Natural gas pipeline upped to service proposed LNG plant

Increase raises questions and concerns for Coun. Heintzman

natural gas pipeline expansion to service a proposed liquefied natural gas export plant that would cut through town and one of Squamish's water sheds, has one municipal councillor concerned. 

Fortis BC aims to build a 24-inch pipeline from Indian River Valley to the proposed Woodfibre Natural Gas export facility. The main follows an existing line south of the municipality’s major drinking water source, through town and then across the Squamish Estuary, a pathway that requires careful examination, Coun. Patricia Heintzman told the Squamish Chief.  

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Generally, municipalities don’t want activity, whether its industrial or recreational, around their watersheds, Heintzman said. 

“I am concerned any time anything happens to our watershed and we all should be. We need to give it the due diligence and the scrutiny that it deserves.”

So far, the Woodfibre proposal has overshadowed the pipeline, Heintzman said, adding without detailed plans it’s difficult to grasp the pipeline’s possible effects. She wants to see the routing, and questions why four inches was added to the proposed pipe’s diameter. 

While Fortis is not prepared to enter the political minefield of expanding the pipeline in Metro Vancouver’s watershed, it’s willing to go up against Squamish, she said. 

“They need to assure no impact to our water source at all. Until I see that I will be concerned.”

Natural gas is non-toxic and non-soluble in water, Fortis BC spokesperson Carol Greaves said. The pipeline will not go ahead if the LNG plant isn’t given the green light.

“In the unlikely event a leak should occur, there is no threat to groundwater,” she stated. 

Neither the new pipe or the old pipe go near the Mamquam Basin, Greaves said. A 12-inch main currently runs to a station at Eagle Mountain via Coquitlam. There the pipe drops down to 10 inches before continuing through Squamish to Vancouver Island. 

The existing pipeline was put in place 24 years ago. Since then, Fortis has never had an issue with the line, Greaves said. The company inspects the pipe monthly and staff conduct aerial inspections and implement regular vegetation management.

The 24-inch line would parallel the existing line for 47 kilometres before entering Woodfibre. The proposed gas line is designed to deliver 228 million cubic feet of natural gas to the export facility daily. The project’s proponents requested the additional four-inch in diameter on the original 20-inch proposal, Greaves said.

“They needed about four per cent more gas.” 

The existing natural gas pipeline travels through Metro Vancouver’s drinking water source near Coquitlam, but the expansion isn’t going to run that far back, Greaves said, noting it would start at the compression station in Indian River Valley. 

“We are not building through the Coquitlam water shed again,” she reiterated. 

The 24-inch pipeline will run underneath the Squamish Estuary following the current pathway of the 10-inch pipe that services Vancouver Island. A horizontal directional drill will be used to go as deep as 70 metres before cutting underneath the estuary and Squamish River. 

Gas is continually flowing and not stored within the pipeline, Greaves noted.

Fortis BC is in the midst of studies for its provincial environmental assessment, which the gas distribution company’s officials anticipate submitting in October. Once that is complete, the company will have more specifics to share, she said. 

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