Conserve the existing YVR fuel pipeline?

First, a quick review

To the community, the current Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery proposal is primarily an environmental threat with supposed safeguards that inspire no confidence. The fuel consortium of YVR airlines (VAFFC) hopes it will save them money, but their possible savings will result from their off-loading of unacceptable costs to community values.

The existing fuel delivery system consists mainly of a terminal in Burnaby and a pipeline from there to YVR. The simplest approach to YVR’s fuel delivery is to conserve and upgrade that existing system, starting with an upgraded relationship between the pipeline company and the airlines. In 1989, the last time the YVR airlines’ proposal was turned down, the federal environmental panel’s report urged the parties to get a facilitator and resolve their differences.
Twenty-three years later, the pipeline company has a different name, but the pieces that might fit together are still in the same state of potential.

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Can the existing pipeline have enough capacity?

Yes. The federal panel asked Trans Mountain Enterprises (TME) that question. Here’s what that outstanding panel wrote in 1989:

In brief, with boosting of pumping pressure to the licensed maximum, the YVR pipeline could deliver 6 million litres a day, which is greater than the YVR airlines’ current jet fuel use even without twinning. (Fuel efficiency should make twinning unnecessary, but it’s nice to have the option in reserve.) Furthermore, VAFFC already wants to add large storage tanks, which could be on Sea Island at/near YVR instead of near Riverport, and they would provide a reserve of 80 million litres for periods of high usage; for example, they could provide an extra million litres a day for 80 days during summer months. Also, a method such as trucking from Cherry Point from time to time would add the advantage of diversified sourcing (offsetting its shortcomings).

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Is the existing YVR pipeline safe at high capacity?

Yes. VAFFC even says that in its online FAQ after asking itself a question about the life expectancy of an aviation fuel pipeline:

It says “The current pipeline is 40 years old and . . . we are advised that the pipeline is operating safely at high capacity.”

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Would there be an adequate supply of jet fuel for the existing YVR pipeline?

There should be. The YVR pipeline owner also owns the pipeline that brings crude oil and refined products from Alberta, which could supply the Chevron refinery that refines jet fuel and also bring jet fuel directly. It would involve VAFFC and the pipeline company, Kinder Morgan, coming to an agreement and including Chevron in it.

Also, jet fuel is already fed into the YVR pipeline from Kinder Morgan’s Westridge terminal near the refinery. The Panamax ships envisioned as coming into the Fraser Estuary could just as easily go into Burrard Inlet to Westridge. In fact, jet fuel supplies for YVR already follow that route. There are also tankers taking crude oil away from Westridge to refineries across the U.S. border, and I wonder if a tanker could even drop off jet fuel at Westridge for piping to YVR and then immediately pick up crude oil in order to return to the American refinery with it. (Maybe not. Just a thought.) I hope that would be a supplementary method at most, since it’s safer for the environment if all that shipping back and forth doesn’t need to happen, but the point is that the supply is available.

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Is there an alternative environmentally tolerable way to supplement the existing YVR pipeline?

Yes. If VAFFC (the YVR airlines as a consortium) is dead set on building a pipeline, an environmentally tolerable alternative route was put forward to VAFFC long ago by biologist Otto Langer, the leading voice of expertise on the topic of YVR jet fuel delivery. It would supplement the existing YVR pipeline by linking YVR to the Cherry Point refinery just south of the border. The only aspect of it that worries me is the crossing of the South Arm of the Fraser River, but Otto Langer would not be suggesting it if it were not safer than tanker delivery in estuary. He explained further, including the point that it would augment the existing pipeline, in an open letter to VAFFC that was published in a local paper as “Safer options are possible.”

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Where’s the stumbling block to conservation of the existing pipeline?

As always, it would involve cooperation between the YVR airlines and the pipeline company. There are more reasons why the conservation approach should work out well for both those parties, along with Metro Vancouver and the Chevron refinery (and many other affected parties), but that’s a topic for another article.

Read other articles on this blog on this topic. Also visit the VAPOR website.

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