Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Dire Straits

with 4 comments

The increase in shipping traffic if the TransMountain pipeline expansion is actually implemented poses a quite extraordinary threat to the Salish Sea. I heard on the CBC yesterday that the ships used to load at pipeline terminal in Burnaby are smaller than optimal, so they will be running a shuttle service to supertankers moored off the coast somewhere for transhipment. And do not forget that we are talking about diluted bitumen: this is a heavy mixture of tar and sand mixed with natural gas condensate to get it to flow. In the event of a spill, the lighter fractions quickly evaporates, and the bitumen sinks. That means it is for all intents and purposes irrecoverable. Indeed, I think, as campaigners against the pipeline, we need to take a lesson from Jordan Bateman and repeat “dilbit sinks” whenever anyone talks about what a great idea tar sands exports are.

The following is a letter that Susan Jones has sent to our politicians. She copied it to Fraser Voices and has given me permission to reproduce it here.


The Right Honourable Justin P. Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

The Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources

The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport

The Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Members of Parliament    Ottawa, Canada, K1A 0E4

Have you any idea of what you have just approved with the Kinder Morgan pipeline in British Columbia?

Your statistics and statements of fact are not correct and should be referenced.

According to the website below:

“ More than 10,000 vessels transit  the lower Strait of Georgia, Boundary Pass and  Haro  Strait each year. But that includes  tugs, fishing boats, private  yachts and  ferry boats.  There are about  3,000 large tankers, container ships and  bulk carriers that pass the same way each year.  Adding  another 400 tankers would increase  the total traffic to about  ten ships a day, a bit less than  one every hour,  coming  or going.”

This is not 1% increase as stated by the federal Liberal Government.  It is more than a 13% increase in large ships.

Also, you have not included other planned increases as outlined in the article referenced below.  If all proceed, there will be a 40% increase in large vessels through the narrow shipping lane from Vancouver to the Pacific  This is also the route traveled by the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcas) which you are entrusted to protect.

The information you have broadcast is not “evidence based” and it is not “safe” for the amazing environment of the Strait of Georgia, Boundary Pass, Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Just take a look at the maps below and see how narrow the shipping passes are from Vancouver to the Pacific.  In addition, the passage from the Juan de Fuca Strait to the Pacific is dangerous and subject to strong winds, and powerful currents.  The area, also known as the Big Eddy is rich in nutrients supporting entire food chains – from plankton to whales.

Take a look at the route below and think about the impact of even a minor accident or spill.  Even without an accident, the noise impact of increased numbers of large ships interferes with whale communication leading to mortality.  The impacts of increased numbers of large vessels cannot be effectively mitigated.


screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-10-33-27-amDownload this map in .pdf format


Living Oceans


Written by Stephen Rees

December 1, 2016 at 10:44 am

4 Responses

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  1. Has anyone looked at refining the tarsand onsite instead of piping the heavy crude?


    December 1, 2016 at 11:30 am

  2. Yes. And there have also been proposals to construct a refinery in BC that could deal with bitumen. Here is a 2015 piece from the Globe and Mail from which I garnered this gem

    Judith Dwarkin, chief energy economist at ITG Investment Research, warns that spending billions of dollars to increase refining capacity within Canada is no economic panacea. She notes that North West received big subsidies when the Alberta government agreed to supply 37,500 barrels a day of bitumen to the company and also pay fees for processing. “It isn’t really a commercially-based decision, but is diverting public funds from other uses in order to subsidize the processing of oil,” Ms. Dwarkin says.

    Stephen Rees

    December 1, 2016 at 11:42 am

  3. There is a great assumption that 400 tankers a year will be destined to Asia from Burnaby, and the above maps paint the worst case scenario from Port Metro Vancouver, while ignoring the huge tanker traffic to Anacortes refineries from Alaska via the Juan de Fuca Strait. There is little evidence there is even an Asian market for diluted bitumen yet. Nonetheless, it’s a nearly raw resource, just like so many others that create jobs and profits overseas as is the Canadian way.

    Economist Robyn Allan looked deep and couldn’t find any justification for tide water access to Asian markets. The existing tanker traffic is very slim and many are destined to Washington state and other US refineries, not Asia. Alberta has had tide water access with Trans Mountain to the Burnaby docks since 1952. So much for the theory of justifying the approval of Kinder Morgan based on Alberta’s so-called “social licence” for promising to enact a carbon tax while allowing the tar sands operations to expand for new Asian consumers who will apparently be willing to pay more to be rid of the discount on Alberta oil bound for the US. As if.

    Click to access Economist-Robyn-Allans-Submission-To-The-Ministerial-Panel-September-28-2016.pdf

    Alex Botta

    December 1, 2016 at 12:42 pm

  4. See also “Kinder Morgan Approval Insults Democracy, Science and Economic Logic” by Andrew Nikiforuk

    Stephen Rees

    December 1, 2016 at 3:57 pm

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