Editor, The Times:
I have read a series of anti-Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMPL) articles by David Ellis, including a recent one in the Clearwater Times entitled “Blue River in danger of pipeline spill” (Oct. 10 issue).
In my opinion, much of Ellis’ material is illogical and/or erroneous. Let’s examine some of his statements in that article.
Mr. Ellis blames “higher rainfall” and “long duration wet soil” as factors leading to “very heavy corrosion” in the Blue River area of TMPL. Westcoast Energy built two high pressure gas pipelines under the Strait of Georgia some years ago; others built a line across the Mediterranean Sea; both of course are in salt water. Perhaps this is a hint that rainfall problems on properly protected pipelines are manageable?
Mr. Ellis states that the cathodic (electrical anti-corrosion) protection in many TMPL areas “is not workable any more, leading to very heavy corrosion”. This claim makes no sense for two reasons. Firstly, while TMPL knows, how could Mr. Ellis possibly know if either of these conditions exists? Secondly, TMPL, like pipeline companies I worked for, has remote continuous monitoring of key parts of the cathodic protection systems and uses local checks on the pipeline to monitor anti-corrosion protection. Any problems with cathodic protection are repaired to prevent corrosion damage. Internal (e.g. smart pigs) or external tools are used to monitor actual corrosion.
Mr. Ellis claims that there are lots of little red metallic markers along the pipeline and that these mark “past pipeline weaknesses” (I assume “past weaknesses” implies repairs), and he complains about “exposed pipe sites”. Exposed pipe sites usually indicate inspection and/or repair is taking place. Having complained about too many repairs, he then complains that maintenance is poor. Surely he can’t have it both ways!
Historically the red markers were used to mark some repairs; with the advent of GPS and Geographical Information Systems tracking repair locations, these markers are often used to mark underground pipeline features such as vent fittings.
As for his claim of oily contaminated soil from TMPL “pinhole leaks”, if such oily sites exist, they could also be spills from ATVs or other sources, natural seeps of oil (common in B.C. and elsewhere), or naturally occurring organic compounds. If he finds such sites, I suggest he notify TMPL, take a sample for analysis, and note the exact GPS location.
Both I and TMPL have offered in writing to meet Mr. Ellis and provide answers to his many questions, but so far he has refused to meet. Emails are not a great means to exchange meaningful information. While it may be “really fun being a pipeline basher” (Ellis: Crosscut July 6/13), I would suggest that if Mr. Ellis is interested in the facts and ensuring his posts, letters, and articles are accurate, he meet with TMPL.
John Hunter, P. Eng., president and CEO
J. Hunter and Associates Ltd.
North Vancouver, B.C.
– John Hunter describes himself as a semi-retired chemical engineer who has worked for over 40 years in the energy industry, including heavy oil, oil sands, natural gas utilities, pipelines, power production, district energy, and petroleum refining in Canada and overseas. He does consulting work for various energy and infrastructure companies including Trans Mountain Pipelines.