First posted Saturday, November 28, 2015 in the Chronicle Journal
by Peter Lang
At their open house at the Italian Cultural Centre on Nov. 30 TransCanada Pipeline Corporation (TCC) will tell you that a significant leak on their pipeline is “highly unlikely.” They will cite continuous remote sensing, regular flyovers, and the latest ‘smart pig’ technology to support their conjecture. And they will relate this at a pleasant one-on-one wine-and-cheese-type gathering which is cleverly designed to avoid a public forum — wherein together we could have asked the difficult questions, and critically weighed their answers. In fact, TCC will credit this open house as “a community consultation” when it is merely corporate flim flam.
Consider that in their concern for profit TCC really doesn’t want to replace 3,000 kilometres of a decades-old pipeline which runs through our region and watershed — and which has already had numerous significant gas leaks and explosions. Ask the people from Vermilion Bay (1995 and 1996), Beardmore (2011) and Otterburne, Man. (2014) where major explosions have occurred.
TCC’s Energy East proposal is to convert the mainline natural gas pipeline to carry dilbit — essentially tar diluted with solvents like benzene and tuolene. With this in mind, think about the mudslide along the Nipigon River in 1990 which left that natural gas pipeline suspended without soil support for a length of 75 metres. Amazingly it didn’t rupture. But if it had been filled with pressurized dilbit (weighing approximately one ton per metre) it surely would have ruptured, thereby pouring a proposed 1.1 million barrels per day flow rate directly into the Nipigon River. Only TCC flim flam could deny that it would have been a monstrous disaster.
Regarding the conversion of this pipeline from natural gas to bitumen, in 2011 the U.S. National Petroleum Council wrote, “pipelines operating outside their design parameters, such as those carrying commodities for which they were not initially designed, or high flow pipelines, are at the greatest risk of integrity issues” (i.e., leaking).
Even new TCC pipelines have demonstrated unexpected defects. At a hearings of the Public Utilities Commission in South Dakota in July 2015, TCC’s own report revealed that its Keystone XL pipeline, after only two years of operation, had suffered at least six defects, including one spot where the pipe had corroded 96.8 per cent through its wall.
And as for TCC’s apparent safety record, in March, 2015, after a series of whistleblower allegations, the National Energy Board found that TCC had broken federal regulations in four of nine areas including: “hazard identification, risk assessment and control, operational control in upset or abnormal operating conditions, inspection, measurement and monitoring, and management review.”
So regarding that TCC open house, I would expect that it is “highly unlikely” that they will tell you any of the above facts.