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Rail shipments of crude oil continue to increase in B.C.

The transport of crude oil by rail cars — a hot national issue after the Lac-Mégantic disaster — is on track to break ever-greater records in B.C.

A total of 3,133 carloads containing 250,185 tonnes of crude were transported in B.C. during the first nine months of 2014, according to the latest Transport Canada figures provided at The Vancouver Sun’s request. With three months to go in the year, that amount was already close to the 3,381 carloads and 262,613 tonnes of oil — a record — hauled by rail in B.C. during all of 2013.

Transport Canada’s Sara Johnston said that since 2012 “most of the shipments” of oil transported by rail in B.C. were from Saskatchewan, the rest from Alberta and B.C., adding that rail shipments of oil from the U.S. “have been negligible.”

As evidence of the dramatic increase in crude-oil shipments by rail, there were just six carloads containing 251 tonnes as recently as 2009 in B.C.

While rail transport of other petroleum products in B.C. such as gasoline, diesel, propane and aviation fuel by far exceeds that of crude oil, the rate of increase is not nearly as dramatic. There were 30,859 such railcars hauling 2.5 million tonnes of product during the first nine months of 2014 compared with 42,555 cars hauling 3.6 million tonnes in 2013 and 29,470 cars hauling 2.4 million tonnes in 2009.

Industry Minister James Moore, Conservative MP for Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam, told The Sun last month that public safety in the Lower Mainland is a key reason for moving oil by pipelines instead of railways. “The people of Lac-Mégantic wished they had pipelines instead of rail,” Moore said. “It’s very dangerous for the Lower Mainland ... to have the massive spike in rail transfer of dangerous goods.”

CN countered that 99.998 per cent of its movements of dangerous goods arrive at destination without a spill caused by an accident.

On July 6, 2013, a runaway train of 72 tank cars owned by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway and loaded with crude oil crashed in Lac-Mégantic, Que., killing 47 people and destroying half the downtown area.

Enbridge has received conditional approval for its $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, but remains mired in 19 lawsuits, while Kinder Morgan’s controversial $5.4-billion plan to twin its pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby is under review by the National Energy Board.

Chevron Canada’s refinery in Burnaby built a facility in 2013 to specifically off-load oil delivered by CP, along the same tracks used by the West Coast Express commuter train. Since then, the company has been off-loading about 8,000 barrels, or 10 rail cars, a day as a supplement to oil obtained from Kinder Morgan’s pipeline, said Dave Schick, Chevron’s manager of policy, government, and public affairs.

“We needed to get crude in here,” Schick said Thursday. “It all depends on how much access we can get to the pipeline.”

On Oct. 19, 2013, oil-filled rail cars bound for a transloading facility in Langley — and eventually the Chevron refinery — were part of a CN train that crashed and burned in Gainford, Alta. Of 134 rail cars, nine carrying liquid petroleum gas derailed, with three catching fire. Four derailed cars carrying crude oil remained intact with no leaks.

CP spokesman Jeremy Berry said “there has not been a significant change year over year in our movement of oil to the Canadian west coast; in fact, 2014 numbers are lower than 2013.”

CN has said it is shipping some oil by rail through B.C. to U.S. destinations, however spokesman Mark Hallman would not talk about 2014 numbers.

In November 2013, Transport Canada issued a “protective direction,” agreed to by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Railway Association of Canada and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. The direction requires railways to share dangerous goods data with municipalities and first responders once municipalities designate an emergency planning official, provide their contact information to Transport Canada, and complete a non-disclosure agreement.

White Rock council voted last September to begin the process of trying to move the rail line from the waterfront by using the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act, which stipulates that railways should neither gain nor lose from the relocation.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin said his city signed the confidentiality agreement and is receiving regular reports from BNSF about rail shipments along the waterfront after the fact, but is not at liberty to discuss them with the public.

Baldwin said he is frustrated that he cannot talk to his city’s citizens about what is passing through on the rail line.

“We’re just being told to mind our position and don’t bother questioning us (the railways) because we don’t have to tell you anything.”

In January 2014, the federal transportation safety board said the “amount of crude oil now being shipped by rail in North America is staggering.” It added: “The Lac-Mégantic derailment and other recent rail accidents demonstrate that, when accidents involving unit trains (or blocks of tank cars) transporting large volumes of flammable materials occur, there is significant risk for loss of life and damage to communities and the environment.”

In April 2014, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced that about 5,000 of the least crash-resistant DOT-111 tankers were to be removed from Canadian railways within 30 days. Another 65,000 must be removed or retrofitted within three years.

The Sun earlier reported that train derailments jumped 20 per cent to 110 incidents in 2013 in B.C., the highest level in five years.

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Copyright:
Vancouver Sun
Published on:
January 16, 2015
Source url:
http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/metro/Rail+shipments+crude+continue+increase/10733394/story.html
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