Trans Mountain asking NEB for permission to begin terminal work in August

Westridge Marine Terminal. The NEB is being asked to allow Trans Mountain to begin terminal work in August, in part to avoid seasonal restrictions at Westridge | Submitted

Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC has asked the National Energy Board (NEB) for relief, including timing relief, from some conditions of approval for the Trans Mountain expansion to allow facility construction to begin Aug. 5, 2019. 

The relief is necessary to avoid seasonal restrictions at the Edmonton and Burnaby terminals, Westridge Marine Terminal (WMT) and the Burnaby Mountain tunnel portal, said the company in a letter to the board. “If commencement of the terminal work is delayed beyond Aug. 5, 2019, the entire project schedule may be jeopardized,” it said.

Earth works at WMT, Westridge portal and Burnaby terminal must occur prior to the start of the peak rainy season (November-December) to reduce environmental risks (including increased risks of erosion and sediment control issues) that may arise when such construction activities occur in wet conditions, said Trans Mountain.  In addition, scheduling piling activities at the WMT to start on Aug. 15, 2019 accommodates the lowest risk periods for fish species.

At the Edmonton terminal, earth works and tank foundation installation must occur before the ground freezes to avoid structural risks in the tank foundations and starting construction by Aug. 5, 2019 accommodates this seasonal restriction, it said.

Trans Mountain said that at the time of the Aug. 30, 2018 Federal Court of Appeal decision which quashed the project approval, it had cleared all applicable pre-construction conditions for the Burnaby and Westridge terminals and had begun construction. It also had approval for certain activities such as tree clearing and grading, as well as the installation of a retaining wall to facilitate construction of the Westridge portal site.

 For the Edmonton Terminal, Trans Mountain had submitted filings to satisfy all applicable pre-construction conditions but had not yet received clearance from the board for another three conditions.  The company had also applied to vary the applicable NEB order for the Edmonton terminal West Tank Area to modify the tanks and secondary containment in that area.

Based on the NEB’s  proposed process for restarting the expansion project,  the board would confirm that the various orders, decisions and condition compliance determinations that apply to the  terminal work are valid, said the company. However, it will still require condition clearance and variance approval at the Edmonton Terminal before work can begin there.

Trans Mountain also said that while it submitted its updated plan for Indigenous group participation in construction monitoring (Condition 98) on June 24, 2019, the condition requires that it be submitted 60 days prior to construction. In order to begin terminal work on Aug. 5, 2019, the company said it will require timing relief from the requirement.  Trans Mountain planned to submit updated filings for two other conditions by July 2, 2019 to comply with their 30-day time requirements.

If the board does not confirm the validity of the various orders, decisions and condition compliance determinations that apply to the terminal work,  Trans Mountain asked that the NEB reinstate them and  issue new ones and provide all other relief necessary (including timing relief) to allow the terminal work to begin Aug. 5, 2019.

HDD relief request

In its letter, Trans Mountain also requested relief that would allow work at certain horizontal directional drill (HDD) locations to begin between Sept. 12 and Oct. 6, 2019. These are required to align the HDD installations with its schedule for pipeline construction and mitigate risks for longer HDD installations, it said.

“HDDs are time consuming installations and they must be co-ordinated with pipeline construction at the entry and exit locations of the HDD,” said the company.

 “In addition, longer HDDs involve higher risks that the installation will not succeed and will need to be re-drilled or that a contingency crossing method will need to be implemented,” according to Trans Mountain. Beginning these higher risk HDDs earlier in the construction schedule mitigates these risks, it said.

To align the HDD installations with Trans Mountain’s schedule for pipeline construction (and consequently avoid delays in pipeline construction) and to mitigate HDD risks, Trans Mountain said it plans to begin nine HDD installations between Sept. 7, 2019 and Oct. 6, 2019.

However, Condition 74 of approval requires that noise management plans for each of the project HDDs be submitted to the board at least three months prior to commencement of those drills. Prior to the court decision, the company had submitted filings for the HDDs at Baseline Road and the North Saskatchewan River and they are scheduled to start Sept. 7, 2019 and Oct. 2, 2019, respectively. Trans Mountain said it expects that the board’s decision at the conclusion of the process will confirm the Condition 74 clearance for these drills.

Trans Mountain’s construction schedule requires seven additional HDDs to begin between Sept. 12, 2019 and Oct. 6, 2019. It will submit the filing for these drills to the board on July 8, 2019, which is less than the three-month timing requirement in Condition 74 and as a result the company requested timing relief from Condition 74 to allow it to begin the HDDs. 

“For each of these drills, the board will have over two months (and in some cases, almost the full three months) to review the Condition 74 filing prior to commencement of the HDD,” said Trans Mountain.

“Given that other Condition 74 filings have already been reviewed by the board, and Trans Mountain is only requesting this relief for select HDDs, Trans Mountain submits that this request is reasonable in the circumstances and is in the public interest because it would avoid delays to the project.”

Pipeline construction

In a separate letter to the NEB, Trans Mountain said it proposes to quickly undertake an array of activities across the breadth of the project in order to hasten its completion in light of the delays experienced by the Federal Court of Appeal decision. 

The company listed a number of high priority activities planned to the end of 2019. They include pipeline construction — hauling and stringing on Spreads 2 and 3 and pipeline construction —  stripping and grading on Spread 3.  All have a required start date of Sept. 1, 2019.

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