Fire department releases damning report on Kinder Morgan tank farm

The Burnaby Fire Department has published a damning report on Kinder Morgan's tank farm, warning that the proposed expansion could put the public and the environment at serious risk.

The report outlines a number of worst-case-scenarios for the Burnaby Mountain facility, including earthquakes, flammable crude leaks, poisonous gases, fires burning for days and exploding tanks that spray molten crude, igniting other nearby tanks. 

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But the biggest concern for the report's author is a wildfire spreading on the mountain, close to homes and Simon Fraser University.

"A tank fire occurring in that facility, because of the proposed density, could extend to multiple tanks to the forested area of the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area," said Chris Bowcock, the department's deputy fire chief. "The real risk is a fire occurring in the facility, extending to the tree tops of the forested area and through the tree tops across Burnaby Mountain."

People would be trapped at SFU while the forest burned, and the firefighters would have to battle the blaze from uphill, the most dangerous vantage point, Bowcock explained.

Kinder Morgan's proposal to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline includes tripling the tank farm’s capacity by adding 14 new tank and replacing one existing tank, bringing the new total to 26 tanks holding roughly 5.6 million barrels of crude. 

Many of the concerns outlined in Bowcock’s report aren't new; he has been raising these issues publicly for the past year.

"I'm hoping this document identifies consequences of the expansion of the facility, both potential and real, and what is actually at stake running the facility in its proposed state on the mountain, so close to the conservation area, so close the population. These risks need to be fully understood by the community, so they know what risks this project presents,"

For 15 years, Bowcock worked as an emergency management consultant and conducted field training for tank-fire suppression and pre-planning in the Alberta oil sands. His report will be entered as evidence in the National Energy Board's hearing on the expansion.

In a media release, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan called the report "comprehensive and jarring.”

"It is remarkable that Kinder Morgan is even asking the citizens of Burnaby to assume such risks, but even more so that the National Energy Board is willing to consider expanding this storage site in this location - on a hillside near thousands of residents and a busy university, and adjacent to an  urban conservation area," Corrigan said.

The NOW asked to speak to someone at Kinder Morgan, but no one was available for interviews, so the company forwarded an emailed statement instead.

"The terminal in Burnaby has been operating safely for 60 years and through our maintenance, prevention and emergency preparedness programs, we are confident in our ability to prevent and respond to all kinds of incidents,” said Michael Davies, a senior director with the company. “Trans Mountain filed a preliminary risk assessment for Burnaby terminal as part of the National Energy Board review of our proposed expansion. It concludes that through design and good management practices the risk of a fire at the terminal is low. We encourage feedback on our proposed expansion and will be reviewing the report from the Burnaby Fire Department in more detail and would welcome a discussion with them to better understand and address their concerns and questions."

Tank farm fire safety has long been a point of contention between the fire department and Kinder Morgan. Bowcock is still waiting on the company to supply fire pre-pans for the department to review.

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