Trans Mountain’s Sumas District encompasses a lot of territory. As Sumas District Supervisor, Adam Faris is responsible for Trans Mountain’s facilities and pipeline right-of-way from the Burnaby Terminal fenceline to the Coquihalla Summit, including Sumas Terminal and Pump Station, Port Kells Pump Station, Wahleach Pump Station, Hope Pump Station and the Hope tank relief site. We recently connected with Adam to learn more about his job.

Tell us about the scope of your duties

I supervise all operations, electrical and mechanical work within the Sumas District, including facilities and the pipeline right-of-way from the Coquihalla Summit to Burnaby. These guys keep the pumps running and ensure the pipeline continues to operate efficiently and safely.

How did you get into the pipeline business?

My career with Trans Mountain started in 2005. Until then I had never given any consideration to working in this field. I spent two winters working as a welder’s helper and found I really enjoyed working within the field. I was lucky enough to join as a temporary employee with Pipeline Maintenance. That was 15 years ago and now I’m in my second year as a supervisor. I love the people I work with and I find the work exciting still.

What’s the role of Sumas District in the Trans Mountain system?

Sumas District is comprised of four pump stations and one tank farm or terminal. The pump stations help move the product from Point A to Point B. In our case that means from Kamloops to Burnaby/Westridge or to Washington state. The pump stations allow us to keep the line at capacity and move the product efficiently to the coast. The Sumas Tank Farm is used to store the product being shipped on the mainline from Edmonton and then send that same product back through our US pumps for direct delivery to refineries in Anacortes and Ferndale via Laurel Station in Bellingham

Is there such a thing as a ‘typical day’ at the facility? What does it look like?

A typical day at the facilities looks like this:

  • We carry out our morning rounds. All the piping is visually checked, pressures are checked and recorded, the fenceline is checked for any damage and the log book is filled out.
  • Our technicians log into our Workflow Management System (acronym IVARA) and address any work orders or preventative maintenance work assigned to them.
  • From there, they check to see if there is any outstanding training that needs to be completed and submitted.

These normal days would be interspersed through out the year with major projects such as in-line cleaning tool runs or pipeline inspection smart tool runs.

What kind of work is carried out to keep Sumas Pump Station operating at peak performance?

We use the Preventative Maintenance Workflow Management system to ensure peak performance of the station. Constant inspections by technicians and monitoring of pipeline operation processes helps us catch issues and address them before they become problems. We use both electrical and mechanical contractors to manage the necessary work.

What are some of the safety features of infrastructure at the facility?

We have leak detection on-site, as well as systems which monitor and alarm if any oil is detected in our tank bays. Each tank is equipped with ‘fire eyes’ or ‘heat detection wire’ to monitor the rim of the tank in the unlikely event of a fire and trigger an alarm if a fire is detected. We have a fire pond with 625,000 gallons of available water and we have a 6,000-gallon-per-minute diesel-powered fire pump as well as a 10,000-gallon-per-minute drafting pump and portable cannon to assist with any fires. There are foam bladders on both the upper and lower roads at the tank farm to inject foam into local water streams if a rim seal fire were to occur.

We also stock 7,000 gallons of fire foam in a tank and 6,000 gallons of foam in smaller, portable totes. All roof drains are monitored when opened and no water leaves the site until it is visually verified as clean. There is stationary gas detection on-site and along with that each technician has a personal monitor. Each location is equipped with an emergency shut-down button which would systematically shut down the site locally or the mainline if required. We also have 24-hour monitored security cameras to ensure terminal security.

How would the facility change with the Expansion Project? 

We would see a brand new cone roof tank and additions to the manifold to account for the new tank along with a connection to the new mainline coming in. Along with this would be the addition of a new fire pond and pump system. The look of the terminal would change as earthen berms would be replaced with concrete ones. The existing northern fenceline would be moved to open up the area for the earthworks required to install the new tank.