Fraser Forum

B.C. opposes Kinder Morgan but pipelines needed for Canada to become energy ‘superproducer’

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Because new pipeline infrastructure must play a role if Canada wants to become an energy “superproducer,” it was disappointing to hear that the British Columbia government will formally oppose the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion with its submission on Monday to the National Energy Board. The province’s reason for the opposition is that the government believes Kinder Morgan failed to adequately address the province’s concerns regarding the prevention and response to a potential oil spill.

While the B.C. government appears to have some concerns about the pipeline’s safety at this time, it is worthwhile to talk about the general realities of pipeline and tanker safety, something that’s all too often forgotten when debates over oil transportation are centered around worst-case scenarios.

Below are some figures highlighting the safety of pipelines and tankers:

• Pipeline accidents and incidents are unlikely, with 0.049 occurrences per million barrels of oil equivalents transported

• 83 per cent of pipeline accidents and incidents occur in facilities, which likely have secondary containment mechanisms

• More than 70 per cent of pipeline accidents and incidents result in spills of less than one cubic metre, and 16 per cent result in no release of product

• Pipelines are safer than rail and trucks when it comes to transporting oil

• Large spills (more than 700 tonnes) from oil tankers have dropped from an average of 24.5 spills per year around the world in the 1970s to an average of two large spills per year in the first four years of the 2010s

• Medium-sized spills oil tanker spills (7-700 tonnes) also declined significantly, from an average of 54.3 spills per year across the globe in the 1970s to an average of five per year during the first part of the 2010s

• According to Transport Canada, there has only been one major oil spill in the last 20 years off Canada’s West Coast, and it did not involve an oil tanker but rather resulted when the Queen of the North ferry sank with 240 tonnes of oil on board

Incidentally, we previously wrote about Canada’s strong potential to become a global energy “superproducer.” The report explains that it’s important Canada realize its resource potential “because of the economic and social benefits that would flow from further development of our energy resources and related transportation infrastructure. Certainly, the increased employment and income would contribute to improvements in the quality of life for all Canadians.” While oil prices are currently low, the World Bank expects them to be in the high-$80.00 range by 2025.

One of the main impediments for Canada in realizing its superproducer ambitions, and the economic benefits that come with it, is a lack of transportation capacity, specifically pipelines, which move oil and gas in the safest and most economically efficient manner.

Energy infrastructure like oil pipelines will be needed if Canada is to realize its energy potential over the long term. Of course pipelines should be developed and maintained in a manner where safety is a chief concern. But in discussions about the safety of energy transportation, the realities of pipeline and tanker safety should not be missed.


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