The current Trans Mountain Pipeline System, in operation since 1953, spans approximately 1,150 kilometres. It starts in Edmonton, Alberta and terminates on the West Coast of British Columbia in Burnaby. Twenty-three active pump stations located along the pipeline route maintain the line’s 300,000 barrel per day (bpd) capacity flowing at a speed of approximately eight kilometres per hour. In addition to the pump stations, four terminals in Edmonton, Kamloops, Abbotsford and Burnaby house storage tanks for incoming feeder pipelines and tanker loading facilities.

Each component of the system performs specific tasks to keep North America’s only pipeline system to the West Coast operating safely and efficiently. The pipeline ships products through a process called batching, allowing multiple products, including crude oil, refined and semi-refined products in batches one after the other through the line for different shippers.

As product flows through the pipeline, conditions such as elevation change, fluid friction and the delivery point change the pressure along the pipe. All these factors determine the optimum location of pump stations and even changes in diameter of the pipeline to optimize performance and, in some situations, lessen the demand for additional pump stations to maintain the flow rate. The current pipeline consists of 827 kilometres of 24-inch pipe, 150 kilometres of 36-inch pipe and 170 kilometres of 30-inch pipe.

Pump Stations

Located at varying intervals along the pipeline, determined by terrain and pipeline diameter, 23 electrically powered pump stations keep the product flowing along the line. The pressure along the line drops progressively between these stations as it moves farther from the discharge point of one station and towards the suction of the next.

Key station components are equipped with instrumentation and controls to ensure safe operation within protective limits and to prevent damage. At pump stations, this equipment monitors the discharge pressure and automatically shuts down the line should it get too high. Automatic leak detection and containment systems are monitored continuously from the Control Centre located in Edmonton, AB. In the event of a leak alarm, an automatic emergency shutdown will isolate the station and trigger a call out for local personnel to investigate.

In addition to the automated features, local operators and maintenance personnel inspect the facilities regularly and perform various types of preventative maintenance to ensure continued safe operations.

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Terminals

Terminals are facilities intended to temporarily store products transported in the pipeline, and bring new products into the system before being sent to their ultimate delivery destination. Like all facilities in the Trans Mountain Pipeline System, the terminals have a number of spill prevention and leak detection measures. In addition to continuous monitoring from the Control Centre, and ongoing inspection and maintenance, the facilities are equipped with automatic leak detection and emergency shutdown systems, as well as secondary containment systems to avoid environmental contamination in the unlikely event of an incident.

Edmonton Terminal — The beginning of the Trans Mountain Pipeline System, the Edmonton Terminal is supplied by 20 incoming feeder lines bringing product from all over Alberta. The product is held in 35 storage tanks, with a shell capacity of approximately 8.0 million barrels (bbl) on-site prior to being shipped through the pipeline.

The Edmonton Terminal also houses the main control centre for the pipeline system, which remotely monitors all aspects of the pipeline operations using a sophisticated Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system.

Kamloops Terminal — The Kamloops Terminal, containing two storage tanks with a shell capacity of approximately 160,000 bbl, serves as both a hub for local distribution of product shipped from Edmonton and also a receiving point for products from northeastern BC. 

Sumas Pump Station and Terminal — Located in Abbotsford, BC, the pump station routes crude oil delivered on the Trans Mountain Pipeline through to the Burnaby Terminal as well as to Washington State via Kinder Morgan Canada Limited’s Puget Sound Pipeline System. The Sumas Terminal contains six storage tanks with a shell capacity of approximately 715,000 bbl.

Burnaby Terminal — The end point of the Trans Mountain Pipeline System, the terminal houses 13 storage tanks with a shell capacity of approximately 1.685 million bbl. The terminal serves as a local distribution point, for crude oil and refined products to local terminals, the local Chevron refinery and the Westridge Marine Terminal. 

Westridge Marine Terminal — Located within Port Metro Vancouver the marine terminal is capable of accommodating ships up to Aframax-size. In addition to loading tankers, the facility also receives and ships jet fuel to the Vancouver International Airport through the Jet Fuel Pipeline System.