Jet fuel pipeline proposal

This is not directly about the Garden City Lands, but it is relevant as another environmental issue in Richmond in which financial benefit for powerful parties seems to come far ahead of environmental, agricultural, and livable-community considerations.

The Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) of BC held an open house on the Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project on April 14. The EAO is only considering the environmental impact of the applicant’s chosen option, not the relative impacts of that option and the other thirteen options.

It seems that a proposed new pipeline to supply fuel to YVR will begin with a port terminal east of Riverport, go west to No. 5 Road, go north to around Bridgeport Road, and head west again, eventually crossing the Moray Channel to the north side of Sea Island. It would apparently be traveling eight feet below the surface through soil (plus water) that might be subject to liquefaction in an earthquake.

When watching the project video, I recalled the spin used by the proponents of high-density development on the Garden City Lands. For example, the existing pipeline from Burrard Inlet to the airport is “unable to meet YVR’s growing demand, particularly during the peak travel periods.” That may be true, but the corollary is that it has unused capacity outside the peak periods. The Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation had an answer for that at the open house: stocking up would be difficult because the peak is a two-month-long period in the summer.

The project plans on six-to-eight huge new storage tanks near the ship terminal east of Riverport, not at the airport, where they would provide a more secure supply in an emergency. With the pipeline through Lulu Island damaged in an earthquake, fuel would not get from the east-of-Riverport terminal to YVR, whereas fuel already at YVR would be accessible if the airport was still usable.

Furthermore, the project puts all its eggs in one basket. With alternative methods supplementing the existing pipeline, there would be greater security in an emergency. Saving money seems to trump that. Since the new pipeline would apparently not pay Richmond for traveling through the community, the saving would go to the airlines through their fuel company. Richmond would bear new costs, especially non-monetary costs.

It seems to me:

  • That the 6-8 huge fuel tanks planned for the east end of Williams Road would be better placed near the airport.
  • That the existing pipeline could be used to a greater extent of its capacity.
  • That alternative complementary means of supply (e.g., trains from Cherry Point, WA) would not only enable increased airport use but also increase the security of fuel supply, which is compromised when all the fuel is coming through one pipeline.
  • That increased use of the Abbotsford Airport would also provide greater security in emergencies while reducing the need for jet fuel at YVR.
  • That the airport fuel people can come to a better solution with Kinder Morgan, which operates the existing airport jet fuel pipeline from Burnaby (Chevron refinery and Westridge terminal). That would involve a long-term secure supply agreement, pipeline upgrading, and compromise pricing.


2012 update: A citizen’s group called VAPOR is now taking a leading role on this issue. Also read other articles on this blog on this topic.


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