B.C. floods: Timeline to restart Trans Mountain pipeline in question

It's a very tense day across large parts of southwest B.C., as the first in what's been called a 'parade' of storms has now hit the coast.

Efforts to restart the Trans Mountain pipeline and restore the critical supply of fuel to southwestern B.C. could be in jeopardy.

The Trans Mountain pipeline has been inoperative since Nov. 14, when an atmospheric river drenched the province, triggering multiple landslides and floods.

Up until Wednesday, the company had maintained it was optimistic the line could be restarted with reduced capacity by the end of the week.

However, a Thursday update did not include that projection.

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“With the continued deterioration of weather conditions in the region in the coming days, Trans Mountain is closely monitoring the situation to ensure our crews can continue to progress safely, particularly in areas still dependent on air support for access and provision of supplies and equipment,” Trans Mountain said in its latest online update.

“Work continues to progress towards a safe restart of the pipeline, in a reduced capacity. Key to successful execution of the restart plan will be access for equipment, fair weather, and no new findings of concern. A sustained effort will continue to return the system to its full capacity.”

Asked directly if the company still believed the line could be restarted by the end of the week, a spokesperson could not confirm an estimated time to resume operation.

“We are carefully monitoring the weather conditions to make sure we can safely progress. There is no update to the restart timeline at this stage,” the spokesperson said.

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The company said it had added snow maintenance equipment to the more than 400 people, seven helicopters and 100 pieces of heavy equipment in the Coquihalla and Coldwater regions working to restart the line.

It added that there has been no “serious damage” to the pipe, and that nothing has leaked from it.

B.C.’s South Coast remained under a slew of weather warnings and alerts as the latest in a series of new storms hit the region, raising new flooding concerns.

The pipeline is responsible for delivering the majority of the fuel used by Lower Mainland drivers, and its loss prompted the B.C. government to begin rationing fuel in southwestern B.C. last week.

Consumers are limited to 30 litres of gasoline per fillup in affected areas. The fuel restrictions were meant to last 10 days, until Nov. 30, a timeline that could be in question if there are delays to restart the pipeline.

Petroleum analyst Dan McTeague said any delay in restarting the pipeline would only serve to extend how long the province needs to ration fuel.

McTeague said it could take as long as 10 days for the line and Metro Vancouver’s only refinery in Burnaby to tool up to full service from when they are reactivated.

“I think best case scenario, once the all-clear is given, you’re looking at least another week before things start to flow once again and we get back to normal, which could take yet another week to get all the stations refuel,” he said.

“I think we’re looking at this right into the Christmas period like it or not.”

 

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