Kinder Morgan conducts massive spill response drill in Burrard Inlet

Kindermorgan Spill Response

What would happen if 160,000 litres of crude oil from Alberta spilled into Burrard Inlet?

That was the potentially-catastrophic scenario simulated Thursday at Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Marine Facility in Burnaby, in a drill designed to test the company’s disaster response plan.

The full-scale simulation was advertised as the largest of its kind Kinder Morgan has conducted, involving more than 300 participants representing 20 emergency management agencies and responders.

 Overseeing it all was the National Energy Board, which will be evaluating the company’s plan in a detailed report later this year.

“We need the company to be prepared,” NEB spokesman Darin Barter said. “If enforcement action is required, we’ll make that happen.”

 The mock disaster, which did not involve dumping oil or any kind of substitute into the inlet, imagined the failure of a loading arm while an oil tanker was waiting to accept its cargo.

After the simulation began, there was pandemonium as workers tried to get a containment boom into the water as quickly as possible.

Another boom was already set up in the inlet, which Michael Davis, Kinder Morgan’s senior director of marine development, said is standard practice.

“We have a boom that’s surrounding the terminal at all times, regardless of whether there’s a ship loading. It can contain about 10 times as much oil as is spilled in this scenario,” he said.

While workers scrambled with the second boom, other agencies were called in for assistance – including Port Metro Vancouver, the Canadian Coast Guard, and the specialized cleanup fleet of the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation.

According to the NEB, the drill was conducted as part of a regulatory requirement, and wasn’t related to the TransMountain Expansion project that’s currently under review.

Spill Response

Kinder Morgan said it will take any potential shortcomings that are uncovered and work to fix them.

“Any learnings that come out of this go to improving our emergency management program,” Davis said.

The company’s safety record deserves scrutiny; industry watchdogs says dozens of spills have occurred along the TransMountain pipeline since reporting began in 1961.

Between 1998 and 2008, Burrard Inlet saw 17 significant marine oil spills.

The NEB said it’s report will be ready by Dec. 29. In the interest of transparency, it will be released to the public the same day it’s received by Kinder Morgan.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Peter Grainger

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