would never be needed.

Public safety would be dramatically improved, Chevron would have two crude oil transportation modes to keep it running, and in the event of a spill it’s well documented that rail spills are orders of magnitude smaller than pipeline spills.

NOTE 2: Pipeline spill incidents average 1.2 million BARRELS of oil, while rail tanker spill incidents average 220,000 US GALLONS. A huge difference!

This option would allow 3 shifts at the relocated refinery instead of 2 as is the case now, and even allow the refinery to continue operations in the event of a failure along the existing pipeline route.

NOTE 3: KM would lose the ability to build the new pipeline but allow it to neatly step out of a public relations nightmare — and it might choose to become an investor in the new Deltaport facility and not lose a cent of profit in the process.

All for less than the cost of a potential legal action brought by Kinder Morgan and possibly Chevron too.


A Fund to Remediate Pipeline Oil Spills

A 6 cents per barrel of oil tax should be applied to all liquids that move through pipelines in Canada which should be held in a trust fund to deal with future pipeline spills. The fund could be invested and the returns would increase the total value of the fund.

NOTE 4: Railways don’t need such a tax as they can’t continue rail operations along that line until the spill is cleaned up, so they’re already highly motivated to clean up rail spills ASAP.


If Canada, British Columbia and Alberta kicked in funding to relocate the refinery:

  • No longer any need for the TMX Expansion
  • Thousands of jobs would be created to build the new Deltaport refinery
  • Public safety would increase by orders of magnitude in British Columbia
  • Chevron, environmental protesters, and Kinder Morgan would be happier

And all that government investment would eventually be recovered through taxes.

Even Chevron liked my idea.