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.
Historically, there have been a number of collisions with the railway bridge at the Second Narrows, when hit by vessels of a much smaller scale (weight, height and width) than that of an Aframax tanker. In two cases, the bridge has been completely knocked out of service and had to be rebuilt. Damage to the Second Narrows Highway bridge can result in economic catastrophe because it is a main artery of transportation in Vancouver. 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’.