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Scientists: Trans Mountain Oil Tanks Pose Deadly Earthquake Risk

Some scientists and a British Columbian politician say that the oil tanks of the Trans Mountain on Burnaby Mountain would represent a huge risk to residents in the area in case of an earthquake—a claim that Trans Mountain is dismissing.

An earth sciences professor and a retired structural engineer from the Simon Fraser University (SFU) said in a report and at a news conference on Tuesday that even though the risk of a big earthquake is not high, in case of such event the risk that the oil tank farm poses is “off the scale.”

The scientists and NDP federal election candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour 2019, Svend Robinson, say that the issue should be immediately addressed.

“The sloshing after an earthquake would create wave actions against the tank sides, and, if it broke, any spark would ignite it,” retired structural engineer Gordon Dunnet told StarMetro Vancouver.

John Clague, professor in SFU’s Department of Earth Sciences, says that “This problem could be addressed, it’s not responsible to not look at it.”

Trans Mountain, for its part, said in an email to The Star Vancouver:

“In 65 years of operation, we’ve never had a storage tank fire or structural incident with one of our tanks,” noting that it has emergency and prevention management plans that keep its terminals operating safely.

Related: Overly Bullish Hedge Funds Set The Stage For Oil Price Drop

British Columbia has been strongly opposing the expansion of the Trans Mountain project, which is now owned by the federal government of Canada. The fierce opposition in British Columbia has forced Kinder Morgan to reconsider its commitment to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline, and to sell the project to the Canadian government in August 2018.

According to Dunnet, the new tanks that would be built if Trans Mountain were to expand would be built according to standards, but the old ones—built in 1953—are a real concern in case a strong earthquake rocks the area.

According to NDP’s Robinson, the tanks built in 1953 on Burnaby Mountain are “huge concerns about the risk of fire and spillover during an earthquake that would threaten residents in the area and at SFU including UniverCity. Feds must order independent safety and seismic inquiry.”

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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