Understand pipeline safety

Some people are just against any technology they don’t understand, like the hecklers at Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent town hall in BC.

They get news and get known and may give an impression to some people that society is against a project. Our Premier Horgan was like this in his earlier years (and bragged about it on TV) and now he has become premier by ‘the skin of his teeth’ and joined with a party akin to Greenpeace. Together they are trying to rebel against our country and ruin its economy through their ignorance of the technology they fight.

I am a retired electrical engineer living in south central BC. I have extensive experience in electrical power companies and industry, including most of my latter years in pipelines of various types. Pipelines move energy, whether it is petroleum, petroleum refined products, or gas. This is similar to electric power lines (which most people accept as necessary). People talk about electrical services as power, but power is a measure of voltage (pressure) and current (flow) that moves energy on the electrical conductors. The meter at your home measures the energy used and not the power. The high voltage power lines, carrying this energy to your homes, pass through our beautiful forests. There can be failures, such as caused by lightning and other natural factors, which could cause sparking that could start a devastating forest fire; and we know the devastation of the 2017 fires.

However, the power companies install devices (protection relays) that open circuit breakers that remove that section of line from service. Most of the time this will prevent a fire, but the protection has to be set to provide the best of reliability and protection. Pipelines receive more bad press for failures than power lines do for causing fires. The pipeline industry has changed over the years from a long time ago when they only had a few manual sectionalizing valves to where the ones I know of are now more akin to electrical power lines. For
the last years of my career I worked on projects called EFRD (emergency flow restriction devices). It used to be that a person would jump into a truck and drive like a maniac to get to a valve when a pipeline leak was reported. I worked on projects that installed EFRD at critical locations like water crossings. Old pipelines may have had a manual valve at the upstream side of a waterway. The project would install a second valve at the downstream side of the waterway and both would be fitted with a motor operator. The pipe would have a combination of sensors that could include pressure, flow, and temperature on both sides of the waterway. In a small factory-built building there would be a programmable logic controller and a radio (or other communication device) that would link the installation to the central control room. With this installation both valves could be rapidly closed to minimize leakage, like the arcing for an electrical power line. I’ve worked on
very remote locations that had solar panels and propane generator that provided both electricity and heat for the small building. The maniacs that want to stop the safest method of transporting this liquid energy don’t consider the dangerous alternatives of rail and truck. Look at the tragedy in Lac-Megantic in Quebec and
more recently here in BC where it was coal that derailed and threatened fish habitat (what if it was oil) and the train derailment that ruined Lake Wabamun in Alberta. Just consider the rail lines along our beautiful rivers and a major derailment of many substandard cars that are apparently being used. Think of the carbon footprint of having thousands of trucks moving this energy.

Don’t consider the bad press for pipeline leaks in the USA, like in Michigan. I worked on a project that the Canadian company bought an old pipeline in the USA to reverse it to take Canadian oil south. We were rebuilding the stations with new equipment as was our mandate to do. The USA electrical engineer for the project overruled this and the project refurbished old equipment. Then when something goes wrong, the press and public opinion blames the foreign company that owns the pipeline. I found the USA to be in a different world of reality. Based on this experience, their experiences cannot relate to Canada. Whether it is electrical energy or petroleum energy, our society still requires this to support the population we have on this planet. We need to live as a society and not succumb to nimby and fanatics. Our supplying oil to SE Asia will help alleviate their burning of coal that crosses the Pacific Ocean and pollutes our beautiful province. I have not seen the design proposal for the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. If it has sufficient emergency flow restriction devices, then it should proceed. If it does not, then it should add this to the design and not operate until this is implemented.

As for the port facilities, I should hope that the port authority would only allow double-hulled tankers to be filled and require tugboat escorts to protect the tankers out to sea. There are always safe ways to do things. Fanatics close their eyes and brains and simply say no. In this province this issue has sunk to political fanaticism.

Jerrilynn DeCock

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