Richmond residents oppose proposed jet-fuel facility on Fraser River

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      After working for most of his life, Richard Jeffries is about ready to retire soon. A few years ago, the 67-year-old man sold his house in Langley and bought a waterfront condo in Richmond.

      Jeffries and his girlfriend chose a nice spot where they could spend their golden years together close to nature. From their ground-floor patio, it’s a short walk to the banks of the Fraser River.

      “The river is really beautiful there,” Jeffries told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      But like many residents in their three-building condo complex, Jeffries and his partner are now worried about their location.

      The Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation (VAFFC) is seeking provincial and federal approval to build a jet-fuel facility at the other end of an adjacent park. This could see Jeffries and his neighbours sitting not far away from six gigantic tanks that will hold up to 80 million litres of highly combustible fuel.

      The south arm of the Fraser River, where the residents often watch fish splashing in the water and eagles gliding overhead, would never be the same again. Huge Panamax-class tankers and other container vessels like barges would be sailing right before their eyes to deliver fuel to the facility.

      Based on projections made by the VAFFC, the airline consortium expects a total of 156 vessel calls a year to bring in three billion litres of fuel through the main arm of the Fraser. The corporation intends to pump the fuel from this facility through a new pipeline that will connect to another tank farm at the airport.

      Jeffries said that he and other residents are worried about accidents. These include potential major jet-fuel fires.

      They’re also wary of fumes being emitted when the tanks vent and fuel is transferred from the ships. “I’m concerned that we’re going to smell the odours,” Jeffries said. “Like when you go by the airport, you can sometimes smell the odours.”

      There’s the risk of fuel spillage in the river as well. Richard Kuprewicz, a Redmond, Washington–based pipeline consultant, noted that this danger cannot be eliminated.

      “It’s just a question of who can cause the spill and how big could the volume be,” Kuprewicz told the Straight in a phone interview.

      He also said that there’s greater risk of spillage from ships than from a pipeline. However, the expert pointed out that leaks from pipelines are usually bigger than those from vessels.

      According to Kuprewicz, tank farms likewise carry some risks. He explained: “Is there a risk with a tank farm? Yes. Is the risk very high? No. If it’s properly designed and maintained, it’s less likely to have a spill at a tank farm…than it is with, let’s say, a spill from a barge or a pipeline.”

      Information posted online by the VAFFC includes a summary of its “Oil Pollution Emergency Plan”. The document states that the plan was developed “to enable response in the unlikely event of a spill during the offloading of aviation fuel at the marine terminal and to minimize potential environmental effects”.

      The document describes how fuel would be transferred from ships to shore. “The unloading arms will be designed to have flexibility and move with the vessel as winds, tides and currents change and as the vessel rises higher in the water as the fuel is offloaded,” it states.

      According to Jeffries, local residents are also concerned about the salability of their properties. Jeffries talked to one of them quite recently. “He had a buyer all lined up, and then he said when the buyer heard the news about this thing, he just dropped,” Jeffries said.

      The VAFFC did not make a spokesperson available for comment by the Straight’s deadline.

      Members of the group Vancouver Airport Pipeline Opposition for Richmond will stage a rally on Saturday (January 28). The protest will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the East Richmond Community Hall (12360 Cambie Road), where the VAFFC has scheduled an open house about the project.




      Jan 25, 2012 at 1:53pm

      The VAFFC was asked to schedule a meeting in South Delta. The answer was NO! (Either they don't know the route of the Fraser River or they are fearful of what Deltans will have to say.) Another sham--just like PortMetroVancouver's fiasco in Delta in December.

      Carol Day

      Jan 25, 2012 at 3:22pm

      Air Canada and the other airlines in the VAFFC have subjected the residents up and down the Fraser River to an extreme amount of stress and it is just NOT FAIR !
      The Group studied 14 options for Jet Fuel delivery and chose this one.. why because they can buy fuel cheap and store it in the 6 tankers each of which would be 6 storey tall, this is much taller than the 4 storey tall condo's that are a very short distance away.
      Air Canada , listen to the people and respect the environment this fool hardy proposal might be good for you but not any of the residents who have their life's savings invested in beautiful condo's that are the only ones in Richmond to have gone down in value the last year !
      It is time to do the RIGHT thing and agree to either upgrading the existing pipeline or build a new one to the Cherry point refinery just across the border.
      Please keep Pananmax tankers loaded with Jet Fuel out of the Fraser River and make to choice that will save you money in the long run.

      Jim Ronback

      Jan 25, 2012 at 5:21pm

      The hazard footprint of the proposed tank farm holding 80 million liters of toxic and flammable jet fuel is enormous. Neither VAFFC nor the BC Environmental Assessment Office have revealed how big the hazard footprint is and made it public, If an uncontrolled fire got started and one of the 6 tanks exploded and burst and spilled burning jet fuel around and into the Fraser River it would contaminate the entire Estuary and threaten the salmon fisheries and wildlife habitat for migrating birds for decades. The blast wave would damage nearby structures and windows in and around Silver City and the condos just 400 meters from the proposed marine terminal and tank farm. It could get even worse if the giant Panamax tanker berthed there also caught fire and exploded. The whole area would have to be evacuated for miles until the fires, smoke and subsequent cleanup could be finished. Any attempt to cleanup the resultant jet fuel spill in the Fraser River Estuary would be at best less than 15% effective. The jet fuel would disperse into the fast flowing water column and most of it would pass under any oil booms set along the shores and marshes. The toxic additives would become embedded in the shores, marshes and river bottom killing the biota that the fish depend on. Who's going to pay for the lost jobs, damaged homes, businesses and wildlife habitat? It's us, the taxpayers and citizens of Richmond and Delta. We are obliged to provide extra fire fighting capabilities which do not exist and are not paid for by VAFFC. Also the nearby property values are also impacted by this threat. These liabilities were not factored into the total 60 year lifetime costs of this project when they were picking the option with "most merit". This proposed project is not viable or desirable. It's insane to allow it to proceed. VAFFC needs to use a minimum regret strategy instead of a maximum win strategy when picking the best option to satisfy their jet fuel needs. A pipeline only option to the existing refineries in BC or WA is a much safer and more environmentally friendly solution. If any spill occurs in a pipeline, it will be smaller and contained with a much smaller worst case hazard footprint.


      Jan 25, 2012 at 7:51pm

      Given the high volatility of jet fuel, and the possiblilty of a runaway barge (it never happens?, oh yeah) crashing in to one of the delivery ships (worst case scenario), an explosion would BBQ an area for 100's of metres, possibly miles, around. A rupturing storage tank would no doubt create similar havoc and damage, witness Burns Lake's recent mill fire and explosion, and that was just natural gas? Though a pipeline (which I understand exists) could possibly rupture, the fire and explosion would be somewhat smothered by the fact that it is underground. No consideration being given for the environmental effects.

      terry slack

      Jan 26, 2012 at 7:48am

      This what happens today in this reach of the river where these tankers are going to be ! Commercial salmon fishing boats fishing in the Fraser River channel with their nets out are blocking the the waterway ! The Tankers are not changing course and nets are cut by the marine traffic and Salmon Fishing boats are at high risk of being sunk with the loss of life ! Again this is happening today in the river, with bulk freighter moving up river to Surrey Docks ! Throw in the bulk oil freighters, hey is going to be a mad house in the lower Fraser just trying to stay alive ! Terry Slack Commercial Fisherman


      Jan 26, 2012 at 1:28pm

      Some misinformed people here make it sound like the upgrading of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline is a no brainer. Convenient though, you neglect to mention that the airlines do not own this pipeline. Where does Kinder Morgan stand on all of this? Nobody knows for sure. Why haven't they stood up and shouted they'll upgrade the line? Most likely because its a huge liability and monstrously, if not prohibitively expensive. After all, that pipeline has been in the ground over 40 years and 40 years worth of repairs done on it.

      How do you "upgrade" a pipeline that is in service every day of the year? Simple. You build a new one right beside it. A new, 41km pipeline. Wait, that seems longer than the proposed one, doesn't it. I'm sure the people of Burnaby might have a say in that matter. Not everyone will want their backyards dug up for 12 months or more. A highway makes that much more sense.

      Senor Happypants

      Jan 27, 2012 at 5:22pm

      @Pilot I agree with a lot of what you have said, but biggest issue for a lot of people is the Tanker traffic in Fraser River Estuary and tank farm in a residential area. The best option is to take that pipeline down the 99 Hwy to Cherry point, it will give the airport the fuel it need, reduce tanker traffic into Burrard inlet and it result in the lowest risk option to Fraser River and public safety.

      Dave Christopherson

      Jan 28, 2012 at 12:19am

      Personally, I say they should build the pipeline. These dimbulbs don't think! Right now, that fuel has to be trucked through town or barged down the river. Either of those operations is much riskier than a pipeline.

      Get a brain you left-tards!


      Jan 29, 2012 at 9:41pm

      Cherry Point is a supplier of Jet fuel to YVR. What people need to realize is that they also supply fuel all the way down the western US into Portland, OR. The pipeline is 299 miles long and supplies Sea-Tac Int'l, various regional airports all the way down to Portland. These are the bread and butter customers for Cherry Point. In times of shortages (either a supply shortage or due to a shutdown) all available fuel will be given priority to the domestic US customers and if there is any extra fuel, this may be made available to Canadian customers. By connecting YVR to Cherry Point only, you are really putting all of your eggs in one basket. I think the goal of the project is to allow fuel from more than one source to supply YVR and the Cherry Point option will never satisfy this requirement.