Pipeline getting on track through mountain of approvals

After a lengthy period in limbo, construction on Trans Mountain’s pipeline project is recommencing.

With a price tag of CA$7.4 billion (US$5.7 billion), the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP) is an expansion of an existing 1,150 km crude oil pipeline that runs between Strathona County, Alberta and Burnaby, British Columbia in Canada, increasing its capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 bbl/d. The project was originally suspended in April 2018 by then-owner Kinder Morgan, who then sold the Trans Mountain Pipeline System and planned expansion to the Canadian Federal Government for CA$4.5 billion (US$3.5 billion).

On the same day the sale was approved, the expansion approval was overturned due to insufficient project consultation with traditional landowners and environmental concerns. After approximately 10 months of debate, the Prime Minister approved the project and preparations have been in the works to restart construction.

When the decision was announced, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) President and CEO Chris Bloomer welcomed the approval, saying the country has made the right decision.

“This decision has been a long time coming,” he says.

“Now that we have approval for TMEP, CEPA encourages the government to move forward with construction immediately. TMEP must be built as soon as possible, and steps should be taken to end government ownership of the pipeline.

“With these steps, we will start to signal to the world that Canada is, in fact, open for business.”

CEPA said the economic benefits to the country would significant, with estimates the project will generate 15,000 jobs per year during construction and produce CA$46.7 billion (US$34.9 billion) in taxes and royalties over the next 20 years.

A worker on duty at the Edmonton Terminal.

New conditions

Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) outlined 156 conditions that the TMEP is now subject to, which are designed to reduce risks associated with the construction, commissioning and operation of the pipeline. Included within the conditions are topics such as emergency preparedness and response, as well as specifications on engineering and safety rules.

Environmental specifications are also a major part of NEB’s conditions with air quality, greenhouse gases, water quality, soil, vegetation, wetlands, fish and fish and marine mammal habitats all addressed in the outline. Local people and communities are another factor the TMEP must take into consideration, including specific effects on Indigenous interests and lands, training, skills, employment and routing.

Prior to construction restarting, TMEP was required to satisfy 98 conditions and on 1 August 2019 NEB confirmed the conditions had been met for the Burnaby Terminal, Westridge Marine Terminal and the Westridge Tunnel Portal site.

Construction on the project will be undertaken in a phased approach, so every requirement must be checked off before each phase can begin. All condition filings, whether or not they are for approval, are reviewed and assessed by the NEB to determine whether the conditions have been met, and whether the filed information is acceptable within the context of regulatory requirements and standards, best practices, professional judgement and the goals the condition sought to achieve.

If a condition is “for approval,” Trans Mountain will receive a formal approval, by way of a NEB letter, for the condition to be fulfilled.

Prior to pipe laying, Trans Mountain will complete construction activities at Edmonton Terminal, Burnaby Terminal, Westridge Marine Terminal and on the Burnaby Mountain Tunnel, including putting pipes in the ground using horizontal directional drilling. In other locations various conventional pipeline construction activities will take place, such as preparation, safety assessments, surveying, clearing, environmental surveys, berry gathering, stripping, grading, hauling and stringing.

A tanker at the Westridge Marine Terminal.

Recommencing construction

On 21 August, Trans Mountain launched back into the aforementioned construction activities by issuing ‘Notice to Proceed’ directives to key contractors on the project, who will deploy the initial workforces necessary to build the TMEP. Under the directives, contractors have 30 days to begin moving their equipment and start hiring personnel, securing goods and services and creating construction work plans.

Remaining committed to maximising engagement with the local industry and Indigenous companies and personnel, contractors are hiring from the local and regional population wherever possible. This initiative is expected to recruit around 4,200 workers from communities along the corridor within the fourth quarter of 2019.

At the same time as conducting construction preparation, Trans Mountain continues to progress its regulatory requirements, announcing that it expects all regulatory approvals and permits to be cleared in the coming months.

Construction work will soon begin along the pipeline route, including along the right-of-way in Alberta between Edmonton and Edson, and in the Greater Edmonton area, as well as including an immediate return to work at Burnaby Terminal and on land at Westridge Marine Terminal. Start dates in the remaining construction areas will be specified after final regulatory approvals and permits are attained.

Trans Mountain President and CEO Ian Anderson says this forms another important project milestone.

“I am pleased to announce another significant milestone for the TMEP with the commencement of construction activities and the issuance of the notice to some contractors to begin mobilising equipment and crews in select areas in August and September 2019,” he says.

“With the first wave of regulatory approvals complete, we are confident that we have a path forward by which the expansion project construction can commence.

“Over the coming months, we will continue our engagement with Indigenous communities along the construction corridor. We are committed to ensuring the project incorporates all appropriate measures to protect the cultural, environmental and local Indigenous interests in the lands and waters through construction and into operation.

“Clearly this project has been subjected to numerous delays and setbacks over the past several years. With today’s announcement on the commencement of construction, I firmly believe that we are finally able to start delivering the significant national and regional benefits we have always committed to.”

While outstanding regulatory approvals have the potential to impact project costs and final in-service dates, if approvals are received as anticipated, the TMEP will be operational in mid-2022.

This article was featured in October Edition of Pipelines International. To view the magazine on your PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile device, click here.

For more information visit the Trans Mountain website.

If you have news you would like featured in Pipelines International contact Managing Editor Chloe Jenkins at cjenkins@gs-press.com.au

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