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BURNABY, B.C. – Two suburban roads lay bare the promise and peril of a proposed $5.4-billion expansion to Kinder Morgan Canada Inc.’s Trans Mountain pipeline through the densely populated Lower Mainland.
At the corner of Schooner Street and United Boulevard in the Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam, a 24-inch pipeline cuts under the road, past a Starbucks and a Triple O’s burger franchise, before diving under the Fraser River.
In 2002, Kinder Morgan threaded a 1,300-metre section of the pipeline under the road after seismic tests revealed soil along the river bank, where the pipeline had earlier been moved to accommodate a Home Depot, was subject to “liquefaction,” which made it unstable.
It’s an example, said Greg Toth, senior director with the Trans Mountain expansion, of modern pipeline construction techniques in action. “You can thread [a length of pipeline] down a street, put a stake in the ground and come up within a metre of that stake,” he said in an interview at the company’s Calgary office.
A rupture five years later of a transfer line on the Trans Mountain system pierced by a contractor’s excavator — that sprayed 11 houses with a geyser of crude oil along Inlet Drive in nearby Burnaby — underscores the flipside of such precision.
The two episodes shine a light on the urban geography the Canadian arm of the Houston-based pipeline company faces as it looks to more than double capacity on its Edmonton-to-Vancouver pipeline to 890,000 barrels per day, from 300,000 barrels today.
Burnaby accounts for 4% of the land area of Metro Vancouver, but about 10% of the region’s population. It is the third-most populated urban centre in British Columbia, according to the municipal website.
The city’s community gardens, elementary schools and multimillion-dollar homes stand in sharp contrast to the largely rural landscape the expanded pipeline would traverse next door in Alberta.
The proposed expansion represents a “massive intrusion” into Burnaby, said Kennedy Stewart, the NDP MP for Burnaby-Douglas whose constituency includes Kinder Morgan’s Westridge dock and terminal facilities.
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