Crews survey the damage at the scene of a coal train derailment where 27 cars came off the track near New Hazelton, spilling some coal into Mission Creek. If the Port of Prince Rupert’s (PPR) expansion goes to plan, CN will be shipping a lot more flammable gasses through the Bulkley Valley. (Emergency Management B.C. photo)

Prince Rupert port expansion could bring more flammable gases through Bulkley Valley

The port authority has seen an increasing amount of hydrocarbon gases over recent years

If the Port of Prince Rupert’s (PPR) expansion goes to plan, CN will be shipping a lot more flammable gases through the Bulkley Valley.

At Smithers council’s Oct. 8 meeting Ken Veldman, PPR’s vice president of public affairs and sustainability said the expansion could be rapid.

“Going forward the port expects to double its volumes again over the next decade,” he told council.

Coun. Casda Thomasked what types of goods PPR has been seeing being shipped more.

Veldman responded it was an extremely diversified list, but could be divided into two main areas.

The first is containers of goods such as agricultural products, proteins, forestry products, plastics and resins.

The other is a number of different hydrocarbon gases.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert Port Authority announces $161K and first projects in new Skeena River salmon program

“The other exports that we see a lot of growth in is what you’re already seeing in terms of LPGs (liquefied petroleum gases) and propane but other bulk liquids from that perspective … I mentioned Vopak [which] is looking at liquids such as methanol, butane, propane.

“As Alberta continues to ramp up its [manufacturing] from a refining perspective, diesel, gasoline, etc. etc. so bulk liquids I think will be one part of that.”

But while the increase in volume could mean a few more jobs, it will also certainly turn a few heads. In January, Friends of Morice-Bulkley and Friends of Wild Salmon hosted a talk at the Old Church in Smithers about the same Vopak deal referenced by Veldman.

READ MORE: Prince Rupert final Canadian stop in first successful shipment of semi-solid bitumen

Instead of excited, they were afraid of the potential repercussions of an explosion should one of the rail cars carrying flammable goods derail such as in the Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster where a 74-car freight train carrying crude oil derailed in downtown Lac-Mégantic, QC, killing 42, with five more missing and presumed dead.

“There are several proposals on the books that would dramatically increase the transport of dangerous goods by rail through communities and watersheds in north-central and northwestern British Columbia,” a description for the event read.

“The most current one is Vopak Pacific Canada which is a proposed project for bulk storage facilities (AKA tank farm) on Ridley Island near Prince Rupert.

“The proposal would result in the movement of 240 rail cars per day on the CN mainline (through Smithers to Prince Rupert) and 150 tankers on B.C.’s north coast and in the Skeena estuary.

“The proposed liquid petroleum products include diesel, gasoline, methanol, which are both volatile and toxic.”

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