Natural gas not all it’s ‘fracked’ up to be

One local resident has concerns when it comes to natural gas safety with the number of developments proposed for B.C.


Spectra Energy was a delegation during the Feb. 12 District of Fort St. James council meeting.

From the meeting’s agenda I read Spectra’s slide presentation regarding their proposed Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission pipeline which would extend from the gas fields in British Columbia’s Peace region to Prince Rupert.

Like all the other proponents proposing energy pipeline projects these days, I see Spectra, too, would have spoken about safety.

We have heard a lot lately about oil pipeline spills and the potential for them, particularly in relation to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines project.  But, what about safety of natural gas pipelines?

I have been doing some research and have found the following:

On December 11, 2012, at about 12:41 p.m. EST, a buried 20-inch diameter natural gas transmission pipeline owned and operated by Columbia Gas Transmission Corporation ruptured just over 100 feet west of Interstate 77 in Sissonville, West Virginia.

About 20 feet of pipe was separated and ejected from the underground pipeline and landed more than 40 feet from its original location. Three homes were destroyed by the fire after the escaping high-pressure natural gas ignited; no one was seriously injured.

On June 21, 2013, the Fort Nelson Gas Processing Plant, owned and operated by Spectra Energy, experienced a failure in its natural gas gathering system during start-up after a scheduled maintenance operation.  This failure resulted in a flare that exceeded the flare pit’s perimeter fence and damaged nearby equipment. It also resulted in an unintended grass fire. Spectra Energy emergency procedures were implemented to extinguish the fires and address the gathering system failure. Notification to the National Energy Board occurred on July 5, 2013 only after the NEB became aware of the incident.

On January 25, 2014, a TransCanada gas pipeline exploded near Otterburne, Manitoba,  50 km south of Winnipeg.  It left thousands without heat as temperatures dropped to -20 C, or -34 C with the wind chill.

On February 13, 2014, U.S. natural gas pipeline company NiSource Inc said it shut part of its key Columbia Gulf Transmission interstate natural gas pipeline following an explosion in Adair County, Kentucky, injuring at least one person.  The explosion spawned multiple woodland and structural fires. Three homes were set ablaze, two of them were fully destroyed, as well as two barns and four cars.

February 18,   a TransCanada natural gas pipeline ruptured north of Rocky Mountain House, Alta. according to the National Energy Board.  That is the second incident for TransCanada in 24 days.

TransCanada is proposing two gas pipelines in B.C., one to Kitimat and one to Prince Rupert.

According to documents attained by the CBC last fall, the number of pipeline safety incidents is on the rise in Canada.

Of all the provinces and territories, British Columbia had the highest number of reported incidents in the past decade.  Data provided by the National Energy Board through an access to information request showed that 279 incidents involving federally-regulated pipelines were reported in British Columbia between 2000 and late 2012.

The data also suggested that, nationwide, the rate of overall incidents has doubled in the past decade.  By 2011, safety-related incidents — covering everything from small leaks, large oil spills, gas ruptures, equipment failures, worker injuries and deaths, and other types of accidents or reportable events along any pipeline that crosses provincial or international borders— rose from one to two for every 1,000 kilometres of federally-regulated pipeline.

That reflects an increase from 45 total incidents in 2000 to 142 in 2011.  That did not include incidents along smaller pipelines monitored by provinces.

With 11 natural gas pipelines,  one oil pipeline and one condensate pipeline being proposed across northern British Columbia, what are the odds of a pipeline leak or explosion happening?  We need to be concerned, very concerned.

Brenda Gouglas

Fort St. James