Trans Mountain Pipeline has improved its procedures and equipment to avoid the type of embarrassing crude oil leak that occurred at its Sumas Mountain tank terminal in Abbotsford 11 months ago.
It's also setting up an air quality monitor at the tank farm, near the Auguston residential community, and boosted its community notification plan.
The National Energy Board, the federal regulatory agency for the energy sector, said the TMP's response time to the Jan. 24 leak was inadequate and standard procedures were not followed.
However, the NEB report also said it was satisfied that Trans Mountain's corrective measures were appropriate to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.
"We don't take these issues lightly," said George Metcalf, the recently retired director of operations for TMP in Alberta.
He was at the company's pipeline expansion information session at Strai-ton Community Hall in Abbotsford on Thursday night (Nov. 29).
"We made a number of procedural changes and additional changes in the control centre [in Edmonton]. We also had a number of changes on the physical side, in terms of technology, such as heat tracing and the frequency of roof drain maintenance," he said.
There is also improved training new procedures and communications among operators.
The NEB's November report revealed Edmonton-based monitoring staff noted four warnings before contacting the Abbotsford tank farm, close to seven hours after the leak began.
At about midnight Jan. 23, a worn gasket in the tank's roof drain system failed due to pressure from frozen rain water, and leaked oil outside the tank into a surrounding containment ditch.
Despite the alarms noted by Edmonton personnel through the early morning hours, it wasn't until 6: 50 a.m. when the Sumas terminal operator arrived at work, saw the leaked oil and closed the roof drain. The NEB estimates 90,000 litres of crude oil escaped into the containment area. For most of the day, noxious fumes affected nearby residents who complained of headaches and respiratory issues, and the odours forced Auguston Elementary to keep its students inside. First responders searched for the source of the fumes for hours before they learned of the oil leak.
In part, the inadequate response "was a matter of the operator's interpretation of the readings not being correct," said Metcalf.
To avoid that, he said TMP has upgraded its monitoring systems to rely on computer analysis of data to recognize anomalies, in addition to human assessment.
He would not say if the operators involved were disciplined or fired.
TMP spokesperson Lexa Hoben-shield said the company has also added new community notification protocols. Residents can opt in to a free notification system to receive an e-mail or text message if there's an incident that requires notification to area residents. Odour reports will also be promptly investigated - residents can call 1888-876-6711 around the clock.
The NEB report can be viewed at bit.ly/Wz4eKo.