After massive response, Trans Mountain pipeline safely restarts operation

Crucial B.C. pipeline shut down as a precaution; workers performed safety inspections after flooding and landslides but found time to assist people and communities in need.

The existing Trans Mountain pipeline, which transports 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil and refined products such as gasoline from Alberta to customers in B.C. and Washington state, safely restarted operation on Dec. 5 after a precautionary shut down on Nov. 14.

Restarting the Pipeline

The restart followed the completion of careful assessments, repairs, and construction of protective earthworks needed for the pipeline to return to service in the wake of extreme rainfall events across B.C. that resulted in widespread flooding and landslides. Restarting the pipeline required a significant, sustained effort to re-instate access lost due to damaged roads, changes in river flows, and adverse weather. Crews worked around the clock to clear highways, build bridges and manage watercourses to allow for access and repairs.

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Throughout the shutdown period, the pipeline remained safely in a static condition and there was no indication of any product release or serious damage to the pipe. Trans Mountain completed detailed investigations of the pipe’s integrity and assessments of the surrounding landscape to confirm readiness to safely restart.

Responding to Emergency Situations

Trans Mountain has a strong, capable workforce with experience and expertise in responding to all kinds of emergency situations. Despite working day and night to restore pipeline operations, Trans Mountain workers, contractors and equipment also assisted devastated communities.

Community support

Throughout the extreme weather and resulting flooding, landslides and road closures, Trans Mountain’s staff and contractors epitomized the spirit of Canada’s natural gas and oil operators: safety first, ready to lend assistance to people and communities in need.

Trans Mountain Pipeline Steps up to Help

When the going gets tough – the tough step up to help. In the middle of day-and-night work to restore the Trans Mountain pipeline to safe operation, crews still found time to assist people and communities in need. In addition to the restart efforts, workers helped with transportation, fuel, food and water, plus supplied equipment and substantial road-clearing and bridge-building efforts to connect communities completely cut off due to flooding and landslides.

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  • In the Fraser Valley and the Coquihalla regions, crews helped with road clearing.
  • Trans Mountain and the Expansion Project contractors assisted the District of Hope, Indigenous communities and local organizations by air-lifting supplies such as food, water, and blankets. Trans Mountain volunteers helped staff temporary shelters for hundreds of people stranded in Hope by highway closures.
  • Expansion contractor crews worked with the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to clear Highway 1 and Highway 5 landslides and repair culverts in the Hope region. This work helped to open up these roadways.
  • On Nov. 16, urgent help was required at the Barrowtown Pump Station in Sumas – critical infrastructure that protects low-lying land in the Fraser Valley east of Vancouver. The station was close to failure, which would have been catastrophic. Trans Mountain workers and equipment worked all night to help save the pump station.
  • Trans Mountain and one of the Expansion Project contractors, Surerus Murphy Joint Venture, assisted Indigenous communities in the Merritt region in the B.C. interior to open road access for stranded Coldwater Band members and deliver water. Contractor crews delivered fuel, food, water and supplies plus a portable light plant/generator to the Nooaitch Indian Band. Teams also worked with a grocery in Merritt that generously donated all of their fresh produce, delivering these supplies to the Lower Nicola Indian Band.

Supplies for Nooaitch and Hope

Timeline: Shutdown to Restart

Nov. 14: Precautionary Shut Down of the Trans Mountain Pipeline

On a precautionary basis, the existing Trans Mountain pipeline was shut down in response to heavy rainfall and extreme weather conditions that resulted in landslides and flooding. Work on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project continues in unaffected areas but construction was halted in the Fraser Valley, Coquihalla, and Interior regions of B.C. There was no indication of leaks from the pipeline.

Nov. 16 to 19: Assessment of the System in Affected Areas

The pipeline remains shut down due to flooding and debris flows in several locations including the Fraser Valley, Coquihalla (Coldwater) and other places in the B.C. interior. In order to restart the pipeline, Trans Mountain must complete an assessment of the system in affected areas by air and on the ground.

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The pipeline remains safely in a static condition and there is no indication of any oil release. Trans Mountain is focusing efforts in the region between Chilliwack and Merritt, utilizing crews from the Expansion Project and existing pipeline operations. A key priority is access to the affected areas, and Trans Mountain actively assisted the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure with road clearing. Restarting requires evaluations of slope stability to determine whether work is required before safely resuming operations. In some areas, cover over the pipe or other repairs are needed to ensure integrity of the line.

By Nov. 19, more than 200 people are working around the clock to get the pipeline back up and running. Teams are beginning helicopter operations in the Coldwater region to remove fallen trees and debris, while road crews continue clearing highways and access roads.

Nov. 22 to 26: Active Assessment and Pipeline Protection

As of Nov. 22, more than 350 people are now dedicated to safely returning the pipeline to service. Crews continued with efforts to evaluate the pipe in affected areas, with teams being airlifted or hiking into areas where there is still no road access. Ground inspections have been completed at many sites. Trans Mountain is utilizing six helicopters and some 80 pieces of heavy equipment in the Coquihalla and Coldwater regions clearing roads, installing temporary bridges and re-diverting watercourses.

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Crews are nearing completion of the ground evaluations of the pipeline in the Coquihalla and Coldwater regions. Much of the work to re-divert watercourses has been completed. A critical temporary bridge is nearing completion. Trans Mountain has set up seven staging areas for equipment and resources, including two dedicated to helicopter operations. Our response includes more than 400 people, seven helicopters and some 100 pieces of heavy equipment in the Coquihalla and Coldwater regions, focused on getting the pipeline restarted.

With weather conditions expected to deteriorate in the coming days, Trans Mountain is monitoring the situation to ensure crews can continue to progress safely, particularly in areas still depending on air support for access, supplies and equipment. With the majority of on-the-ground assessments of the pipeline’s condition completed, focus is shifting to complete repairs to ensure integrity of the line where it has been impacted by flooding and debris. Trans Mountain has added snow maintenance equipment – two plows and two snowcats – to the list of heavy equipment already engaged in the response. By Nov. 26, Trans Mountain has made considerable progress toward a safe restart of the pipeline.

Dec. 1 to 5: Safe Restart of the Trans Mountain Pipeline

With new storms bringing heavy rain, crews are continually monitoring and assessing the pipeline and so far, there are no new areas of concern. Trans Mountain brought in more than 44,000 cubic metres of rock and gravel and several hundred sandbags to allow assessment and repair work to continue. Crews are utilizing 30 sets of pumps to manage water and set up 15 light-stands with generators to allow work to continue around the clock.

“Safety of our crews and protection of the pipeline system remain our top priorities and despite the adverse conditions we are moving forward with work necessary to safely restart the pipeline.”

The restart took place during daylight hours on Dec. 5. The pipe will be closely monitored by teams in the field and technology systems operated by the company’s control centre. Emergency management teams and equipment remain staged in key areas in the unlikely event of a release. Trans Mountain will continue with additional emergency work such as additional inspection, protecting riverbanks and adding ground cover or relocating sections of the pipeline.