BC government moves to block expansion until the environmental impact of a diluted bitumen spill can be assessed. (Photo Credits / Google)

The construction that will double the size of the Kinder Morgan tank farm located on the side of Burnaby Mountain is soon to be underway.

Trans Mountain, a subsidiary of Texas-based Kinder Morgan, has told The Peak that work to accommodate its pipeline expansion project at the nearby marine terminal has begun, though construction scheduled for last month has not yet started at the tank farm.

The expansion of the farm, which stretches to the intersection of Gaglardi Way and Burnaby Mountain Parkway, will see the number of existing oil-holding vessels increase to 26 tanks when construction is completed. A tunnel carrying a pipeline through Burnaby Mountain will connect the tank farm to the Westridge Marine terminal.

The construction in Burnaby will support the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project and the twinning of an existing pipeline carrying oil from Alberta to the port in Burnaby.

The increased capacity at the tank farm has raised alarm for Simon Fraser University and residents on Burnaby Mountain.

In November 2016, SFU President Andrew Petter issued a statement that the tank farm expansion posed “significant and deeply concerning” risks that would be viewed as “unacceptable to the university.”

A report released by the university found that the additional tanks would increase the risk of chemical exposure or a fire that could block access to the university and leave people stranded on Burnaby Mountain.  

In a statement provided to The Peak by SFU spokesperson Kurt Heinrich, the university said it maintains its position.

“SFU has played an active role as an intervenor on this issue. We have raised our concerns with the federal government and will continue to raise our safety concerns with Kinder Morgan,” said Heinrich.

“We are also trying to work with Kinder Morgan as well as Burnaby Fire, the RCMP, and the City of Burnaby to address many of the significant safety concerns related to the proposed tank farm expansion.”

Student groups have also expressed concern about the tank farm project and the Simon Fraser Student Society sent a letter to the federal government earlier this year.

“We have raised our concerns with the federal government and will continue to raise our safety concerns with Kinder Morgan.” – SFU spokesperson Kurt Heinrich

In a statement to The Peak, Trans Mountain spokesperson Ali Hounsell responded by emphasising that tank fires are “extremely rare” and a report commissioned by the company found that the risk of a fire is low. Trans Mountain has said that construction will include improved fire protection and warning systems on the new tanks.

The construction is not expected to interfere with roadways to SFU, which was a concern of the university in an earlier submission to the National Energy Board.

“At this time, our understanding is that planned construction will not interfere with any of the access roads to the Burnaby campus,” Heinrich confirmed.

“During construction, the traffic impact to SFU and for Burnaby Mountain residents should be minimal,” Hounsell said. The company said it intends to access the tank farm from the intersection of Underhill and Shellmont streets.

The company previously considered accessing the site via Gaglardi Way, but is now considering Greystone Drive as a secondary point of access, according to the statement.

The Trans Mountain project received final approval from the federal National Energy Board in August though the decision is now being challenged in the Federal Court of Appeal by First Nations, activists, and municipal governments including the City of Burnaby.

Boring through the mountain to make way for the pipeline is scheduled to start in February 2018 and will be completed come late 2019.