Kinder Surprise
July 24, 2007 5:43 PM   Subscribe

Kinder Morgan oil pipeline ruptured near Vancouver, British Columbia Thick, black oil dripped from lampposts, splattered across suburban lawns and crept into Burrard Inlet after a geyser of crude spewed from a burst Kinder Morgan pipeline Tuesday. [google news] Work crews ripped into the TransMountain pipeline about 12:30 p.m., causing the oil to "explode," as one witness put it, from the ground and burble up from manholes, pouring down streets toward the ocean, according to witnesses. Kinder Morgan bought the pipeline from a Canadian utility in 2005, and is known as a "poster child for pipeline problems." More Kinder Morgan accidents.
posted by KokuRyu (38 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Somebody is not learning from their previous mistakes. What an appalling performance.
posted by tellurian at 6:20 PM on July 24, 2007

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:20 PM on July 24, 2007

What the hell? I guess that teaches me to actually watch the local news....
posted by jokeefe at 6:21 PM on July 24, 2007

By the way, the refinery involved in this spill is the one which Malcom Lowry could see as he sat in his cabin in Dollarton writing Under the Volcano... From the site: The Shell Oil refinery is located to the south of this spot on the far shore. The "S" in the sign burned out revealing the ominous message - "hell."
posted by jokeefe at 6:25 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

25 minutes at full capacity for that pipe is 1.2million litres. Even if you assume only a fraction actually spilled that's a lot of contamination in Burrard Inlet.

Aside from all the nature up Indian arm, there's still the Maplewood Flats bird sanctuary roughly 3 kilometers away and Cate's park almost directly on the other side of the inlet.

Anyone up for bird watching washing?
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 6:30 PM on July 24, 2007

1. Run and get bucket.
2. ????
3. Profit!
posted by jimmythefish at 6:47 PM on July 24, 2007

It is said oil will hit 100 dollars a barrel by the end of the year.
posted by chlorus at 6:52 PM on July 24, 2007

Well, looks like I'm not going crabbing off Cates park anymore.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:53 PM on July 24, 2007

It is said oil will hit 100 dollars a barrel by the end of the year.

How meaningful.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:07 PM on July 24, 2007

Somebody is not learning from their previous mistakes. What an appalling performance.

The pipeline was damaged by subcontractors, not by Kinder Morgan employees. There's really only so much you can do to ensure that your contractors don't fuck up.
posted by solid-one-love at 7:30 PM on July 24, 2007

Sorry, to add: even if the pipeline was improperly marked, which is possible but unlikely for a line that large and important, the contractors still fucked up by breaching it. There are all sorts of precautions that one should take when drilling boreholes or otherwise breaking ground.
posted by solid-one-love at 7:33 PM on July 24, 2007

Poor Burrard Inlet - what a lovely place it (was) is.

Kinder Morgan's fiascos here in the Bay Area (see link in post) were horrendous. People died in the Walnut Creek incident, and they said it wasn't "its responsibility to determine exactly the location of the pipeline."

posted by rtha at 7:34 PM on July 24, 2007

*they = KM
posted by rtha at 7:35 PM on July 24, 2007

The response seems to be very slow. They should have an oil spill response team ready to go with booms to contain oil, boats, suction vacs etc. Even if they had to fly them in it shouldn't have taken more than a couple hours.
posted by fshgrl at 8:57 PM on July 24, 2007

The pipeline was damaged by subcontractors, not by Kinder Morgan employees. There's really only so much you can do to ensure that your contractors don't fuck up.
From August 23, 2005:
"In its 20-page report on the Walnut Creek explosion, the department said the main contributing factor was that the pipeline was not properly marked: “The primary cause of the incident was that the location of the petroleum line was not known to employees working in the area.”
In the end, Kinder Morgan was cited for two counts of “serious willful” and fined a total of $140,000."
From July 24, 2007:
"The crew that broke the line, which is operated by Kinder Morgan Canada, said it was improperly marked.
It's up to the company to mark the location of the oil pipeline before a construction crew starts working, Corrigan said."
Sounds to me like their pipeline marking procedures aren't up to snuff. After the first incident they should have put rock-solid guidelines in place.
posted by tellurian at 9:16 PM on July 24, 2007

More info. It certainly looks like a map screwup. (near the end of the article)

fshgrl, you can't fly in boats, they're generally pretty big.That being said, there is a tanker blocking off the entrance to Indian Arm and what looks like several smaller boats trying to clean up the water. No idea what the land looks like, but they are trying.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 9:49 PM on July 24, 2007

You can fly in boats for the inlet max all you would need was a 20' skiff or something. Inflatables are fine for deploying booms and pack small. Some places literally have all this stuff packed in containers and ready to go when there's a spill.
posted by fshgrl at 10:01 PM on July 24, 2007

My family home is just off Dollarton, across Burrard Inlet from this. Shitty.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:24 PM on July 24, 2007

Kinder Morgan had an accident also here in Tucson in 2003. A pipeline burst near a neighborhood that was under construction, and over 10,000 gallons of gasoline was spilled into the ground. So there's the enviromental damage. But it got a lot more interesting.

The pipeline that burst feeds a Tucson fuel farm. This tank farm was not affected by the burst, because it was several miles before the break on the line. So for Tucson it was business as usual. However, this pipeline's next stop is Phoenix. It is one of three (I believe that was what was reported at the time) pipelines going into the Phoenix area. And the residents of the Phoenix area responded just as calmly as you might expect - they bought all the fuel they could, thinking there was a shortage. Lines backed up and stations were drained dry almost as soon as their shipments came in. Prices shot up over $3 a gallon - remember, this was 2003 when gas was around $1.50. Fights were common at fuel pumps. (In one instance, a man with a SUV towing a powerboat was wielding a baseball bat at anyone who came near his pump.) Fuel was trucked in from Tucson. All this despite the area still having 90% of their supply. This went on for weeks. Finally the pipeline was fixed and the area went back to its normal self.

Kinda makes me nervous about what will happen if there's ever a real shortage.
posted by azpenguin at 10:59 PM on July 24, 2007

As per the Excavation and Construction near Pipelines Regulation of the National Energy Board:
Excavation using power-operated equipment is not permitted within three metres
(10-feet) of the pipe unless:
(i) the pipe has been exposed by hand at the point of crossing or,
(a) where the excavation runs parallel to the pipe, the pipe has been exposed
at sufficient intervals to confirm its location or,
(b) the pipeline company has informed the excavator that it has confirmed
the location of the pipe by probing.

In any case, a map is not sufficient due diligence. If the contractors were just looking at a map, then they're at fault. IMHO, IANAL.

After the first incident they should have put rock-solid guidelines in place.

What do you suggest? Remapping every pipeline they buy to ensure that it hasn't moved since it was installed?

posted by solid-one-love at 11:26 PM on July 24, 2007

Like always, geniuses with backhoes.
posted by so_ at 12:21 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dammit, those are my personal prime canoeing grounds! What is the word on long term impact to the area? Also, where are the crippling billions dollar fines? Honestly, how many times can a company destroy park lands for free?
posted by kaspen at 1:21 AM on July 25, 2007

solid-one-love, I'm not a lawyer either but Kinder Morgan has been found negligent in the Walnut Creek case. The Burrard Inlet incident has similar features. Kinder Morgan didn't just buy the profit that they will make, they also bought the responsibility to make sure that environmental disasters like this wouldn't happen. It's not hard to suppose that this local contractor was given maps as guides where to dig without the assurances that your above cited regulations require, and accepted them. Should Kinder Morgan have just handed over the maps without checking them? I don't think so. If the site didn't have exposed pipes they should have confirmed the location of the pipe by probing. I'm not saying that they have to do this for every pipeline that they have bought but they should do it for every pipeline that may be compromised. This is a cost that they have to pay for the profits they reap. They cannot shuck responsibility because it costs too much. This is a result of cutting corners or trying to maximise profits by reducing safety or environmental safeguards.
posted by tellurian at 5:24 AM on July 25, 2007

The Province has some really devastating photos out now, the paper copy as well.

Kinder Morgan spokespeople were doing some serious damage control yesterday evening, dumping blame on everyone but themselves. Everything's turned on its head this morning, though:

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan blamed Kinder Morgan, the oil pipeline company, for yesterday's oil spill. Corrigan said the contractor "did everything they were supposed to do and apparently they were provided with the wrong information. They followed all the protocols and procedures. It was unfortunately a case of not getting the right information about where the line was located."

Witness Shawn Soucy said that when workers struck the pipe they said it was not where they were told it was.

An investigation is under way.

posted by mek at 7:46 AM on July 25, 2007

With regards to the environment impact, I don't think any estimates are expected until the end of the week; yesterday people were saying they would take several days to gauge the overall impact.

A spokesman for the David Suzuki Foundation said the area is home to a sizable mix of wildlife — 14 species of waterfowl, seals, and shellfish — and is likely to be hit hard by the spill. "It's a very rich area for being so close to a dense urban area and port," said Jay Ritchlin, marine conservation specialist with the foundation. "The impact will be large and difficult to clean up."

He called the spill "a demonstration of just how devastating the oil and gas industry can be to the coast of B.C.," but said it would be tough, right now, to be specific about that impact.

posted by mek at 7:52 AM on July 25, 2007

Just learned that the company I work for is doing an environmental impact assessment; six of our staff were there all night. So I have to bow out here.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:32 AM on July 25, 2007

Kinder Morgan agreed to pay a $500,000 penalty for ground water contamination, and $5.5 million for clean up efforts in the 2003 rupture in Tucson.
The company initially believed 10,000 gallons of fuel had leaked into the soil from the July 30, 2003 rupture of its pipeline carrying fuel from Tucson to Phoenix. However, as of last month, 52,000 gallons of fuel have been recovered.

"The fact that we couldn't get a straight answer from Kinder Morgan about the volume of fuel involved in this release, was simply unacceptable," said Steve Owens, ADEQ director. "The magnitude of this penalty reflects the serious nature of the violations involved."
azpenguin, Phoenix didn't handle the shortage well. But in 2004, they approved Prop 400, which had a pretty strong light rail element (expanding on a light rail system that still hasn't been built yet). Sure, there was a lot of freeway stuff in the measure, but Phoenix isn't quite the same as it was 15 years ago.
posted by eckeric at 9:02 AM on July 25, 2007

Good quote from a researcher from the Suzuki foundation:

"The real tragedy is there is supposed to be a moratorium on this sort of activity on the coast," said Ritchlin. "Instead we are importing toxicity from the tarsands in Alberta and exporting global warming to the rest of the world."

posted by KokuRyu at 9:37 AM on July 25, 2007

It is a good quote, because it's woefully misinformed.

There is no moratorium on oil transport between Burnaby Mountain and Burrard Inlet. There's a moratorium on offshore exploration and drilling, and there's a 1972 North Coast tanker moratorium (which is unenforced, much to the chagrin of environmentalist NGOs), but no moratorium that applies to oil transfer through the Burrard Inlet. I mean, how else is Vancouver Island supposed to get fuel?

(Can't speak to the spill, but this is a general comment.)
posted by solid-one-love at 9:53 AM on July 25, 2007

What do you suggest? Remapping every pipeline they buy to ensure that it hasn't moved since it was installed?

Is that a goddamn trick question? Yes. Yes they should re-map the pipes if they have even the slightest doubt about their locations.
posted by odinsdream at 9:56 AM on July 25, 2007

It is a good quote, because it's woefully misinformed.

I tend to think of it as an excellent attempt to leverage earned media to transmit a key message not actually related to the issue at hand. But you're right: what he says in this context doesn't make a lot of sense. He probably knows this, too.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:15 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Where can I find a list of disasters caused by idiots with backhoes? It would be an interesting read...
posted by mullingitover at 11:05 AM on July 25, 2007

An excavator hit the line, not a backhoe. Besides, we still don't know who is at fault here, although the immediately available evidence points to Kinder Morgan, which was found responsible for an incident in November that was almost identical. But you would know this had you read the thread.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:35 AM on July 25, 2007

And the big question I have is this:

Is this the result of the sale of BC Gas to Kinder Morgan, ie. because of the privatization of our public utilities?
posted by five fresh fish at 5:57 PM on July 25, 2007

Terasen was not a Crown corporation - BC Gas wasn't sold to Kinder Morgan. Rather, Kinder Morgan bought Terasen.

The articles I found (and linked to) indicates that lack of attention to detail (ie, not keeping track of where the damn pipelines are) is a serious problem at Kinder Morgan.

Did the BC Utilities Commission fail in its mission when it approved the sale of Terasen to Kinder Morgan? I suppose that is a matter of public policy. Perhaps oil pipelines should be managed by the Province because of their overall importance to society, etc.

But, then again, the private sector does perfectly well operating airlines (when rules aren't followed in this industry, it is disastrous), some power utilities in BC, the telephone and communications infrastructure (Telus, Big Pipe/Shaw) are privately held.

Both private-sector companies like Kinder Morgan and Crowns can be willfully negligent. What keeps things running is the fact that 99.9% of people pay attention to what they do.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:36 AM on July 26, 2007

BC Gas was a crown corporation. It was sold by the Zalm government.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:23 AM on July 26, 2007

Also, KM purchased the pipelines. Terasen kept the rest.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:23 AM on July 26, 2007

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