Trans Mountain Pipeline

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Trans Mountain Pipeline
ProvinceAlberta and British Columbia
FromEdmonton, Alberta
ToBurnaby, British Columbia
General information
OwnerTrans Mountain Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canada Development Investment Corporation
Technical information
Length1,150 km (710 mi)
Diameter610 mm (24 in)

The Trans Mountain Pipeline System, or simply the Trans Mountain Pipeline, is a pipeline that carries crude and refined oil from Alberta to the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. "Trans Mountain pipeline system" and "Trans Mountain Expansion Project", TMX, are since August 31, 2018, part of a new "Trans Mountain Corporation", a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canada Development Investment Corporation, that is accountable to the Parliament of Canada.[1] Up to this date, it was owned by the Canadian division of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners. The pipeline has been in use since 1953. It is the only pipeline to run between these two areas.

In 2013, the National Energy Board approved a proposal by Kinder Morgan to expand the pipeline with a second span, built roughly parallel to the existing pipeline. The project would have expanded its capacity from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000. The proposal attracted controversy due to its potential environmental impact, having faced legal challenges, as well as protests from environmentalists and First Nations groups. The disputes intensified in early 2018, when Alberta and B.C. engaged in a trade war over the expansion project. In May 2018, the federal government announced its intent to acquire the pipeline as a crown corporation, and seek outside investors to complete the expansion (who would also be indemnified for any delays induced by provincial or municipal governments).

In August 2018, on the same day that Kinder Morgan shareholders approved the sale, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the NEB's approval of the pipeline expansion, citing that the government did not sufficiently consult First Nations groups and assess its environmental impact.


On February 14, 1947, large oil deposits around Leduc, Alberta, were discovered. The idea for a pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia (BC), quickly emerged, driven by the growing demand for oil both in Asia and on the west coast of Canada and the United States. The US military was also interested in developing this infrastructure so that oil could be accessed more easily for military use, specifically because of the ongoing Korean War.[citation needed]

On March 21, 1951, the Trans Mountain Pipeline Company was created by a special Act of Parliament. On the same day, the company made a pipeline proposal to the Board of Transport Commissioners. Ownership of the company was split between Canadian Bechtel Ltd. and Standard Oil.[clarification needed]

In February 1952 after the board's approval, construction began. Canadian Bechtel Ltd. was responsible for engineering, design, and construction of the project. On October 17, 1953, oil began to be pumped through the pipeline, which had cost a total of $93 million.[2][3]

In 2004, Kinder Morgan began the process to add a second pipeline, running parallel to the first, for the portion running between Hinton, Alberta, and Hargreaves, British Columbia. This required two more pumping stations – the Wolf Pump Station, near Niton Junction, Alberta, and the Chappel Pump Station, near Pyramid, British Columbia.

In 2008, the project was completed, increasing capacity by 40,000 barrels per day (6,400 m3/d), (from 260,000 to 300,000 barrels per day (41,000 to 48,000 m3/d)).[4]

Spill history[edit]

Trans Mountain has reported approximately 82 spills to Canada's National Energy Board since 1961.[5][6] Although a majority have occurred at contained zones such as pumping stations, and a majority were below the mandatory reporting threshold of 1.5 cubic metres, there have been some significant spill events. Notably:

  • Abbotsford 2005: A ruptured pipeline dumped 210 m3 (1,300 bbl) of crude oil. The company attributed the accident to activity on a neighbouring property.[7]
  • Burnaby 2007: A contractor working on a sewage project for the City of Burnaby ruptured a pipeline, causing spillage of 224–234 m3 (1,410–1,470 bbl) of crude oil. Some of it flowed into Burrard Inlet via the Burnaby storm sewer system. Most of it was recovered. Eleven houses were sprayed with oil, and about 225–250 residents were evacuated or left voluntarily. Cleanup took more than a year.[8][9][10][11]
  • Burnaby 2009: 305 m3 (1,920 bbl) of crude oil were released from a tank at the Trans Mountain Burnaby Terminal. Most of it flowed into a containment area.[12]
  • Sumas 2012: 90 m3 (570 bbl) of light crude oil leaked from a Sumas Mountain holding tank. All of it flowed into a containment area.[13]

Expansion project[edit]

Kinder Morgan protest in Vancouver
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan addresses the crowd, at the Stop Kinder Morgan protest rally, on Burnaby Mountain Park.
RCMP contain protesters against Kinder Morgan on Burnaby Mountain.

In 2013, Kinder Morgan filed an application with the Canadian National Energy Board to build a second pipeline under the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project.[14] The second pipeline was to run roughly parallel to the existing pipeline, between Edmonton and Burnaby, (east of Vancouver) and to be used to transport diluted bitumen. The additional pipeline requires 12 new pumping stations. The proposed expansion, with 980 kilometres (610 mi) of pipe, would increase the system's capacity from 300,000 barrels per day (48,000 m3/d) a day to 890,000 barrels per day (141,000 m3/d). An investment of $7.4 billion would complete the connection between Strathcona County, Alberta, and Burnaby, British Columbia.[15]

Kinder Morgan had the support at that time of several large petroleum industry customers for this expansion, (BP Canada Energy Trading Co., Canadian Natural Resources, Canadian Oil Sands Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc., Devon Canada Corp., Husky Energy Marketing Inc., Imperial Oil Ltd., Nexen Marketing Inc., Statoil Canada Ltd., Suncor Energy Marketing Inc., Suncor Energy Products Partnership, Tesoro Refining & Marketing Co, and Total E&P Canada Ltd).[citation needed]

In 2016, BC stated it did not support Trans Mountain, partly because Kinder Morgan has not provided enough information about its proposed spill prevention and spill clean up program.[16] On November 29, 2016, Canada's federal cabinet approved the expansion project, announcing that the approval was "subject to 157 binding conditions that will address potential Indigenous, socio-economic and environmental impacts, including project engineering, safety and emergency preparedness."[17]

On January 11, 2017, B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced British Columbia's support for the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, saying the project meets her government's five conditions for approval and includes a revenue-sharing agreement worth up to $1 billion.[18]


The expansion project has faced criticism, particularly from environmentalists and First Nations groups. The existing and proposed pipelines ship diluted bitumen through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, an extremely sensitive environmental region. To reach the terminus, tankers have to pass through a very narrow channel of shallow water from the open sea.[19]

A study by Simon Fraser University claims that Kinder Morgan overestimated the economic benefits of the pipeline expansion.[20] This report directly contradicts the narrowing of the WTI and Brent futures index after Barack Obama similarly opened the US domestic market to foreign exports.[21]

Despite federal government approval, seven Federal Court challenges were filed by the municipalities of Vancouver and Burnaby, and the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, Kwantlen, and Coldwater First Nations.[22] In November 2017, minister of natural resources Jim Carr stated that the federal government had sent a letter in support of a dispute resolution process to the National Energy Board to expedite any future disputes over provincial or municipal permits impeding on the expansion. BC Environmental Minister George Heyman accused the federal government of interfering with an independent review of the project, arguing that "it's both a highly unusual and a highly troubling intrusion on a province's right to enforce its own permits, its own regulations and the interests of its own citizens".[23][24]

On January 30, 2018, the B.C. government proposed a restriction on increases to the amount of diluted bitumen that can be imported into the province from Alberta, until the completion of studies on whether potential spillage could be mitigated. The province also announced an intent to consult with local communities and First Nations among others. Alberta premier Rachel Notley criticized the proposal as being a stalling tactic on Trans Mountain expansion, explaining that "the B.C. government has every right to consult on whatever it pleases with its citizens. It does not have the right to rewrite our constitution and assume powers for itself that it does not have." On February 6, 2018, Notley ordered the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission to cease future imports of British Columbia wine as a retaliatory sanction over these moves.[25][26] The wine sanctions were lifted on February 22, 2018[27]

On April 8, 2018, Kinder Morgan suspended "non-essential" activities relating to the pipeline, as the company did not want to "put [its] shareholders at risk on the remaining project spend". The company stated that it would attempt to reach agreements on a funding plan with stakeholders by May 31.[28] On April 16, 2018, the Alberta government introduced the Preserving Canada's Economic Prosperity Act, which would give the Minister of Energy power to regulate the export of crude oil, natural gas, or refined fuel from Alberta. The bill could be used to effectively ban the export of Alberta gas to British Columbia. As such, B.C. Attorney General David Eby threatened to sue Alberta over the proposed bill, as he considered it unconstitutional, and stated that it could have a further impact on gasoline prices in the province.[29][30][31]

On May 29, 2018, the Canadian federal government announced its intent to acquire the Trans Mountain Pipeline from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion. The government does not intend to remain the permanent owner of the pipeline, as it plans to seek outside investors to finance the twinning project. If the government cannot find a buyer before the consummation of the purchase, it will carry out the purchase via a crown corporation, and operate it in the meantime. The eventual owner will be indemnified by the government for any delays or hindrances to the project that result from legal actions by provincial or municipal governments. The government will also have the option to cover costs or purchase the pipeline back if the new owner is unable to complete the project due to legal pressure, or, despite reasonable efforts, cannot complete the project by an established deadline.[32][33]

Critics of the expansion argued that this proposed purchase was a taxpayer-funded bailout of the project. B.C. Premier John Horgan stated that the sale would not affect the provincial government's ongoing efforts to block the pipeline expansion, stating that "rather than go to the court to determine jurisdictions, they're making financial decisions that affect taxpayers and they'll have to be accountable for that". Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, stated that the union was "absolutely shocked and appalled that Canada is willingly investing taxpayers' money in such a highly controversial fossil fuel expansion project".[34]

On August 30, 2018, Kinder Morgan Canada's shareholders voted to approve the sale of the pipeline to the federal government.[35] However, the same day, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned the government's approval of the expansion project, citing that it did not sufficiently fulfill its duties to consult local First Nations groups, nor the effects of increased marine traffic on local wildlife.[36][37] The day after, Trudeau announced his support for the project.[38][39]


The expansion project faced strong opposition from civic governments, First Nations, environmentally concerned citizens, and others. Organizations including LeadNow and the Dogwood Initiative have also opposed the project and organized protests.[40][41] Protests in November 2014 focused on Kinder Morgan's surveying work. Members of the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations of British Columbia paddled canoes on the waters of Burrard Inlet to the Kinder Morgan Burnaby Terminal for a ceremony to protest the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, in North Vancouver, B.C., on September 1, 2012. Tsleil-Waututh leaders hoped to shut down the project altogether.[42]

Those who support the pipeline say that it will create jobs and that it has a lower risk of spilling oil than transporting oil by rail, which pipeline proponents say would otherwise have to be used.[43] On July 3, 2018, protesters, including 12 activists, blocked an oil tanker from the Ironworkers Bridge in Vancouver.[44]

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ Website of TMC
  2. ^ "APPENDIX A: OIL PIPELINE TIMELINE" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 5, 2017. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  3. ^ TransMountain (2010-06-20), Oil Across The Rockies -PART 1.wmv, retrieved 2016-12-01
  4. ^ "Transmountain | Anchor Loop". Transmountain. Archived from the original on June 16, 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  5. ^ "Spill History".
  6. ^ "Releases Reported by Trans Mountain - 1961-2016" (PDF). Transmountain. August 31, 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 21, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  7. ^ "Abbotsford - Sumas Facility: Ward Road Spill". Transmountain. Archived from the original on December 1, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  8. ^ "Westridge 2007 spill". Transmountain. Archived from the original on December 1, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  9. ^ "Pipeline Investigation Report P07H0040". Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Archived from the original on June 13, 2017. Retrieved June 1, 2017.
  10. ^ Granger, Grant. "The day oil rained down on Burnaby".
  11. ^ "3 companies plead guilty to Burnaby oil spill - CBC News".
  12. ^ "Burnaby Tank 82 2009 Spill". Transmountain. Archived from the original on December 1, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  13. ^ "Abbotsford - Sumas Facility: Tank 121 2012 Spill". Transmountain. Archived from the original on December 1, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  14. ^ "About Us | Trans Mountain". Transmountain. Archived from the original on September 28, 2015. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  15. ^ "Transmountain | Proposed Expansion". Transmountain. Archived from the original on April 23, 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  16. ^ "Trans Mountain pipeline expansion not supported by B.C. government". Transmountain. CBC News. January 11, 2016. Archived from the original on December 7, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  17. ^ "Government of Canada announces pipeline plan that will protect the environment and grow the economy" (Press release). Government of Canada. November 29, 2016. Archived from the original on December 1, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  18. ^ "B.C. approves Trans Mountain pipeline expansion - The Star".
  19. ^ "What the Trans Mountain pipeline will mean for B.C.'s coast". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2018-08-30.
  20. ^ "Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline benefits questioned". CBC News. November 10, 2014. Archived from the original on December 4, 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  21. ^ Archived from the original on July 16, 2016. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  22. ^ Hoekstra, Gordon (November 26, 2016). "Yes could still be no as Kinder Morgan awaits Trudeau's nod on its multibillion-dollar pipeline expansion". The Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on December 9, 2016. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  23. ^ "B.C. slams Ottawa's defence of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  24. ^ "'No province can impinge on the national interest', federal minister says as pipeline feud simmers". CBC News. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  25. ^ "B.C. creates more uncertainty for Trans Mountain with bitumen restriction". CBC News. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  26. ^ "B.C. not backing down on fight against pipeline expansion despite Alberta's threats". CBC News. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
  27. ^ "Cheers! B.C. wine industry celebrates end of Alberta ban". CBC News. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  28. ^ "Alberta demands 'concrete action' from Ottawa to get Trans Mountain pipeline moving". CBC News. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  29. ^ "Alberta unveils bill that could wreak havoc on B.C. gas prices in trade war". CBC News. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  30. ^ "New law would allow Alberta to restrict flow of oil and gas as Trans Mountain battle escalates". Financial Post. 2018-04-16. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
  31. ^ "Alberta premier 'prepared to turn off the taps' now that legislation approved". Edmonton Journal. 2018-05-17. Retrieved 2018-08-30.
  32. ^ "Liberals to buy Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5B to ensure expansion is built". CBC News. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  33. ^ "Ottawa is buying Trans Mountain. What does that mean? A guide". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  34. ^ Weichel, Andrew (2018-05-29). "B.C. premier, Indigenous groups respond to Trans Mountain purchase". CTV News British Columbia. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  35. ^ "Kinder Morgan Canada shareholders vote to sell Trans Mountain pipeline to Ottawa with project in limbo". CBC News. Retrieved 2018-08-30.
  36. ^ "Federal Court of Appeal quashes construction approvals for Trans Mountain, leaving project in limbo". CBC News. Retrieved 2018-08-30.
  37. ^ "Trans Mountain pipeline approval quashed by court". Financial Post. 2018-08-30. Retrieved 2018-08-30.
  38. ^ "Trudeau committed to building Trans Mountain despite new legal challenges - CBC News". Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  39. ^ "Prime Minister says Ottawa still committed to build Trans Mountain pipeline expansion". August 31, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  40. ^ Azpiri, Jon (April 25, 2018). "Summer jobs controversy reheats over posting calling to 'stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline'". Global News. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  41. ^ The Canadian Press (June 4, 2018). "Rallies planned across Canada to protest Kinder Morgan buyout". News 1130. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  42. ^ James Keller (May 2, 2014). "B.C. First Nation launches legal challenge over Kinder Morgan pipeline". Canadian Televisions News. Archived from the original on May 8, 2014.
  43. ^ "Pipelines much safer than shipping oil by rail, Fraser Institute (a private organization funded by the Koch Brothers) study says". Financial Post. Archived from the original on December 2, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  44. ^ "Pipeline protesters block Trans Mountain oil tanker from Ironworkers Memorial Bridge". July 3, 2018. Retrieved September 7, 2018.

External links[edit]