Trans Mountain pipeline alley.

Building Trans Mountain: What you need to know

Have questions about the Trans Mountain Expansion Project? Read on for answers.

What is Trans Mountain and TMEP?

Construction of the original Trans Mountain pipeline, circa 1952. Photo courtesy Trans Mountain.

Trans Mountain is a 1,150-kilometre pipeline built in 1953. It carries oil from Strathcona County (near Edmonton) and distributes product to destinations in B.C. and Washington State, including the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby. Roughly 20 per cent of the products shipped in the pipeline are exported by ship to markets in the U.S. and overseas.

The Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP) builds a second pipeline to increase overall oil transportation capacity. The expansion will take the capacity of the pipeline from 300,000 barrels per day up to 890,000 barrels per day.

TMEP was approved by the federal government in November 2016 and also received an environmental assessment certificate from the B.C. government in January 2017. In August 2018, the federal government purchased Trans Mountain from Kinder Morgan and is now the project proponent for TMEP.

Why is Trans Mountain needed?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts world energy demand to increase by 31 per cent by 2040, driven by global population growth and improving standards of living, particularly in emerging markets in Asia (IEA, 2016). The IEA projection includes a 12 per cent increase in demand for crude oil, after incorporating the creation of GHG emissions reduction policies that countries around the world committed to at the 2015 Paris Accord. China and India’s combined demand growth is 10.1 million barrels per day—equal to more than 90 per cent of the world’s increased demand from 2015 to 2040.

Canada is well positioned to meet increasing oil demand. Canada’s oil sands are projected to increase our country’s crude oil supply by more than 1.5 million barrels per day by 2030 (CAPP, 2017).

A pipeline carrying these increasing supplies of oil to be exported off the West Coast gives Canada an opportunity to become a supplier of choice to emerging markets in Asia. Canada can provide a reliable, long-term source of oil that is produced in an environmentally sustainable manner. This helps other nations’ meet their energy security needs while generating long-term economic benefits and prosperity for all Canadians.

Getting Canadian oil to tidewater has the added benefit of diversifying Canadian exports while garnering generally higher world prices for Canadian oil. Trans Mountain notes that Canada could earn about $3.7 billion more a year for its oil as a result of selling to higher-priced international markets.

How will Trans Mountain benefit Canada?

TMEP will cost about $7.4 billion. This is a major investment that will create economic benefits across the country, including jobs, training opportunities and increased revenues for municipal, provincial and federal governments. Trans Mountain estimates the following benefits from the expansion project:

  • The creation of 37,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs per year during pipeline operations.
  • Increased government revenues of $46.7 billion during construction and the first 20 years of operations.
  • Employment, training and business opportunities for local communities and Indigenous groups in the region.

Find out more about benefits from TMEP on the Trans Mountain website.

Are pipelines safe?

Pipelines are a safe, proven technology for carrying oil. According to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), 99.9999 per cent of all oil and gas products transported by CEPA member pipelines (including Trans Mountain) reach their markets safely. In 2015 and 2016, CEPA reported zero significant incidents involving spills of liquid petroleum products including crude oil.

At the same time, industry strives to achieve 100 per cent safe transportation of petroleum products. This includes innovating new technologies to enhance the monitoring of pipelines and mitigation of potential spills.

Construction of TMEP is designed to minimize its impact on people and the environment. The expansion will follow the existing pipeline right-of-way for 73 per cent of the route. An additional 16 per cent will follow existing utility corridors, while the remaining 11 per cent will be built away from the existing pipeline—so as to accommodate urban development such as houses and businesses built after 1953.

Trans Mountain route map. Courtesy Trans Mountain.

What about the increase to oil shipments on the coast?

Canada is a world leader in safe marine shipping using oil tankers.

Some people may not know this: oil is already being shipped from Canada’s West Coast. Transportation of petroleum products via Trans Mountain’s Westridge Marine terminal have been occurring since 1956 without a single spill from a tanker.

With increased supply resulting from TMEP, tanker traffic could increase to approximately 34 tankers per month, depending on market demand.

Canada has industry-leading regulations and standards that go above and beyond other jurisdictions, making Canada a world-leader in safe marine shipping of oil products. For example, the government employs the use of marine inspectors and surveillance planes to ensure shipping is conducted in a safe and responsible manner. Incidents of major maritime oil spills have dropped to zero since 2000.

In 2016, the Government of Canada introduced a $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan. This includes enhanced resourcing to handle increased oil shipments along Canada’s West Coast.

Learn more about Canada’s world-class tanker safety system in “World-class Marine Shipping: The Canada way.”