Through pristine Jasper Park, Kinder Morgan goes full-speed on Trans Mountain pipeline expansion – by Jeff Lewis (National Post – March 15, 2013)

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JASPER, Alta. – The smell of crude oil lingers as Rob Scott eases his pickup truck into a pump station and stops next to a tangle of white pipelines and valves jutting from the ground.

On the eastern edge of Jasper National Park in Hinton, Alta., the aroma serves as a pungent reminder of the hidden pipeline network that cuts through the surrounding evergreen forest here, under glacier-fed rivers, around wetlands and over two mountain ranges en route to Canada’s West Coast.

The pump station, located about 300 kilometres west of Edmonton, offers a final glimpse of a 36-inch jumbo pipeline — the same diameter as TransCanada Corp.’s controversial Keystone XL project — that passes unseen through Jasper, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Mount Robson Provincial Park to Rearguard, B.C. Built over a two-year window beginning in 2006, the so-called Anchor Loop is now the linchpin of a $5.4-billion expansion proposed by Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. to its half-century-old Trans Mountain pipeline system, Canada’s lone oil outlet to the Pacific.

“Most people don’t even know there’s a pipeline there,” said Mr. Scott, an operations liaison with Kinder Morgan, pointing out of his truck window to a grassy ditch beside the highway. “In fact, when we were originally looking to expand, lots of people didn’t even realize there was an existing pipeline running through the park to the coast.”

Houston-based Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP wants to increase capacity on the Edmonton-to-Vancouver oil pipeline to 890,000 barrels per day, from 300,000 barrels today.

Much of the work through Jasper, save for spot digs and pressure tests to ensure the existing 24-inch pipeline is not damaged, is done, thanks to a $527-million expansion completed in 2008 that boosted capacity on the system by 40,000 barrels a day but left room for additional growth in incremental phases.

That gives Kinder Morgan “a huge advantage” over Enbridge Inc.’s rival Northern Gateway project, Lanny Pendill, a senior energy analyst at Edward Jones & Co., said in a telephone interview from St. Louis.

The $6.6-billion Gateway scheme, which would carry up to 525,000 barrels a day to a new marine terminal proposed for Kitimat, B.C., must forge a new path across two mountain ranges and hundreds of rivers farther north.

“If you’ve already got the right-of-way, right off the bat you’ve got less impact on the environment versus trying to cut a new route from Alberta all the way to the West Coast,” Mr. Pendill said.

“So it is absolutely helpful, but you’re still going to have, in my view, some pretty tremendous environmental opposition, simply because you are carrying more crude through a very pristine environment, and then you are talking about additional tanker traffic” on the coast.

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