Kinder Morgan was practicing emergency clean up efforts on the Athabasca River last week.
The drill, which saw oil spill experts from Calgary leading Kinder Morgan staff through boom deployment efforts while Parks Canada officials, emergency responders and third party observers looked on, took place just downstream of the boat launch near Maligne Canyon’s Sixth Bridge.
“This is part of our company’s commitment to safety and protection of the environment, in the unlikely event of a spill,” said Kinder Morgan’s Dan Carter.
Leading the drill was Western Canadian Spill Services. Mike Locke and his team demonstrated how a containment plan might roll out if the Trans Mountain pipeline ever spilled any of its 300,000 barrels of oil per day at one of 16 waterway crossings between Hinton and Mount Robson. Jet boats helped anchor oil booms on the Athabasca River, hoses crisscrossed the shoreline and skimmers and pumps were set up near the banks. The booms and skimmers would funnel an oil slick to the pumps, Locke said, which would siphon the mess into containment bins.
“If the oil is coming down the river in spurts it’s tougher to manage,” he said. “It’s harder to manage a sheen rather than a skim.”
Before the exercise, Locke discussed the importance of coordinating with local emergency personnel and the need for wildlife management plans. He displayed a variety of deterrents—propane cannons, rubber animal decoys and flagging tape—which would (theoretically) help keep wildlife away from an accident site.
“The idea is to keep impacted animals in and non-impacted animals out,” he said.
Parks Canada representatives, including surveillance officers, wildlife biologists and environmental management experts, were on hand to observe the drill.
Also present were members of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nations, from near Prince George. Keith Henry, the band’s economic development manager, said the Trans Mountain is one of four pipelines which passes through parts of the Lheidi T’enneh’s traditional territory. His community appreciates getting a better understanding of the spill response, but observing the drill is just a small part of improving the relationship between land holders and energy companies, he said.
Locke, whose team has responded to spills all over Alberta, said the effectiveness of a response on a river depends on many factors, including site, location, water flow, season and access.
“You might have to build a road to create an access point,” he said. “That alone might take a day. There are many factors that can complicate [a clean-up effort].”
Those variables are the reason Kinder Morgan subscribes to Incident Command System protocols, said Kelly Malinoski, the company’s senior emergency response security advisor.
“ICS gets experts in the room to operate as a team,” she said. “It helps make decisions in an an organized fashion.”