Spill response preparedness is a year-round responsibility for Kinder Morgan Canada (KMC). In any given year, KMC carries out about 15 exercises — more than one per month — encompassing a range of potential situations that reflect the scope of its 1,150-km Trans Mountain Pipeline.

In the unlikely event of a spill, these training exercises will ensure KMC is prepared to respond in all terrains — in the rugged backcountry, along waterways, urban and marine environments, and ice and snow.

This past winter KMC gathered a team of about 35 to complete a spill response exercise on ice. The exercise was carried out on an ice-covered fire-water reservoir at KMC’s Edmonton Terminal.

It was led by Western Canadian Spill Services (WCSS), a co-op that oversees spill preparedness for the upstream petroleum industry in northeastern British Columbia, Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan. Also leading the exercise was Troy Edwards, a full-time fire officer and his team from First Response Inc.

“The terminal reservoir is a pretty realistic alternative to a lake scenario,” Edwards explained. “The Edmonton Terminal fire-water reservoir is a secured site with static water, therefore risk of someone falling in and getting injured is less likely than on a lake.” The group of participants included at least two KMC employees from each regional district and third party responders, including first responders from a nearby Aboriginal community.

The day started in a classroom with a review of theory and techniques for spill response. The group then went out to the ice to put into practice the theory learned in the morning session.

The first item for an ice response is ensuring the ice is safe to walk on. One participant was attached to a tether line to assess ice safety using an ice screw. “Not only is ice thickness important, but the quality of ice significantly contributes to the strength of the ice,” said Kelly Malinoski, KMC’s Manager of Emergency Management.

“By moving the winter training to the fire-water reservoir, we reduce the risk of unacceptable ice and we ensure there are no issues with refreezing on an open body of water where a member of the public could accidentally get hurt.”

Upon confirmation that the reservoir ice was both thick enough and of sufficient quality, the on-ice deployment tested the responders’ ability to effectively implement an ice safety plan and create a proper ice slot for containment and recovery operations.

Steps undertaken during the deployment included ice block cutting, measuring ice thickness and positioning a skimmer for the recovery of simulated product. Safety was maintained at all times through the appointment of a Safety Watch and the use of safety equipment including lifejackets and harnesses attached to hand lines.

Responders were able to effectively demonstrate their ability to create an ice ‘slot’ — a narrow open water channel where ice has been removed in order to facilitate containment and recovery of product under ice. Overall the exercise was well received with participants stating the deployment met or exceeded expectations.