Trans Mountain : Rising to the Summit

Lauren RobinsonEd Budds
Lauren Robinson - Project Manager Ed Budds - Editor
Highlights
  • Today, Trans Mountain delivers approximately 300,000 barrels of petroleum products each day through 1,150 kilometers of pipeline in Alberta and British Columbia, and 111km of pipeline in Washington.
  • The company supports surrounding areas through its community investment program, volunteerism, and supporting local speaking opportunities.

Trans Mountain operates Canada’s only pipeline system transporting oil products to the nation’s West Coast. We chart the company’s rapid ascent and cover its resolute commitments to sustainability and environmental stewardship.

RISING TO THE SUMMIT

Trans Mountain was established on 21st March 1951 when the Parliament of Canada granted the company a charter, setting in motion the construction of a pipeline that today still serves as the key transportation link between the Alberta oilsands and the west coast of North America. 

Construction of the pipeline system was a monumental engineering feat by any standard, crossing some of the most rugged, mountainous terrain in the world as well as environmentally sensitive wetlands, waterways, and parklands.  

However, despite these topographical challenges, engineering and construction was completed in just over 30 months, with many likening it to the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway at the time.  

Moreover, when the first shipment of oil reached the Trans Mountain Burnaby Terminal on 17th October 1953, it ushered in a new era of economic growth for the region. 

Evidently, a great deal has changed since the 1950s, including the role of the pipeline system itself. Originally designed to transport just crude oil, it was later modified to allow customers to batch refined products as well as crude oil.  

Impressively, it is now one of the few pipeline systems in the world capable of this type of operation.   

Today, the company delivers approximately 300,000 barrels of petroleum products each day through 1,150 kilometers (km) of pipeline in Alberta and British Columbia, and 111km of pipeline in the state of Washington. 

The highly anticipated Trans Mountain expansion project will provide increased capacity to support Canadian crude oil production growth and ensure access to global energy markets.  

The largest project in the pipeline’s history, it involves installing approximately 992km of pipeline, new and modified facilities including pump stations and terminals, and a new dock complex at the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia. 

As a federal crown corporation, Trans Mountain will continue to build upon its 70+ years of experience delivering operational and safety excellence through its crude oil pipeline system. 

The company also remains accountable to parliament through the Canada Development Investment Corporation (CDEV). As a wholly-owned subsidiary of CDEV, it is therefore governed by an independent board of directors. 

SUSTAINABILITY AT THE CORE

Sustainability has always been at the core of Trans Mountain’s business.  

This begins with the health and safety of its employees and contractors, and extends into the respectful and deep relationships built with communities and Indigenous people. 

From environmental protection to emergency preparedness, biodiversity to board diversity, Trans Mountain is committed to operating responsibly. 

As such, Trans Mountain tracks and manages the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by its daily operations. Most of its emissions are indirect, also known as Scope 2, since the company uses electrically driven pumps to move fluid through the pipeline.   

Parallel to this, Trans Mountain proudly supports the Government of Canada’s stated goal to be net zero by 2050 and has set its own interim target to reduce 100,000 tons of CO2 Scopes 1 and 2 emissions by 2030 to support this ambitious goal.  

In order to meet this target, the company plans to implement existing system efficiencies and innovations, decarbonize its energy consumption, and explore carbon credit and offset solutions.  

As building a pipeline generates emissions, Trans Mountain has committed to offsetting the two main contributors to construction-related emissions as part of its regulatory approvals: fuel consumed by light and medium trucks as well as heavy machinery during construction; and land clearing activities, specifically in areas permanently cleared along the pipeline easement.  

It has been estimated that the expansion project will generate a cumulative one million tons of CO2 during the complete construction period.  

Elsewhere, to help reduce emissions arising from fuel consumption, the company’s primary agreement for general construction contractors includes guidelines around anti-idling, which are reinforced by strict air and noise environmental protection rules, and the use of worker camps and shuttle services to minimize transportation to and from work sites. 

CHAMPIONS OF THE COMMUNITY

Trans Mountain encourages its employees and contractors to be active members of their communities. The company supports surrounding areas through its community investment program, volunteerism, and supporting local speaking opportunities. 

As part of its community work, Trans Mountain has built a partnership with United Way, an international network of local non-profit fundraising affiliates, to help make the greatest impact possible.  

Each year, Trans Mountain’s staff come together to support United Way through volunteer-led events and financial contributions. In 2019, the campaign raised more than  
CAD$100,000 to United Way chapters in Alberta and British Columbia. 

Supporting United Way is one of the many ways that Trans Mountain contributes to stronger, healthier communities. 

Additionally, Trans Mountain’s community investment program funds positive legacies in the communities where it lives and works, including Puget Sound, Washington, and Calgary. 

Grants are available up to CAD$5,000 per organization each year and are designed to address the needs of the community across areas of focus such as environmental stewardship and education. 

In this way, environmental projects must enhance well-being in the areas of ecosystems, water, or environmental education.  

Ecosystems projects must show their ability to enhance or conserve ecosystems and species of conservation concern and reduce the threat of significant invasive species to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.  

Similarly, water projects must support the protection, enhancement, or restoration of water resources.  

Finally, environmental education projects need to provide education to residents that helps develop an understanding and appreciation of nature and motivates ecologically informed decisions and actions. 

PROTECTING TRADITIONAL LAND

Trans Mountain is committed to working with Indigenous people where it operates.  

The company’s goal is to build and sustain effective relationships based on shared respect, to enjoy mutual benefits, and to work cooperatively and transparently.  

The announcement of the Trans Mountain expansion project presented a special opportunity to enhance its existing relationships with Indigenous people and their communities. Conversations have subsequently taken place that have been invaluable to project planning and developing understanding between communities and the industry. 

Thus, Trans Mountain recognizes the cultural, spiritual, and social interconnections with the natural environment for Indigenous groups and their territories crossed by the pipeline corridor.  

Approved mitigation plans are in place to reduce potential impacts to Traditional Land Use (TLU) areas and heritage resources along the construction footprint of the expansion project. 

Through years of detailed project planning, extensive information has been collected and provided through TLU studies and a comprehensive archaeology program. Information about known TLU and cultural sites has been incorporated into Trans Mountain’s preparations, such as environmental protection plans, alignment sheets, and resource-specific mitigation tables.  

These documents guide construction contractors, environmental inspectors, and Indigenous monitors regarding field requirements and mitigation during construction activity. 

Furthermore, Trans Mountain is bound by confidentiality agreements developed with Indigenous groups who agreed to share confidential cultural information to inform project planning and ensure appropriate mitigation is developed. 

BIODIVERSITY, LAND, AND WATER STEWARDSHIP

At Trans Mountain, the company knows it has a responsibility to protect the land, water, and ecosystems where it operates.  

Water is a shared resource and an essential part of all ecosystems. Therefore, the company takes its responsibility to be stewards of the land and water bodies near all operations seriously. 

The company’s pipeline crosses into many protected areas, including recreational areas such as Jasper National Park in Alberta and Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia.  

Since the operating pipeline is buried, the impact to surface wildlife is minimal. However, Trans Mountain remains committed to minimizing its impact to the land and the biodiversity of these sensitive areas by implementing a strong asset integrity program that prevents spills and a rapid emergency response program that reduces impacts if a spill were to occur. 

The pipeline system crosses more than 1,500 bodies of water. During Trans Mountain’s day-to-day operations, there is relatively little in-stream work required, however, in 2022, the company completed two large river crossing replacements in the Coquihalla River.  

In planning and implementing any river crossing project, such as the replacement of the section of pipe underneath the river, great care is taken to preserve the environmental features in and around the stream, including the wildlife and aquatic habitat within the specific zone.  

For each water crossing, Trans Mountain carried out extensive mitigation measures, and the company’s environmental protection plans detail the actions required to ensure the protection of land, plants, wildlife, fish, and aquatic environments for the replacement work. 

THE NEED FOR EXPANSION

The Trans Mountain expansion project will help make sure Canada gets full value for its oil, as everyone will benefit. 

Primarily, workers will greatly benefit during the CAD$30.9 billion construction project. Oil producers will also earn more revenue and the government will collect more tax revenue, contributing to services that benefit all Canadians. 

Almost all the oil produced in Western Canada currently goes to the US Midwest, however there is a limit to how much oil this market needs. For much of the last decade, Canada has been selling into the US at a discount to the global price for similar oil products. 

The truth is that Canada’s oil will fetch a better price if Trans Mountain gives itself the option of shipping more of it via the company’s Pacific tidewater terminal in Burrard Inlet.  

Canada will then earn more on every barrel of oil that is piped west compared to those sold to existing customers in the US Midwest market, a differential that exists regardless of the price of oil. 

With oil sands production expanding in Alberta in the years ahead, new markets and opportunities are emerging.  

As countless nations in Asia Pacific begin to develop the same quality of life enjoyed in Canada, they need to secure sources of energy.  

Canada is a natural trading partner for these countries, and with an expanded Trans Mountain pipeline system, the business will be in a position to provide for their growing needs for years to come. 

TRANS MOUNTAIN PARTNERS

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By Lauren Robinson Project Manager
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Lauren Robinson is a Project Manager for Outlook Publishing. Lauren is responsible for showcasing corporate stories in our digital B2B magazines and Digital Platforms, and sourcing collaborations with Business Leaders, Brands, and C-suite Executives to feature in future editions. Lauren is actively seeking opportunities to collaborate. Reach out to Lauren to discover how you and your business could be our next cover story.
By Ed Budds Editor
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Ed Budds is an in-house writer for North America Outlook Magazine, where he is responsible for interviewing corporate executives and crafting original features for the magazine, corporate brochures, and the digital platform.