Repair crews have finished work on the leaky Trans Mountain pipeline: company

MERRITT, B.C. – Repair crews have finished their work on a small defect in the Trans Mountain pipeline that prompted an oil spill earlier this week.

Andy Galarnyk , spokesman for pipeline owner Kinder Morgan Canada, said Friday all the contaminated soil has been removed and the pipeline was expected to be back up to full operation by the end of the day.

Galarnyk and the National Energy Board say the total volume of oil spilled was less than about six barrels — or just under 1,000 litres. That’s a minuscule amount compared to the 300,000 barrels of petroleum products the pipeline moves every day.

“The company notified regulators, area First Nations, neighbours and interested parties after the oil was discovered and initiated an immediate and thorough cleanup response,” Galarnyk said in a news release.

Rebecca Taylor, spokeswoman for the board, said despite the small amount of oil leaked, the board considers any release of oil as a serious incident.

“Whether it’s two barrels or whether it’s significantly more, it’s the release that we’re concerned about,” Taylor said.

“The spill was contained, the pipeline company turned off their pipeline as soon as they discovered the leak and in that case, it was likely less of a release than it could have been.”

Taylor said Kinder Morgan closed the pipeline immediately after the leak was discovered during routine maintenance Wednesday.

“The company is currently in the process of repairing the damaged section of pipe by welding on a protective steel sleeve,” she said.

Once the board approves the work done, the pipeline will begin operation again.

The board does not currently have the ability to fine a pipeline company for such a spill, but that power is coming.

Taylor said as of July, the board will have the ability to issue a so-called “administrative monitoring penalty” for companies found in violation of the board’s safety or environmental protection regulations.

Kinder Morgan has announced plans to apply for approval to almost triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which extends from Alberta to the B.C. Lower Mainland and Washington state, following the Coquihalla Highway through the Cascade Mountains in parts.

The province recently announced its opposition to the Northern Gateway oil pipeline proposal, due in part to concerns about a spill, but B.C. has not taken a position on Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion.

The expansion proposal is controversial, and critics were quick this week to seize upon the spill.

“Where oil moves, it spills,” Sarah Cox, head of the Sierra Club B.C., said Thursday.

“It’s only a matter of time before there is a bigger spill.”

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version, based on information from the National Energy Board, misstated the volume of oil spilled.