Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Fraser Voices vs Fortis BC

with one comment

My email inbox has been filling up today with a contretemps on LNG on the Fraser playing out in the letters page of the Richmond News. Since I have learned that it is sometimes a bit tricky getting to see on their web page what has been printed in the paper, I thought it might be useful to set out the correspondence here.

The day started with an email from  Viviana Zanocco who is the Community and Aboriginal Relations Manager in External Relations department of FortisBC to undisclosed recipients.

Good morning,

As part of our commitment to sharing project-related information with you in a timely manner, attached is a letter in which we respond to misinformation presented in a recent letter to the editor published in the Richmond News; we’re sharing it with you prior to its distribution to the media.

In the letter, a local resident said the George Massey tunnel replacement project is being driven by the needs of LNG proponents and could impact fish and fish habitat. This is something we’ve heard repeated in the community as the discussion about the bridge replacement unfolds and requires clarification.

The fact is that LNG carriers that could one day ply the waters of the Fraser River would be able to do so even if the tunnel remains in operation. WesPac Midstream LLP is proposing to build an LNG marine terminal next to our Tilbury LNG facility, which we’ve safely operated on the shores of the Fraser River since 1971. The jetty would be built to accommodate vessels in the same size range or smaller than the existing vessels currently operating on the Fraser River. WesPac has confirmed publicly that the concept under review wouldn’t be impacted regardless of whether or not the tunnel remains in operation.

We also believe that LNG will play an important role for the marine transportation industry in reducing emissions and potential environmental impacts associated with the use of heavy oil and diesel.

FortisBC’s  Richmond News_ Letter to the Editor is a pdf file you can read from that link

I am indebted to Susan Jones of Fraser Voices for the following rebuttal

In the letter to the Richmond News it is stated:

 

Whether the George Massey Tunnel is removed, replaced or expanded – or how the proposed bridge project is constructed – will have no impact on the WesPac proposal.

 

[This is] simply not true

 

Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) discussed LNG ships and the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project with the Gateway group.

 

The following are some notes I have on this topic.  Those FOI emails acquired by Voters Taking Action Against Climate Change and newspaper articles indicate that the LNG operations were included in the discussions between PMV and the federal and provincial governments.

 

BC Government representatives began a series of meeting with Port Metro Vancouver in early 2012 as the port made it clear that:

 

“The tunnel is also a marine bottleneck. It was not designed for the size of ships used in modern day trade, which must access the Fraser River in Richmond and Surrey. As a result, the tunnel is becoming a significant obstacle to international trade on the Fraser.”

(Robin Silvester, CE0, Port Metro Vancouver: Vancouver Sun, April 29, 2012)

 

Discussions were underway about clearances for the new potential crossing and Port Metro Vancouver made it clear to the government that plans should include air drafts to accommodate large ships:

 

“Liquid bulk tankers with larger air draft requirements (e.g. LNG) should be considered,”

 

(Port Development Strategies Manager, Jennifer Natland, Nov. 29, 2012 to Project Planners)

 

On September 20, 2013, the B.C. Government announced plans to build a bridge instead of replacing the tunnel.  Port Metro Vancouver was included in the following meetings for planning and design.  Emails show that port staff urged the province to design a taller bridge, even though that would mean higher costs, a more challenging design and a steeper grade for Highway 99 traffic on both approaches.

 

On July 16, 2014, Port Metro Vancouver CEO, Robin Silvester queried:

 

“What is the air draft of the largest length LNG vessel that we could imagine in the river?”

 

Port marine operations director Chris Wellstood responded:

 

“…we feel that the 61-metre MAX air draft would allow for the larger part of the world’s LNG fleet” – tankers up to 320 metres long- to pass under new bridge and head up the Fraser.””

In another exchange of emails:

 

“On a June 5th a follow up meeting between PMV and Gateway was held to discuss PMV’s height requirement and as a result of that meeting Gateway was going to provide a revised drawing with a 130 m one-way channel for clearances…

…The main issue with additional height for the bridge is that the shore landings need to be higher and longer which increases the overall cost of the project…

…Please let me know if you see a problem with the original height requirements requested by PMV in 2012…”

 

(Chris Wellstood, Director Marine Operations & Security, Habour Master to Cliff Stewart, to Cliff Stewart, Vice President, Infrastructure Delivery, Port Metro Vancouver, July 15, 2014)

 

A June 2014 briefing note by port officials following a meeting with provincial counterparts cautions:

 

“…there are multiple challenges with high costs to achieve PMV’s requested height” of 65 metres”.

 

These negotiations did not include the public or the local governments.  The public have not been provided with credible information for other options such as upgrading the existing tunnel, twinning the tunnel, a smaller bridge or retaining the status quo with better transit and restrictions on truck hours.

 

In spite of repeated requests for the business case for this Project, the provincial government has failed to produce this information.  This should have been presented to the public and local governments for comment in the early planning stages.

 

Also considerations of safety with LNG vessels on the river has not been addressed.

 

This LNG production and export are putting the public at great risk as they contravene international LNG Terminal Siting Standards as outlined by the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO).  The Standards claim LNG ports must be located where they do not conflict with other waterway uses as all other vessels must be considered as ignition sources.  The narrow, highly populated lower Fraser River, and narrow shipping lanes through the Gulf Island do not meet the international safety standards of wide exclusion zones.

 

If that is not enough you might also like to read Elizabeth May’s trenchant comments on BC’s approach to LNG tanker safety 

Written by Stephen Rees

March 24, 2016 at 4:54 pm

One Response

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  1. Just a comment that does not change reality any. Fortis is saying IT does not need to increase the draft. The Port of Metro Vancouver comments to the government are talking about hypotheticals and planning for larger draft vessels. Fortis may not need it and could (and currently will) use smaller draft vessels while PMV is planning for some hypothetical home run where it is required.

    Rico

    March 25, 2016 at 5:54 pm


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