Kinder Morgan – Main

Protecting Our Environment

Like all British Columbians and Canadians we value the supernatural beauty of this province and the fact that it represents one of the last wild coastlines in the world.  We have thriving sport and commercial fishing industries and our entire province benefits from worldwide recognition of BC as a pristine wilderness.

Supporting Safe Extraction & Export of Natural Resources

However, we also understand that resource extraction and export are a large part of the Canadian economy, and that British Columbia is not an independent state supported by tourism and fishing dollars alone.  We know there are no simple answers in the debate between growing our economy and protecting the environment and that  careful compromises must be made.   However, these compromises must be based on rigorous scientific analysis of the facts.[hr]

Our Goals

Concerned Professional Engineers supports extraction and export of natural resources.  We also support protection of the environment, as stated in the first article in our professional code of ethics:

“Members and licensees shall… Hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public, the protection of the environment and promote health and safety within the workplace.”

Our goal is to provide British Columbians and Canadians with the information that they need to come to their own conclusions about Kinder Morgans Trans Mountain Expansion and Northern Gateway.  We have our own opinions, as stated on this website, and we have laid out our reasoning in a way that we hope meets the last article in our professional code of ethics:

“Members and licensees shall… Extend public knowledge and appreciation of engineering and geoscience and protect the profession from misrepresentation and misunderstanding.”

View: Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC’s Code of Ethics

(above links to,-Bylaws-and-Other-Governance-Documents)

Proposed Tanker Route


Full sized map :

afromax second narrows

Port of Vancouver Second Narrows Bridge Operation Procedures 

pacific gather

The Pacific Gatherer hit the Second Narrows bridge in 1930, and became wedged underneath. In this photo from the Vancouver Archives, the tug Lorne is standing by.

Image source:



Paying for spills:  Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion and Northern Gateway’s responsibility for cleanup costs ends when the tankers leave the Burrard Inlet and Kitimat terminal.

If Trans Mountain or Northern Gateway is not responsible for a tanker spill on the coast, who is?  Current available cleanup funds cover a maximum of $1.35 billion.  Cleaning up a large spill and supporting businesses and communities that have lost their livelihoods for decades could easily exceed this amount.

Trans Mountain and Northern Gateway  have shielded themselves from this cost.  Tanker companies are registered in Panama and Liberia for a reason.  As a taxpayer, you will be responsible for cleanup and damage costs exceeding $1.35 billion.

If Transmountain and Northern Gateway are so confident their projects are safe, why don’t they assume full financial responsibility for a spill?

Environment Canada’s own scientists are not convinced that tar sands oil can be cleaned up

Read more – Can a Spill be Cleaned

Decades of experience cleaning up previous tanker spills has created a large working knowledge of how to handle conventional crude oil spills.  The diluted bitumen to be transported by Trans Mountain and Northern Gateway is not conventional crude.

Diluted bitumen is heavier, thicker and stickier than conventional crude, and there is very little  real-world experience of trying to clean it up in a marine spill.

Despite assurances from Trans Mountain and Northern Gateway, Environment Canada scientists are on record saying they don’t have enough information to conclude that it can be cleaned up effectively.  So how can Northern Gateway claim that the project is “safe”?

How can these project be considered safe if it’s not known whether a spill can be cleaned up? [hr]

Trans Mountain and Northern Gateway are not in the interest of Canadians

We spent two and a half years reviewing this project,. In the case of Northern Gateway we participated in the Joint Review Panel hearings, we studied the JRP’s report and its 209 conditions in detail, and we are not satisfied that this project is in the interest of Canadians.

We have spent the last year studying Trans Mountain and we are convinced that this project needs more studying for the interests of all Canadians to be considered.


What is Acceptable Risk?

Kinder Morgan’s stated risk for their expansion is that over the 50 year operating life of their project, there is a 10 percent chance of a moderate spill occurring, moderate being 8.25 million litres.  The MV Marathassa spill of April 2015 in English Bay was 2800 litres, and the Exxon Valdes spill of 1989 was approximately 40 million litres of crude.

Yet, the acceptable risk for a building designed to withstand an earthquake is 2% over a 50 year operating life, and for a bridge, it is 1/10 of 1%.  If we are going to allow tankers into the Vancouver area, what is the risk level that we accept?   Is it the same as earthquakes or collisions with bridges, which have more stringent codes, or should exceptions be made?   CPE believes that the risk of a spill in KM’s Transmountain Expansion analysis is too high, and we are opposed to the expansion.

In 1979 this 22000 ton carrier collided with the Second Narrows bridge in the Burrard Inlet

In 1979 this 22000 ton carrier collided with the Second Narrows bridge in the Burrard Inlet

While we know what Kinder Morgan’s findings are for spills, we do not know what they determine to be the risk of colliding with a bridge in the Burrard Inlet.  If the Second Narrows Highway bridge were disabled, it would be devastating to Greater Vancouver and its economy.

We believe that a proper analysis of risk needs to be made to ascertain whether risks proposed by Kinder Morgan are acceptable and this needs to be peer reviewed.  As well, it should include the risk of collisions with bridges, and the consequences resulting in bridges being put out of service.

Kinder Morgan TMX Tanker Transit High Risk Ignored

Kinder Morgan’s proposed project to increase their transport of Diluted Bitumen from the Eastern Burrard Inlet to the Pacific Ocean offer risks that are many times higher than those accepted for other major infrastructure projects.

As Concerned Professional Engineers (CPE) we feel this is not acceptable.  We believe that a proper analysis of risk needs to be made to ascertain whether risks proposed by Kinder Morgan are acceptable and anything less than that is gross negligence on the part of decision makers.

First, what is risk?  The dictionary defines it as a situation involving exposure to danger or exposing someone or something valued to danger, harm or the possibility of financial loss.  When it comes to building infrastructure like homes, bridges, buildings and highways, various levels of government have established building codes.  These are set parameters for how structures must be built so they meet a tolerable risk.

Kinder Morgan predicts a 10 percent risk of a major oil spill, greater than 8,250 cubic meters during the 50 year operating life of the project.  They have not made available the computational tools they used to make that risk analysis.  As well, the Port Authority of Vancouver refused a recommendation to clear the Vancouver harbour when the oil tankers would be moving through it.  On top of this, the risks and consequences of a tanker hitting the Second Narrows Bridge have not been evaluated, despite our requests to the National Energy Board (NEB).  Together these variables increase the risk of the project.

Even accepting Kinder Morgan’s computer generated risk assessment, the Trans Mountain Expansion poses a far higher risk than what is acceptable for buildings and bridges.

Building codes demand that the risk of an earthquake occurring, causing probable collapse of a structure, be no more than two percent over a 50 year period.  Kinder Morgan’s numbers are five times higher (10 percent over a 50 period).  In other words, the acceptable risk for an oil spill is not up to the same standard as it is for earthquakes.

New bridges like the Port Mann bridge must meet the Canadian Bridge code guidelines that the probability of collapse be no more than 0.5 percent over a 50 year operating life.  This is in recognition of the fact that if a ship collides with a bridge it could cause catastrophic damage to the bridge or even collapse.

Vancouver Harbour 2nd Narrows inset chart 3494Historically, there have been a number of collisions with the railway bridge at the Second Narrows, (see image above bridge showing right) when hit by vessels of a much smaller scale (weight, height and width) than that of an Aframax tanker.  In one case, the bridge was completely knocked out of service and had to be rebuilt, in another, it took four and a half months to repair the damage.  Damage to the Iron Workers Memorial Highway bridge (in image at right) can result in economic catastrophe because it is a main artery of transportation in Vancouver.  The bridges are just 110 metres apart.  Should an Aframax tanker hit the railway bridge, its superstructure could easily collide with the highway bridge. Is it acceptable to risk collision with any bridges in the Burrard Inlet?  Is the consequence of an oil spill in the city of Vancouver, a place seen by the world as both green and vibrant, acceptable?  Our answer is ‘no’.