By Andru McCracken

Trans Mountain say they are testing a new tool to help assess the existing pipeline. the pipeline was commissioned in 1953. 66 years later they say they it is still operating smoothly.

Trans Mountain pipeline is conducting integrity digs throughout the Valemount area and it has piqued the interest of Peter McCartney, the Wilderness Committee’s climate campaigner.
According to Trans Mountain, a new in-line inspection tool was used to assess the existing pipeline.

“Since this tool is new to industry, Trans Mountain is completing a series of validation integrity digs to confirm the accuracy of the tool data,” said a spokesperson for the company.

“The pipeline continues to operate safely.”

The pipeline was originally constructed in 1953 to transport crude oil, but McCartney said the pipeline is now moving diluted bitumen. He said the bitumen is sandy and abrasive.

“It is quite a bit harder on pipe than crude oil which the thing was built for,” he said. “It is unnerving that they are continuing to operate.”

McCartney said many people are concerned about the potential impact of the old pipeline, not just the new one.

“I don’t think that the government realizes they have bought a 60-year-old pipeline, and that is about as long as pipelines last,” said McCartney.”  “I can only imagine what they are thinking about as they are doing these integrity digs.”

According to the company, an integrity dig involves excavating and inspecting a segment of pipe using visual and other non-destructive examination methods.

“If required, repairs will be completed, the site will be backfilled and restored to its original function. Work is scheduled to occur during regular business hours; however, some weekend work may occur,” said a spokesperson for the company.

McCartney said he was interested in the integrity dig, because they can sometimes indicate there has been a spill.

“Anytime something comes up like this from Trans Mountain that requires immediate attention, we’re looking for spills,” he said.

According to Tran Mountain’s website, not every spill needs to be reported to the National Energy Board including spills less than 1.5 cubic metres that do not spill into a body of water.

McCartney said the Wilderness Committee uses strategic research and grassroots education to promote wilderness and wildlife in Canada.

Incidentally there have been at least two major spills near Valemount; one happened the first day the pipeline was supposed to deliver oil to Vancouver in 1953, reported by the Globe and Mail. Another, reported on Trans Mountain’s website was 500 litres on May 15, 1998, just north of Valemount.