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B.C. spill response plans in limbo after Trans Mountain decision

The recent Federal Court of Appeal delaying approval of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project coast has put the B.C. spill response in limbo.  The proposed pipeline expansion project would see an oil pipeline expansion from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.  The Federal Court of Appeal denied approval of the project pending greater consultation with indigenous communities and greater need for mitigating environmental risks.

The oil spill response plan, as part of the Trans Mountain Pipeline project, is to build six new spill response bases along B.C.’s coast that would be the home port of 43 new spill response vessels and 120 new crew members.

Map of proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Configuration.

The oil spill response plan is to be funded, in part, from a $150 million that is to be collected by Western Canada Marine Response Corp. (WCMR Corp.) from tolls for use of the expanded pipeline.  WCMR Corp. is an industry-funded organization tasked with responding to and cleaning up spills along B.C.’s coast.

When the project gets approval for construction is uncertain.  The federal government is considering a number of options including appealing the Court decision and enacting legislation.

The delay in building additional pipeline capacity from the Alberta oil sands has resulted ins an increase in rail shipment of oil.  More than 200,000 barrels of oil are now carried by rail in Canada each day, up from less than 30,000 in 2012.

In 2017, Canadian crude oil supply grew to 4.2 million barrels a day — exceeding total pipeline capacity leaving Western Canada. As a result, a record-setting volume of oilpatch output is now moving by rail to refineries in the U.S.

If the proposed spill response enhancements are built, the response to an oil spill on Canada’s west coast will be reduced from six hours to two hours for Vancouver Harbour and down from 18-72 hours to six hours for the rest of the coast.

The six bases would have been built in Vancouver Harbour, near Annacis Island in the Fraser River, in Nanaimo, Port Alberni, the Saanich Peninsula and Beecher Bay near Sooke.

 

First ship launched of Trans Mountain spill response fleet

As reported by jwnenergy.com, the first of 43 new spill response vessels being built to support the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion was launched recently in Prince Rupert, B.C.

The 26-foot Sentinel 30 workboat and landing craft was built for Western Canada Marine Response Corp. (WCMRC).  WCMRC is the Transport Canada-certified marine spill response organization for Canada’s West Coast. Its mandate under the Canada Shipping Act is to be prepared to respond to marine oil spills along all 27,000 km of British Columbia’s coastline, and to mitigate the impact when a spill occurs. This includes the protection of wildlife, economic and environmental sensitivities, and the safety of both the responders and the public.

The Sentinel 30 Spill Response Vessel built by WCMRC

The spill response vessels are part of an investment of $150 million committed after Kinder Morgan made its final investment decision on the pipeline in June 2017, British Columbia’s largest-ever expansion of spill response personnel and equipment.

“Workboats are the backbone of a response. These support vessels deliver equipment and personnel to a response, tow boom as part of a sweep system, deploy skimmers and can assist with waste removal,” WCMRC said in a statement.

“To perform these tasks, the new Sentinel 30 is powered by twin 150 HP counter-rotating Yamaha outboards and can travel at up to 35 knots.”

The Sentinel 30 will undergo spill response trials in Prince Rupert and ultimately be transitioned to the new 24/7 response base in Saanich on Vancouver Island.

In total, WCMRC is building 40 new vessels as part of the Trans Mountain pipeline spill response fleet. Other new vessel builds underway at WCMRC shipyard include purpose-built skimming vesselsCoastal Response Vesselslanding craft and response barges.

The Trans Mountain spill response enhancements also include six new response bases and about 135 new personnel. These new resources will be located along shipping lanes in the Salish Sea, with about 70 of the new WCMRC employees and most new vessels located at bases on Vancouver Island, according to Kinder Morgan.  Following the enhancements, there will be over 80 vessels in the fleet.

All new personnel, facilities and equipment will be in place several months before the first oil tankers associated with the expansion begin calling at Burnaby’s Westridge Marine Terminal in Burrard Inlet, the company said when the enhancements were announced last June.

New Partnership for Oil Spill Response

Four Norwegian companies have formed a new partnership to provide an oil spill response service. Framo, Maritime Partner, Norbit Aptomar, and NorLense have established the OSRV Group which is claimed to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for oil spill response. The companies in this new group are all specialists in their particular fields and their Norwegian manufactured components have a dedicated function that is aimed at achieving the best result possible when an oil spill occurs. The products of this group also allows for conventional supply vessels to be converted to emergency oil-spill response support units as required.

OSVR Group offers a complete oil spill response solution

“Our aim is to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ where we pool our efforts and act as a total systems supplier of safe, highly functional, and well-tested technology. The emergency response equipment has undergone thorough testing and quality assurance, drawing on 40 years of oil spill response experience,” says Jørgen Brandt Theodorsen, Area Manager of Oil & Gas Pumping Systems at Framo. “The OSRV Group offers a package solution that covers everything the customer needs, from detection and containment to recovery of the spill and this is conducted with reliable equipment that can handle the challenges if an accident occurs.”

“The customer only has to deal with one of the partners to get access to a complete system that covers everything and is fully adapted in terms of functionality, volume and size,” said Roy Arne Nilsen of NorLense. Aptomar’s radar and infrared cameras can identify and produce an overview of the oil slick, whilst Maritime Partner’s high-speed vessels are designed for pulling equipment such as booms in place. These booms are supplied by NorLense, and then recovered oil is pumped onto a vessel with the Framo TransRec Oil Skimmer System.

“This is a turnkey solution where customers have access to emergency preparedness expertise without themselves having to acquire this. With our package solution, supply vessels can easily be upgraded and used as part of new emergency response tenders. It is quick and easy for ship-owners to convert existing vessels in order to offer new services to oil companies,” commented Lars Solberg of Norbit Aptomar.

A prompt response is important so the OSVR Group will ensure that an emergency oil-spill response system responding quickly.” said Peder Myklebust, of Maritime Partner.

 

B.C. government moves forward on action to protect coast

The British Columbia provincial government will be moving forward with consultation around four bitumen spill safeguards while referring to the courts the outstanding issue around B.C.’s right to protect B.C.’s coast, Premier John Horgan announced today.

“We believe it is our right to take appropriate measures to protect our environment, economy and our coast from the drastic consequence of a diluted bitumen spill,” said Premier Horgan. “And we are prepared to confirm that right in the courts.”

Premier Horgan says his government will be retaining expert legal counsel to ready a reference to the courts, adding that it may take several weeks to bring the reference forward. This reference will seek to reinforce B.C.’s constitutional rights to defend against the risks of a bitumen spill.

Crews on spill response boats work around the bulk carrier cargo ship Marathassa after a bunker fuel spill on English Bay in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday April 9, 2015. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Premier Horgan says this safeguard has generated disproportionate and unlawful reactions from the Alberta government, specifically their decision to ban the import of wines from British Columbia.

“The actions by the Alberta government threaten an entire industry and the livelihoods of people who depend on it,” said Premier Horgan. “We have taken steps to protect our wine industry from the unwarranted trade action by the Government of Alberta.”

“It’s not about politics. It’s not about trade.  It’s about British Columbians’ right to have their voices heard on this critical issue,” said Premier Horgan. “And it’s about B.C.’s right to defend itself against actions that may threaten our people, our province and our future.”

The Premier adds that consultations will begin soon on the remaining four safeguards announced in January by Environment and Climate Change Minister George Heyman. These safeguards include:

  • Spill response time
  • Geographic response plans
  • Compensation for loss of public and cultural use of land
  • Application of regulations to marine spills

Keystone Pipeline Spill Response deemed a Success

In early December, a section of the Keystone Pipeline leaked 210,000 gallons of oil near the South Dakota City of Amherst.  Representatives of Trans-Canada Pipeline, the owner of the pipeline, deemed the detection of the leak and prompt spill response as an example of its exemplary contingency measures that are in place to detect and respond to such incidents.

An aerial view shows the darkened ground of an oil spill which shut down the Keystone pipeline between Canada and the United States, located in an agricultural area near Amherst, South Dakota.
REUTERS/Dronebase

When fully complete, the Keystone Pipeline will carry bitumen from the Alberta oil fields to refineries in Texas.  At present, the pipeline runs from Alberta, through North Dakota and South Dakota.

As reported in the Prairie Public News, Julie Fedorchak of the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) stated that the company’s quick response to the incident shows that its response plan worked perfectly.

“The system was shut down within three minutes,” Fedorchak said.  “And importantly, the spill was detected.”

Fedorchak said the spill showed up on its detection equipment, and the people overseeing system noticed it, and.

“They knew it was something off,” Fedorchak said.  “And the quick shutdown prevented what could have been a much more difficult spill.”

But Fedorchak said there are still questions about why the spill happened.

“It’s a new line,” Fedorchak said. “New lines like this shouldn’t be having those kinds of issues.”

Fedorchak said it’s important that the company and federal pipeline regulators do the tests needed on that pipeline, to try to figure out what caused it.

“That’ll be a learning opportunity for the entire industry,” Fedorchak said.

The company believes it may have been caused by an abrasion on the pipeline coating, that happened during construction.

“Perhaps there were some things in the ground that could have caused it,” Fedorchak said. “Or it could have been a problem with the pipeline protection itself. They’re looking at a number of things.”

Clean-up work continues at the spill site.

Advance Technology Camera spots hidden Oil Spills

As reported in the New Scientist, a new kind of polarising camera is available that can detect otherwise invisible oil sheens.

Like many oil imagers, the Pyxis camera sees the infrared radiation emitted by all objects.  That is important because there is often a temperature difference between oil and water.  However, if there isn’t one, thermal imagers don’t work.  So the Pyxis also detects differences between the way oil and water scatter light.  Thanks to this differing polarisation, it works not only when the oil and water are the same temperature – but also in pitch darkness.

Infrared polarimetry has been used in astronomy to help identify distant stellar objects. Polaris Sensor Technologies, based in Alabama, has modified the technology for a new use.

“The optical system and the physics behind it are very complex,” says David Chenault, President of Polaris Sensor Technologies.  “We started building infrared polarimeters several decades ago, but they were bulky and not capable of looking at dynamic scenes.” Only in the past few years did it become possible to significantly shrink the sensor – now roughly the size of a fist – and make it capable of imaging moving scenes. That is important for detecting oil on water.

The new camera can see spills invisible to the naked eye from 2 kilometres away.  Its size means it can be mounted on a small drone or other robot.

Doug Helton of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Emergency Response Division says these cameras could augment NOAA satellite networks, which detect and track suspected oil spills.  While they can spot even small spills, visual confirmation is crucial to rule out false positives. “Wind shadow may look like an oil slick,” he says.

Confirmation is usually done by people in a helicopter or plane, so that is where a drone-mounted camera could save a lot of time.

The camera can also spot and track oil washed up on beaches. Typically, this is a time-consuming task that must be done by people on the ground.

The sensor passed extensive tests with crude oil and diesel in different wave conditions at the massive Ohmsett test facility pool in New Jersey and at an actual spill off Santa Barbara, California, in 2015.  Russell Chipman at the University of Arizona says this is a significant development. “The costs of polarimeters are decreasing,” he says, and the miniaturisation and commercialisation of infrared polarimetric sensors means this technology can now be deployed widely to detect all kinds of oil slicks.

While Polaris is currently concentrating on oil detection, more applications for the camera are likely to be discovered when it goes into mass production, anticipated early next year.

 

New spill rules tag transport companies with response, recovery costs in B.C.

As reported by Dirk Meissner of the Canadian Press, the Government of British Columbia has introduced pollution prevention regulations to hold transport companies moving petroleum products across the province responsible for the costs of responding to and cleaning up spills.

Environment Minister George Heyman said recently that the new regulations will take affect at the end of October and apply to pipeline, railway and truck company owners and transporters moving more than 10,000 litres of liquid petroleum products.

The rules increase responsibility, transparency and accountability for operators who transport potentially dangerous products through B.C., he said.

“I would hope that business doesn’t believe that individual members of the public through their tax dollars should be responsible for cleaning up spills they incur in the course of doing business and making a profit.”

The aim of the new rules is to prevent spill sites from being left contaminated for months and sometimes years, Heyman said, noting companies will be required to submit spill response and recovery plans ahead of moving their products.

“Most people subscribe to the polluter pay principle,” he said. “These regulations also require that spill contingency plans be put into place and that recovery plans and reporting plans be implemented in the case of a spill. That’s just reasonable.”

CN Rail said in a statement that it continues to work with the B.C. government and its industry partners on emergency response and preparation plans. The railway transports oil and numerous other products, including grain, across B.C.

“Emergency and spill response preparation and training is an important part of our business,” the statement said. “CN has in place emergency response plans and conducts spill and emergency response training with stakeholders across our network.”

The B.C. Trucking Association said in a statement that it supports the province’s new rules.

“We have been actively engaged in working with the government on the development of these regulations because the safety of our drivers, the public and the environment is our number one priority,” the statement said.

New pollution prevention regulations will hold transport companies and pipeline operators moving petroleum products across British Columbia responsible for spill response and recovery costs. A pipeline at the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, with an oil tanker in dock on Burrard Inlet.

Last spring, the previous Liberal government amended the Environmental Management Act to include some of the new regulations, but Heyman said he further tweaked the polluter pay regulations to ensure annual public reporting by the government.

He said he also shortened the deadline for operators to put their spill contingency plans in place to one year for trucking companies and six months for railways and pipelines.

The new rules do not apply to marine vessels carrying petroleum products along the B.C. coastline.

“Marine spills are regulated by the federal government but there is some jurisdiction for the province if a marine spill ends up washing onto the shoreline of B.C.’s jurisdiction or the seabed,” Heyman said.

The province is developing a strengthened marine response and recovery program that complements federal spill regulations, he added.

The new regulations come on the one-year anniversary of a fuel spill off B.C.’s central coast, where a tug sank, spilling more than 100,000 litres of diesel into waters near the Great Bear Rainforest.

Marilyn Slett, chief of the Heiltsuk First Nation, said the sinking of the tug, Nathan E. Stewart, has had devastating social and economic impacts on her community.

A valuable fishing area remains closed a year after the spill and many Heiltsuk face the prospect of a second year without revenue from the area’s valuable shellfish species, she said.

by Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

ASL wins pollution response vessel orders

ASL Shipyards in Singapore has won a contract to build three pollution response vessels, whose design leans heavily on escort tug architecture. Western Canada Marine Response Corp ordered the three response vessels to protect Canada’s west coast.

ASL Spill Response Vessel

The vessels will increase offshore spill response capabilities for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. ASL will build these vessels to Robert Allan’s BRAvo 2500 design, which uses elements of the naval architect’s experience in designing escort tugs.

These 25 m vessels will be pollution response platforms custom-designed to meet the formidable environmental conditions and demanding requirements of Canada’s west coast.

They will act as a mothership to other smaller vessels during the response to spills, and be capable of deploying containment equipment, transferring components between vessels, and will store oil in internal tanks or offload oil into barges.

These vessels will have Caterpillar C9.3 main engines and two Caterpillar C4.4 service generator sets. They will be classed by Lloyd’s Register and built to meet Transport Canada requirements.

Robert Allan worked on the design of these vessels, including the use of computational fluid dynamics, since the start of this year. It used its designs for the RAstar series of offshore escort tugs for the hull form and hull sponsons. The vessels will have large bilge keels, twin skegs and a bulbous bow.

For oil containment, they will have Kepner self-inflating offshore booms stored on a large powered reel and a Current Buster 4 sweep system. BRAvo 2500 vessels will have an aft swim platform that allows easy access to the water surface for recovering and deploying equipment with the vessel’s crane.