CONTRIBUTION · 1st June 2012
District of Kitimat Councillor Phil Germuth delivered a well researched presentation to his fellow Councillors regarding the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal at a recent Council meeting. It is reproduced in its entirety below.
Ever since details of the Northern Gateway Enbridge pipeline project were made public, one statistic has always concerned and to be honest, confused me. That statistic is the ‘theoretical leak detectability’.
Enbridge’s current plans are to use a leak detection system known as SCADA. It means supervisory control and data acquisition. Along with SCADA, also being proposed, is a material balance system or MBS as its known. Basically SCADA and MBS are fancy ways of saying pressure, temperature and flow meters with a computer program.
In response to JRP IR 3.12f, Northern Gateway indicated that the preliminary theoretical leak detectability for the oil pipeline will be 1.5- 3 % of nominal flow in a 2 hour alarm window. Generally 1.5 – 3% of flow would seem like a fairly insignificant amount.
However with 525,000 barrels per day flowing thru this proposed pipeline, all of a sudden a 1.5 – 3% flow becomes a major concern. 525,000 barrels equals just under 83 million litres per day. This translates to around 3.4 million litres per hour.
So using their numbers, theoretically between 100,000 liters at 1.5% of flow, up to 200,000 liters at 3% of flow could leak out of the pipeline every 2 hours and the control center would not be able to sense it. In one day that could translate to between 1.2 million and 2.4 million litres of leakage without being detected.
So how much really is 1.2 – 2.4 million litres? Well these council chambers we are sitting in now, if filled to the top, would hold approximately 229,000 liters. I know this because I came here one day and measured it out.
Apparently I have too much time on my hands.
Anyway what this means is that in 1 day it is possible for between 5 and 10 council chambers full of dil-bit could leak out undetected.
I thought there has to be a better way. Being in the automotive field myself I think most people have heard at some time that their vehicle is equipped with an oxygen sensor in the exhaust system. It is referred to as an oxygen sensor but really it’s a hydrocarbon sensor. So I started searching the internet for hydrocarbon pipeline sensors. And I believe I found a much better way to protect our watershed if the Enbridge Northern Gateway project is approved.
After hours of searching I emailed a company in the United Kingdom to see if they could help. They forwarded my request to a company called Tyco Thermal with their world headquarters in Texas. They are one of the, if not the, world leader with this technology.
How does the system work? In simplified terms there is a sensing cable installed in pvc pipe that is buried within the backfill while the pipeline is being constructed. Thru electronics if a leak is sensed a radio signal is sent to the control room immediately. While the current proposed system of SCADA and MBS can only determine, at best, a leak in between two pumping stations possibly many miles apart the sensor cable system can pinpoint a leak to within 1 meter on the pipeline. Obviously in the event of a leak the sensor cable system has a huge advantage and a much better possibility of minimizing the environmental impact of a spill.
Is the sensor cable system the only system that should be used? Absolutely not! While Enbridge’s SCADA and MBS system are not good at sensing small leaks they are better at sensing total failures or large leaks.
The sensing cable system can detect gasoline within 12 minutes however because of the high viscosity (thickness) of dil-bit it could take between 2-3 hours to permeate thru to the sensing material. The amount of product needed to activate the sensor though, is less than 1 litre.
However as the majority of pipeline leaks start off small the sensing cable system finds the problem before you have a potential disaster.
The sensors themselves have a lifespan of approximately 40 years. The cost of the sensor cable system is about $100,000 per km. With the projected costs of the NGE project at 5.5 billion dollars, to protect the approximately 80 km of pipeline within our watershed would only represent an increase of less than 1 % of the project. If the price per barrel of oil was increased just 10 cents, the sensor cable system would be paid for in under 5 months.
Where is it currently being used? Here’s a few examples;
Longhorn pipeline (currently operated by Magellan pipeline) has an 8 mile segment near Austin, Texas where the pipeline crosses over the Edwards aquifer.
Narita Airport Authority (Japan) has 35 km of sensing cable on a jet fuel pipeline where it crosses thru villages and rice growing lands.
Port of Townsville Australia. About 2.5 km of wharf pipeline where diesel fuel is unloaded from tankers to on shore storage tanks. The Great Barrier Reef is just offshore.
The Canadian Coast Guard uses the sensor cable in various locations to monitor diesel tanks and transfer lines for remote generator sites.
FMG mining in Northwest Australia has about 35 km to monitor a pipeline for fuel supply to an open pit mining operation.
The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and tanker refinery have equipped approximately 70 storage tanks with the sensor cable.
And in Ontario Canada two different sections of buried fuel line were equipped with the sensor cable as a prerequisite to allowing development rights near or above the existing line.
And there are many other locations including Chile, Spain, Belgium, France, United Kingdom, and the island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean where this system is used.
Enbridge has stated they are considering Hydrocarbon leak detection but the fact is Enbridge is already fully aware of this technology as they are already using in to monitor buried isolation valves and other buried fittings along their west to east crude oil lines in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
So before putting in a notice of motion to insist that this technology be installed on all sections of pipeline within our watershed I would like to hear from Enbridge as to why they wouldn’t protect our fresh water supply with the best technology possible.
And the question we have to ask ourselves is do we really want a system that could leak up to 2.4 million liters per day without being detected or do we want a system that within 3 hours can detect a spill amount of less than this pitcher of water.
Dear Apocalypse Now
Comment by phil germuth on 5th June 2012
The presentation I gave was just a sample of where this technology is used. There are also other companies with similar technology.
As to your question of why isn't it used everywhere- quite simply it comes down to $$$$$$. If governments- be they Federal , Provincial, or Municipal - don't demand that the best technology be used then why would any proponent of a project spend money they don't need to.
If the SCADA and MBS systems meet government standards then it would be a tough sell to the board of directors and shareholders to go 'above and beyond' .
I know that nothing is perfect- except our pristine environment- but if this pipeline is coming whether we like it or not , I would like it to be the safest possible. The one that all others will be judged by.
Thank you all for your comments.
Say No ??????
Comment by Michael from P.G. on 4th June 2012
I have only lived in Kitimat for a year and a half now, so up until this point I have kept my opinions to myself. I see alot of people on here saying NO to the pipeline. I think thats funny. You think you have a vote or a decision in this. The truth of the matter is, oil companies have the money, and they own/run the goverment. Instead of folding your arms across your chest, pouting, and saying NO, more of you no people need to be proactive like Mr.Germuth. Like it or not people, the oil is coming.
I agree Jerry
Comment by Apocalypse Now on 2nd June 2012
You hit the nail on the head. I appreciate what Phil has done ,but if the technology was that good ,it would be a no brainer and would have been used alot more than it has. If I recall during council meeting ,Phil said he talked to the company that supplies this technology .Is it possible they were blowing their own horn. Correct me f I am wrong Phil. PS keep up the good work.
Comment by Gerry Hummel on 2nd June 2012
Doesn't matter what technology is used to detect a leak! HOW LONG will it take for a crew to reach and address a leak in the middle of winter at minus 20 degrees in some backwoods valley covered in 15 -40 feet of debris and snow!! Just say "NO"!
Thank you Phil for speaking out!
Comment by Lucy McRae on 2nd June 2012
At last! We finally get to see that Kitimat Council is paying attention to the Pipeline Issue. Well, that's to say one member of council is doing his job. Now let's hope the rest of Council does the same, picks a portion of the Project, researches it and reports back to the rest.
I thought for sure that Council had blinders on and were just hoping that this issue was going to go away. The Enbridge Pipeline Project and the Supertanker Issue needs to be discussed by Council publicly, so the public can see and hear that they are paying attention. Staying neutral does not mean STAYING SILENT and ignoring the issue!
Thank you Phil Germuth! This is why I voted for you because I had faith that you would work for us, The Citizens of Kitimat.
Comment by Linda Halyk on 1st June 2012
Hats off to you Councilor Germuth. Thank you for working for Kitimat.
My question is why does a municipal councilor and business man of Kitimat need to do this kind of research?
Why would Enbridge and the Federal and Provincial governments with all their employees and ablilities not have this in place already?
Why does Kitimat Municipal Government not pass a bylaw that the best and most sensitive leak detections be put in place before any project be approved?
Why are we trusting this type of Corporation it is obvious they plan on pushing this project through with minimal safety nets and largest profit to Enbridge.
Wake up Kitimat and just say NO.