Building the Trans Mountain Pipeline was a big challenge in engineering. Expanding it is a bigger challenge in politics
building an oil pipeline used to be a straightforward affair. The most difficult part of the project was often the design and engineering, particularly during the construction of groundbreaking pipelines like the Trans Mountain Pipeline system (pictured) that came online in 1953.
The project was lauded as a great feat of engineering at the time, in no small part because of the immense amount of manpower that was needed to cut a path through the unyielding Rocky Mountains along the AlbertaBritish Columbia border. Engineers consulted an enormous collection of aerial photographs to help them plan the pipeline’s eventual route. In the mountains, workers involved in early-stage development had to hike long distances to access the route for surveying purposes, and trees were later cleared away using chainsaws.
Today building pipelines is less labor intensive, though it still requires state of the art engineering. The challenge now is politics. Kinder Morgan’s twining of the Trans Mountain system, which would increase capacity to 890,000 barrels per day, has been dogged by protests in British Columbia since its proposal in May 2012.
The company won a significant victory over the city of Burnaby, B.C. last November, when a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled against proposed bylaws on the part of the city that would have made preliminary work on the project “difficult, if not impossible, to undertake.” But the project took a hit when former Kinder Morgan consultant Steven Kelly was appointed to the National Energy Board, a move that cast a shadow over the transparency of the regulatory process and caused a delay in the proposal. Public hearings on the project are scheduled to end early in 2016, though political opposition will surely continue.
FROM A POLITICAL PERSPECTIVE,