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Trans Mountain not prepared to respond fast enough if oil tank boils over in Burnaby: regulator

Last Updated Sep 4, 2019 at 5:59 am PDT

FILE: A aerial view of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain tank farm is pictured in Burnaby, B.C., is shown on Tuesday, May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward
Summary

Trans Mountain isn't ready to respond in time to some emergency worst-case scenarios on Burnaby Mountain

The Canada Energy Regulator has ordered Trans Mountain to speed up its response times to some emergencies by two hours

It is also ordering Trans Mountain to do unannounced test drills, as staff have so far always been pre-warned

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) — Trans Mountain isn’t prepared to respond fast enough if a tank boils and spills over on Burnaby Mountain, according to the Canada Energy Regulator

In an audit from earlier this year, the National Energy Board — recently renamed the CER — ordered Trans Mountain to respond two hours faster than its current emergency response goals.

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The company’s current plans are to mobilize staff and contractors from off-site to fight fires within six hours, but a boilover on Burnaby Mountain could happen in just over five.

“Although this is a low probability scenario, the NEB is of the view that the company’s response targets should reflect all fire related hazards at their terminals,” the regulator says in a recently-released audit from the end of May 2019. “The NEB is of the view that a four (4) hour target reflects response requirements and a contingency buffer. ”

A boilover could happen if oil heats up and flows over the top of the tank, sending hot and molten crude oil out 10 times the diameter of the tank, covering the entire tank farm, the surrounding communities, Gaglardi Way and Burnaby Mountain Parkway. There’s also a possibility the other tanks could also catch fire, as would the surrounding forests, homes and buildings.

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The CER is also ordering the company to do random drills, because the current emergency plans don’t require them to do so. So far, the company has only completed drills where all staff were aware of them beforehand. The regulator says it will do its own surprise drill on response times within a year.

Trans Mountain says these times represent a worst-case scenario, and that the company is ready at its terminals to respond immediately with people and equipment. Even so, it has committed to following the CER’s directions.

In the company’s early risk assessment, it said, “Should such a scenario develop ample time will be available for emergency procedures to implement appropriate action.”

A risk analysis by the Burnaby Fire Department in 2015 found that ability to respond in time ‘questionable,’ and condemned the risks of expanding the number and size of tanks stored on Burnaby Mountain, saying it is too risky to the neighboring area.

Read Trans Mountain’s full statement:

“Trans Mountain’s facilities are designed and operated to industry best practices and meet the most stringent safety standards. As part of regulatory requirements and according to industry best practices, in-service inspections are completed every five years. Additional measures include early detection and fire suppression systems, operational procedures to reduce possible risks, training exercises, site-specific fire pre-plans, regular CER audits and compliance with the American Petroleum Institute and National Fire Protection Association standards.

In terms of the directive to reduce the target to assemble people and resources from six to four hours, to be clear, those are our planning standards, not response times.  At our terminals, we are ready to respond immediately with people and equipment. The planning standards represent the time it could take for us to get fully mobilized in a worst-case scenario and would include getting outside contractors and equipment on site. We will be complying with the regulator’s directions on this.”