NEB online map tracks pipeline trouble

Interactive tool unveiled by federal pipeline regulator shows only recent spills, excludes small ones

Image from National Energy Board interactive map of pipeline incidents.

The National Energy Board has launched an online interactive map that shows the locations and details of pipeline incidents such as oil spills and gas releases.

The map shows 65 incidents in B.C. since 2008, which is as far back as the data goes, and offers almost no details.

Most of the B.C. incidents involve gas pipeline releases or fires, mainly in northeastern B.C.

It shows four pipeline spills of oil in B.C. over the last seven years from Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline – a 305-cubic-metre spill in Burnaby after a malfunction at the tank farm in 2009, a 90-cubic-metre spill of crude oil at the Sumas tank farm near Abbotsford in 2012, a 2013 release of four cubic metres of oil near Hope and an 11-cubic-metre release of waste oil near Kamloops in 2011.

But only one of those spills is classified as a “significant incident” – the smaller one at Hope in 2013.

Trans Mountain is also listed for operating the pipeline beyond design limits in 2012 and for a 2010 incident in Burnaby categorized as a serious injury.

Not included on the map are significant pre-2008 spills, particularly the 2007 Burnaby spill of 224 cubic metres of heavy crude that partly reached Burrard Inlet after the pipeline was ruptured by a backhoe, and the 2005 Ward Road spill of 246 cubic metres at the Sumas tank farm.

Trans Mountain has posted a chart on its website showing a more comprehensive history of those and other spills dating back to 1961.

The NEB says its map will be updated quarterly as new incidents occur or reports are revised.

NEB chair Peter Watson said the new tool demonstrates the federal regulator’s “increasing commitment to transparency.”

The map can be zoomed and filtered to display incidents by specific years or incident types.

It can be found at http://www.neb-one.gc.ca/sftnvrnmnt/sft/dshbrd/mp/index-eng.html.

Pipeline expansion opponent Lynn Perrin of the Pipe Up Network noted the NEB map doesn’t include smaller pipeline seeps and leaks of amounts below the reporting threshold of 1.5 cubic metres.

“I don’t think it gives the whole picture,” Perrin said. “The smaller spills can also be harmful. It doesn’t take very much oil to cause quite a bit of damage, especially to fish and some of the endangered aquatic species.”

The NEB’s review of Kinder Morgan’s proposal to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline remains under steady fire from critics who consider it unfair.

Seven B.C. cities, including Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and North Vancouver, last month signed a joint declaration of non-confidence in the NEB process and demanded it be halted.