Cleantech one of the fastest growing industries in B.C.: KPMG

The cleantech industry was worth $1.8 bilion to British Columbia’s economy in 2016, and it is outpacing most other sectors in terms of growth and job creation, according to a recently releasedKPMG report.

The number of B.C. cleantech companies, which include those whose primary purposes are clean energy production, water treatment and energy or resource management, increased from 202 in 2010 to 273 last year.  The sector employed 8,560 people last year, and the average salary was $84,000 – up from $68,000 in 2009.

“The cleantech sector continues to both experience and drive growth in our province as well as provide an attractive investment opportunities for British Columbians,” said KPMG Canada’s Lorne Burns, who authored the report.

“The jobs it offers are desirable ones; average salaries are high and the technologies those jobs produce contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable world.”

Globally, the cleantech industry is worth $3 trillion, and this is growing, according to KPMG’s study. The United States is the biggest customer of B.C.’s cleantech sector, and this is expected to grow over the next three to five years. As well, sales to Europe, Asia and other countries are expected to increase to one-third of total cleantech revenue by 2021.+

Oil Spills: Preventing Future Spills by Learning from Past Incidents

Last November saw the Canadian federal government approve the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Plan and the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Plan. Both projects have been met with fierce opposition from First Nations communities, local governments and environmentalists. Chief among their concerns is the risk of crude oil spilling into the environment. So it would be prudent to look at past spills involving each line and reflect on the possible dangers they pose.

A Note on Diluted Bitumen

One of the products that both the Kinder Morgan and Enbridge pipelines transport is diluted bitumen.  Bitumen is a semi-liquid mixture of oil, sand and clay. This initial bitumen is difficult to transport due to its high density, viscosity and adhesive properties. To move bitumen, it is mixed with a diluent like naphtha or other light hydrocarbons.

When diluted bitumen is spilled onto a water body, it initially floats and spreads like conventional oil. Overtime, the volatile components in the oil evaporate and pose a possible health and fire hazard. As the spilled oil undergoes weathering, it becomes more viscous and dense. This weathered substance than mix with sediment to form tar balls and sink, making subsequent recovery very difficult.

Cleaning up a bitumen spill is a challenge. The oil on the surface of the water can be recovered using mechanical skimmers and booms. Meanwhile commercial chemical dispersants have limited effectiveness when used on diluted bitumen. The best practices for recovering bitumen that sinks underneath the water are still being researched.

Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain: Alberta to the Coast of British Colombia

The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline currently transports light and heavy crude oils including diluted bitumen. It began transporting oil from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Colombia in 1961. Since it began operations, there have been 82 spills that have been reported to the National Energy Board for the Trans Mountain line.

One noteworthy spill occurred on July 24, 2007 at 12:32 pm in the City of Burnaby (Population of 223 220). An excavator bucket which belonged to a contractor struck and punctured the line. The heavy crude oil sprayed into the air for 25 minutes until the pipeline was isolated. About 234 000 L was released, covering local residences and roads and contaminating the surrounding soil. 100 000L of oil seeped into the storm drain system affecting both the Burrard Inlet and to a smaller extent the Kask Creek.

To respond to the 2007 spill in Burnaby, a unified command was set up involving Kinder Morgan Canada, the National Energy Board and BC Ministry of Environment. The RCMP and Burnaby Fire Department secured the area evacuated about 225 residents from their home. Meanwhile, the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation responded to the spill on the Burrard Inlet at 1:24 pm and was booming the area by 2:15 pm. Boomings, skimmers and absorbent pads were all deployed along the rocky shoreline along with a cleaning formula. The contaminated soil was excavated while surrounding homes were re-landscaped and cleaned. While more than half of the residents were able to return the same day, five of the houses were deemed unlivable for four months. Since the spill was deemed an accident, Kinder Morgan and the other two offending parties were fined $1 000 and had to contribute $149 000 to B.C.’s Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. Kinder Morgan also had to pay $100 000 towards a new education and training program.

Enbridge Line 3: Alberta to Wisconsin

The Line 3 Pipeline is one of a series of pipelines used by Enbridge to transport crude oil and natural gas. It was constructed in 1967 and currently transports crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin.

The initial spill was found near Clearbrook, Minnesota (Population of 533) on November 13, 2007 at 7:00 am. About two barrels of crude oil were released due to two pinhole leaks caused by fatigue cracks along the longitudinal seam of the DSAW pipe. The spill was reported to the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety Duty Officer at 8:22 am while the line was closed. The contaminated soil was extracted and moved to a disposal site.

The second release occurred when Enbridge attempted to replace the damaged pipe.  On November 28, 2007 at 3:47 pm when the replacement pipe was being tested, the coupling used for the replacement failed. Oil was emitted as a spray and ignited once it reached a nearby heater being used by the workers.

 

The resulting fire and explosion led to the death of two Enbridge employees and the evacuation of several households. Local police, ambulances, fire departments and the Red Cross responded to the accident and Line 1, 2 & 4 were also shut down within minutes. Since the released oil was contained within a worksite excavation, it was allowed to burn off. However the thick smoke and soot were still a cause for concern.

Every pipeline incident is a teachable moment. Companies learn from past incidents to improve safety and operational practices to prevent future incidents.  Both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan have made changes to their safety and operational procedures after these spills. Kinder Morgan formed the Pipeline Protection Group who focuses solely on pipeline protection. Enbridge made changes to their pipeline repair and replacement protocols. But it’s important to look back at these past incidents when considering the risk pipelines present.

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About the Author

Jerdon Small Phillips is an Engineer-in-Training and graduate from Sheridan College’s Environmental Control program with a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from Queen’s University.  He is currently volunteering with the WEAO Professional Development and Communications Sub-Committee.  He can be reached at Jsphillips990@gmail.com.

Webinar on Leveraging Resources for Brownfields Revitalization:

Brownfield grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are one of many sources of funds that can support redevelopment of contaminated sites. This webinar will highlight a number of redevelopment resources available from the National Park Service (NPS), The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to leverage your brownfield dollars. The webinar will also feature a presentation from a community that has successfully used grants, loans and other support from these agencies for its revitalization efforts. It is the fourth in OBLR’s webinar series on what communities need to know to successfully leverage resources for brownfields revitalization.

The webinar is scheduled for February 28th from 1:00 pm until 2:30 pm EST.

To register, visit the webinar registration website.

Science March – April 22, 2017

March for Science is planned in Washington D.C. and around the world on April 22nd, 2017.  The marches, organized by scientists to highlight the importance of research, are meant to be a celebration of science as opposed to a protest.

The organizers of the March for Science are scientists and science enthusiasts.  They claim that we all recognize that science is everywhere and affects everyone.

To determine if your community is holding a satellite march, visithttps://www.marchforscience.com/satellite-marches/.

Brownfields Remediation Conference – Brantford, Ontario

The City of Brantford will be hosting the 2017 Inter-Municipality Brownfield Coordinators Conference this coming June in the City of Brantford.  The exact date and other details about the conference are pending.

The theme of the planned one and a half day conference will be Brownfield Prevention.   Included in the event will be a bus tour of brownfield sites and a special brainstorming session on the tools for implementation in in medium-sized cities.  The objective the conference will be to develop a working paper about brownfield prevention tools.

The conference organizers hope to attract more than 20 municipal leaders in brownfield remediation from across Ontario and beyond.

The City of Brantford considers itself a leader on brownfield redevelopment and will showcase work done on two redeveloped areas – the former Greenwich-Mohawk and Sydenham-Pearl industrial sites.  The City of Brantford moved to clean up the sites without having a developer waiting in the wings for the remediation to be done.

The Sydenham-Pearl site, which has been cleaned up, consists of two properties at 17 and 22 Sydenham St.  Crown Electric, which went out of business in 1993, occupied 17 Sydenham. The property, seized by the province for unpaid taxes in 1995, became the site of numerous fires. In 2004, the city stepped in and demolished the building after there were three fires in eight months at the site.  The site at 22 Sydenham was home of Domtar, a manufacturer of roofing materials for decades. Northern Globe Building Materials Inc. took over the operation until it went into receivership and closed in 1999.  The property became a neighbourhood eyesore and the site of many fires including one in 2001, which forced the city to take action. The city spent $650,000 to level the buildings and clear the site.

Greenwich-Mohawk, meanwhile, was once home to some of Brantford’s biggest and best-known factories including Massey, Cockshutt and Sternson. When those companies closed, many of the buildings were abandoned and fell into disrepair.  Fires plagued the Greenwich-Mohawk site as well before the city moved in and the buildings were demolished. The site has since been cleaned up in a massive operation that cost close to $15.5 million.

Record Year for Environmental Enforcement in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division recently released its environmental enforcement report for 2016.  The report shows includes the highest recoveries in environmental enforcement and the highest criminal penalties handed down in an individual vessel pollution case.

The year was highlighted by the completion of a settlement with BP arising out of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico with the final entry in April 2016 of the consent decree in the Department’s settlement.  This saw the United States and the five Gulf Coast states secure payments in excess of $20 billion to resolve their claims against BP.

This settlement is the largest in the history of federal law enforcement for a single defendant, and it includes the largest-ever Clean Water Act civil penalty and the largest-ever recovery of damages for injuries to natural resources.

In addition to the BP litigation, the division continued its program of prosecuting shipping companies and crew for the intentional discharges of pollutants from ocean-going vessels in U.S. waters.  t the end of fiscal year 2016, criminal penalties imposed in these cases totaled more than $363 million in fines and more than 32 years of confinement.

In December 2016, the division obtained the largest-ever criminal penalty involving deliberate vessel pollution when it concluded the prosecution of Princess Cruise Lines.  The company pleaded guilty to seven felony charges and will pay a $40 million penalty.

 

 

U.S. Government Environmental Liabilities in excess of $447 Billion

As reported in the District Sentinel, the chief United States federal watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), recently warned that the United States government’s environmental liabilities have grown by hundreds of billions of dollars over the past two decades.

In a biannual report about “high risk” problems facing federal agencies, the GAO said that taxpayers were on the hook last year for $447 billion in environmental cleanup costs—up from $217 billion in 1997.

The doubling roughly mirrors the rate of economic growth over the same time frame, but GAO warned that federal environmental liabilities might be much larger than reported.

Their estimate “does not reflect all of the future cleanup responsibilities federal agencies may face,” the report stated.

The U.S. Department of Energy liabilities alone ($372 billion) accounted for 80 percent of the total, and the obligations are “mostly related to nuclear waste cleanup.”  Half of the department’s environmental liabilities themselves come from just two nuclear cleanup sites—one in Washington State and another in South Carolina.

GAO auditors noted they believe that the Department of Agriculture doesn’t have proper “inventory of contaminated and potentially contaminated sites.”

“[I]n particular, [information on] abandoned mines, primarily on Forest Service land — is insufficient for effectively managing U.S. Department of Agriculture’s overall cleanup program,” the GAO paper stated.

The GAO report also stated that the Pentagon is inaccurately “estimating and reporting environmental liabilities,” and that GAO has been asking them to rectify the problem since 2006. “This recommendation has not been implemented,” the report stated.

The federal government is responsible for cleanup in places “where federal activities have contaminated the environment,” as GAO noted.

“Various federal laws, agreements with states, and court decisions require the federal government to clean up environmental hazards at federal sites and facilities — such as nuclear weapons production facilities and military installations,” the report said.  “Such sites are contaminated by many types of waste.”

Shore and Underwater Contaminated Sites Workshop – June 6th to 7th

The Real Property Institute of Canada (RPIC) is hosting a workshop on June 6th and 7th in Richmond, British Columbia dealing with contaminated sites.  The workshop will provide a forum for the contaminated sites community to learn about technical, scientific and organizational innovations, and best practices for the management of shore and underwater contaminated sites.  It will offer a unique opportunity for the public, private, and academic sectors to meet and exchange new ideas and information with colleagues and industry representatives from across the country and abroad.

For more information and to register, visit the RPIC website.

Risk Solutions for Contaminated Sites Exposition – May 31st

GeoEnviro Training Professionals Inc. is hosting an exposition on risk-based solutions for contaminated sites.   The event is designed for site owners, project managers, regulators, and service providers.  It will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia on May 31st 2017.

For more information on the event and to register, visit the GeoEnviro website.

Montreal’s Electric Train Project could derail Contaminated Site Clean-up

As reported in the Montreal Gazette, the planned $5.9 billion (Cdn.) electric train project could interfere with proposed clean-up of a contaminated site along the St. Lawrence River.  Daniel Green, an environmental activist who is also running for the Green Party in the federal by-election in the St. Laurent riding, contends that the Pointe-St-Charles area of the City is one of the most contaminated sites in the Province of Quebec.  A tunnel is proposed through the Pointe-St-Charles neighbourhood as part of the electric train project.

Historically, the edge of the Pointe-St-Charles was a wetland, home to thousands of geese.  But between 1866 and 1966, household and industrial waste began to be dumped into the swamp. Between the 1930s and ’50s, dikes were built and the dump expanded right into the river, filling in part of the passage between Pointe-Saint-Charles and Nun’s Island.

2008 report by the Commission on Environmental Cooperation estimated the Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood, also referred to as the Technoparc sector, contains 4 to 8 million litres of diesel fuel mixed with other substances, “enough to fill about three Olympic-size swimming pools.” It also contains an estimated 1-2 tons of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).  Diesel fuel, which acts as a solvent, has accelerated the release of PCBs into the environment, the report said.

Mr. Green claims that digging a tunnel through the contaminated land in the Technoparc sector will disturb toxic chemicals in the sediment at the site that will then flow into the St. Lawrence River.

“It’s one of the worst hazardous waste sites in Quebec,” said Green, co-president of the Société pour vaincre la pollution (SVP), an Quebec-based environmental group.  Digging a tunnel in such a toxic environment is a risky and costly enterprise that could endanger current efforts to contain and clean up the contamination, he said.  “By just building the tunnel, it will change the approach of containment,” he added.

The proposed tunnel for the e-train is five kilometres long and will run from the southern tip of Pointe-St-Charles to south of Central Station in Griffintown in Montreal.  About 500 metres will run through the contaminated site, Green said.

A spokesperson for the company responsible for the rail project, Jean-François Lacroix from CPDQ Infra, refutes Mr. Green’s concern.  “We’ve been working hand-in-hand with the city for more than a year.  We are co-ordinating the two projects,” Mr. Lacroix stated.  The company will ensure measures to mitigate risk and respect environmental norms will be taken to prevent contamination of the St. Lawrence River said Mr. Lacroix.

In the summer of 2016, a plan to address contamination at the Point-Saint-Charles neighbourhood was announced by the federal, provincial and municipal governments.  The plan called for the construction of a retaining wall to intercept contaminated groundwater and a system for treatment. It was estimated the system would need to be in place for the 25 years and cost more than $100 million.

In an interview with CBC, Alfred Jaouich, a professor in the department of earth and atmospheric sciences at L’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), says he is in favour of the train, but that everyone involved will have to be very careful.  He says the rock underneath is not stable and could crack, meaning contamination could easily spread.

The City of Montreal has been working on cleaning up the site for 25 years.  City officials hold that view that any company hoping to work there will have to respect the provincial laws in place, and that includes CDPQ Infra.

Green said fuels and heavy metals on the site, long the location of one of Canada’s largest rail yards, have been leaking into the river for decades. In the 1960s, industries dumped toxic landfill on former marshland there, which was used as the main parking lot for Expo 67.

A 2008 report by the Commission on Environmental Cooperation estimated the Technoparc contains 4 to 8 million litres of diesel fuel mixed with other substances, “enough to fill about three Olympic-size swimming pools.” It also contains an estimated 1-2 tons of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Diesel fuel, which acts as a solvent, has accelerated the release of PCBs into the environment, the report said.