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Kinder Morgan plans major expansion of pipeline to Vancouver

Kinder Morgan plans to expand the Trans Mountain Pipeline from 300,000 to 850,000 barrels per day. The Wilderness Committee has called the plan "outrageous."

In a news release on its website, Kinder Morgan said:

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. (NYSE: KMP) today announced it will proceed with its proposed plans to expand the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system following the receipt of strong binding commitments through the recently concluded open season. A diverse group of existing and new shippers submitted 660,000 barrels per day (bpd) of binding commercial support for the open season. All commitments are for a 20-year term. When completed, the proposed expansion will increase capacity on Trans Mountain from the existing capacity of 300,000 bpd to 850,000 bpd.

"We are extremely pleased with the strong commercial support that we received through the open season, which reinforces the appeal of our project and our approach," said Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada. "This strong commercial support shows the market's enthusiasm for expanding market access for Canadian crude by expanding an existing system." This support from the market better defines the project and enables Kinder Morgan Canada to fully engage the local communities.

"We are still early in the engagement process of the project," Anderson said. "We share respectful, open relationships with many communities and organizations interested in our business. We are committed to an 18 to 24 month inclusive, extensive and thorough engagement on all aspects of the project with local communities along the proposed route and marine corridor, including First Nations and Aboriginal groups, environmental organizations and all other interested parties. We will also consider providing financial support to local communities for environmental initiatives. We have been planning for this day for many years and we are keen to start in depth engagement this summer."

The preliminary scope of the proposed project includes:

•Projected capital cost of approximately $5 billion.

•Twinning the existing pipeline within the existing right-of-way, where possible.

•Adding new pump stations along the route.

•Increasing the number of storage tanks at existing facilities.

•Expanding the Westridge Marine Terminal.

In its own news release, the Wilderness Committee warned that "Kinder Morgan's Bigger Pipeline Means Bigger Opposition":

"This new, super-sized proposal is simply outrageous," said Ben West, Healthy Communities Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. "If Kinder Morgan thinks they can fly under the radar with this massive and reckless project, then they are in for a real surprise," said West.

Currently the Trans Mountain pipeline carries 300,000 barrels a day from the Alberta tar sands to their Westridge Terminal in Burnaby, BC. At present, 74,000 barrels a day of this is exported, resulting in approximately 80 crude oil tankers a year in the Vancouver harbour. If their proposal is approved they would be exporting 660,000 barrels a day, which would mean up to 360 tankers per year in Burrard Inlet.

"Maybe Kinder Morgan thought just because they bought an existing pipeline and tanker facility that they would have an easier time massively expanding a pipeline along the same route," said West. "But the reality is that the people of BC don't want our Pacific coast to be transformed into a export facility for dirty oil, no matter where the proposed pipeline runs," said West.

The proposed northern Enbridge pipeline would be 550,000 barrels a day and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would be 700,000 barrels a day. This makes Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain the biggest proposed tar sands export pipeline. This expansion alone would be equivalent in size to the proposed Enbridge pipeline.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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