YVR fuel pipeline under review
A proposed fuel delivery project for Vancouver International Airport (YVR) that involves shipping fuel up the South Arm of the Fraser River is currently under environmental review.
The Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation (VAFFC) hopes to build a marine terminal on the Richmond-side of the south arm of the Fraser at the foot of Williams Road, an adjacent fuel storage facility, and a 15 km underground pipeline to YVR to meet fuel demand at the airport.
About three to five vessels are expected to deliver fuel to the offloading terminal each month, totaling about 1.4 billion litres of aviation fuel every year.
The $93 million project is under review by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office, and the public has until April 11 to comment.
Richmond council has formally rejected the proposal, but municipal approval is not required.
Delta has not responded as strongly, but is making its concerns known.
"We are certainly concerned about the possibility of ships coming through, of any possible spillage from transferal of the fuel to the Richmond side . . . I guess the bottom line is, you have to say, okay, we've got an airport, they need fuel, what is the best way to get it there?" Mayor Lois Jackson said.
Currently, most of the jet fuel is supplied by a pipeline constructed in the late 1960s that travels from a Chevron refinery in Burnaby through north Richmond. The rest is delivered by about 1,000 tanker trucks per month that make the round-trip between Washington State and YVR through Delta on Highways 99 and 91.
The VAFFC says the new pipeline is needed to meet the steady growth in fuel demand anticipated over the long-term. It points to a recent Vancouver Airport Authority forecast looking ahead 20 years predicting an increase in passengers taking longer flights with higher fuel demand, particularly to eastern and southeast Asia.
In a report to Delta Council on Monday (March 14), staff suggested Delta ask for more information and make a number of requests to the VAFFC.
Mike Brotherston, manager of climate action and environment, said Delta should ask that vessels be required to participate in Port Metro Vancouver's voluntary EcoAction Program, which encourages the use of low-sulphur fuel.
The new pipeline project is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent by taking tanker trucks off the roads, but there will be a potential increase in sulphur dioxide gas emissions if the marine vessels use fuel with a high sulphur content.
Brotherston also said Delta should request an analysis of the risk of spills related to the existing system of fuel delivery—tanker trucks and the Burnaby pipeline—compared to the new project.
In their report, Delta staff outlined a "worst case scenario" for the Fraser River in the case of a fuel spill, which identified Ladner Slough as the most vulnerable area.
"This analysis emphasizes the importance of a quick response to a spill to protect the Ladner Slough area and in particular Ladner Reach and Sea Reach," Brotherston said. "If the project proceeds, it would be imperative that a spill response vessel be stationed in the Fraser River and preferably in Ladner Harbour to improve response time to the environmentally sensitive marsh areas."
Staff added the risk assessment completed as part of the project application states the chance of a large fuel spill is "highly unlikely," with the probability of a spill larger than 10,000 barrels (1.2 million litres) one in 481 years.
As part of its spill prevention strategy for the new proposal, the VAFFC is requiring all fuel tankers be double-hulled and have an arrangement with the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation for emergency spill response.
Jackson said staff's report will be sent to Richmond council and senior levels of government.
"We just want to make sure the possibility of any problem is minimized to the utmost, and yet we don't have all the answers obviously, and we don't have the control," she said. "So we're sending this report along to several people including the environmental advisory panel, but also the ministers."
Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington said she feels Delta should be doing everything it can to support Richmond Council, which would like to see the terminal installed on the North Arm of the Fraser near the airport.
"We are way behind the eight ball on this and the assessment process is well underway; anyone interested should be writing the Environmental Assessment Office immediately," she said.
—with files from The Richmond Review