By Andru McCracken

Crews have made steady progress on the pipeline right-of-way around Valemount over the past two months. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

The Trans Mountain Expansion Project between Mount Robson and the Darfield pump station near Clearwater is about 1.3% complete, and according to the Senior Strategic Advisor and Manager of Communications for Trans Mountain Ali Hounsell, it is right on time.

The Trans Mountain Expansion Project will increase the amount of crude oil, bitumen and refined oil the pipeline system can move from Edmonton to Burnaby each day from about 300,000 to 890,000 barrels. It’s a controversial project, but as residents of Valemount witness daily, construction is continuing steadily.

Throughout the pipeline area of construction there are tonnes of signs for every occassion and everyone, in this case including the Amish.

That 1.3% figure is a measure of completeness of the pipeline, and it doesn’t include some preliminary activities like setting up the temporary worker camp, pipe storage facilities at the Valemount Industrial Park or the creation of the pipe bending site and offices near the Dasol restaurant. It does, however, include the kind of work that can be seen from Highway 5, such as clearing the right of way, changing the grade and laying pipe.

Hounsell said things are going as they should.

Far left: Some pipe is already in the ground, how much is unclear. Here a wee bit of pipe is exposed under a crossing near Pooli’s farm.

“We are where we want to be and where we expected to be,” said Hounsell. “With a project of this scope and size there are things you encounter along the way, challenges and issues. These are the kinds of problems you may not expect.”

For example, Hounsell said that over the last month a huge number of seals have been feasting near their terminal, because of ample food supply.

“We can not pile drive when they are in proximity. The way we have planned the process, we can shuffle things around and still come out on schedule,” she said.
Hounsell said the pipeline is expected to be in service by December 2022.

East to west
Close to Edmonton the pipeline is 85% complete, into Edson and through to Jasper it’s 20% complete. Work is ongoing in Clearwater and Kamloops. In the Fraser Valley they are still at the permitting stage.“Permitting is exhaustive and exhausting,” she said.

Workers sandblast a newly welded section of pipe to get rid of impurities, workers then apply a protective coating to the pipe.

Peak numbers
Trans Mountain will continue working right through winter. Hounsell expects about 300 people at the Valemount camp until sometime next year.

“We expect the work to peak in 2021 in all of North Thompson,” she said. “That is as fine as I can pinpoint it.”

What are they doing?
Hounsell said the bulk of the work they are doing right now is clearing the right of way and grading.

“We get the contractor to get as much work done as they can, they get all the clearing work done and move onto the next phase. It’s not a straight line on a graph, it’s a wavy line that goes up and down as you are in different phases of construction.”

Hounsell said that 90 to 95% of the pipe for the project has been delivered. 13,000 tonnes of pipe over all.

There are about 300 people currently living in the Valemount camp and there are 34 workers who are locals.

Crews have made steady progress on the pipeline right-of-way around Valemount over the past two months. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

Blue River camp?

Hounsell said the company still hasn’t made a decision about whether or not they will set up a camp in Blue River.

“We have it currently in our schedule for 2021. We hope to make a decision in the next little while,” she said.