Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Omnitrax gets oil-spill ready

But critics dismiss emergency protocol

  • Print
Omnitrax plans to begin shipping crude oil on its rail line to the Port of Churchill in August. Environmentalists and the Manitoba government are opposed.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Omnitrax plans to begin shipping crude oil on its rail line to the Port of Churchill in August. Environmentalists and the Manitoba government are opposed. Photo Store

It would take cleanup crews and their equipment three to five days to get to Churchill in the event of a significant oil spill in the port.

The first wave would be dispatched from as far away as Quebec City, and would encounter significant logistical challenges shipping in equipment by rail or air.

"We've done a fair amount of planning with respect to Churchill," said Jim Carson, president of the Eastern Canada Response Corp. "In reality, it's not a very easy place to get to."

ECRC is the private contractor, certified by Transport Canada and owned by several Canadian oil companies, that provides marine oil-spill cleanup services over a huge area, between the Rocky Mountains and the East Coast. It would be the firm called in to manage any big spill in Churchill, dispatching specially trained crews who follow preapproved response protocols. It has staff and equipment at the ready in several large ports, such as Montreal and Halifax, but is only now getting familiar with Churchill.

Officials with Omnitrax say they plan to have their own advanced spill prevention and containment plans and equipment in place that could trump the need for ECRC.

'We've done a fair amount of planning with respect to Churchill. In reality, it's not a very easy place to get to'

-- Jim Carson, president of the Eastern Canada Response Corp.

"We hope that, by the time the ECRC crews get there, they're not needed anymore," said Darcy Brede, president and COO of Omnitrax.

Omnitrax Canada plans to begin shipping light crude oil on its Hudson Bay Railway and through the Port of Churchill this August, a test run that could eventually result in 3.3 million barrels of oil shipped per year through the port. Environmental groups and some First Nations are opposed to the plan, as is the Manitoba government, especially following last year's deadly train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Que., which killed 47 people.

The province, though, has little power to stop crude shipments because railroads and marine shipping are federally regulated, and most federal approvals are already in place.

Omnitrax intended to launch its test run last fall but postponed it to do more consultation with northerners and to upgrade equipment at the port to pump oil directly from rail cars into tanker ships.

Brede said Omnitrax plans to set up oil booms around each tanker in case a spill occurs. The containment equipment will be in place even before oil is transferred from rail cars to ships. And, it will have vessels and cleanup equipment, such as suction pumps, ready to begin removing crude from the water in the event of a spill.

Omnitrax is working with a B.C. firm that has experience in the Arctic to create on-site prevention and emergency plans, train port staff and get equipment ready to be deployed when crude shipments start in August.

In the event of a big spill, ECRC would need to ship in large pieces of equipment, including pumps, skimmers, oil-containment booms and boats. Sending them by ship would take too long, so rail and air are the likely options, assuming the railway is operational.

Crews and equipment would likely come first from Quebec City, with additional support from Montreal, Sept-éles and other ECRC primary locations.

Containment and cleanup of any spills along the rail line would be trickier. Omnitrax plans to include a boxcar with containment material on every train carrying crude oil, along with a trained crew. That would allow for immediate containment, Brede said.

It could take two days for cleanup crews to arrive. They would begin excavating the contaminated permafrost and dispose of it at an site in Manitoba.

The Wilderness Committee's Eric Reder, whose group opposes oil shipments through northern Manitoba, said it's tough to clean oil spills in temperate climates accessible by roads, but a spill in the remote north, where permafrost makes access and containment difficult, is another ball game, as is a derailment or fire in one of the towns along the rail line.

"How do you get into any of the Bay line communities? By rail. So if there's an explosion on the track or an overturned rail car, how do you get in?" said Reder. "It just doesn't make any sense to put these communities at risk. This is one of the most dangerous and ecologically damaging products and it offers the Bay line communities and Churchill little economic benefit."

Should an explosion occur, Brede said Omnitrax hopes to use Manitoba Conservation fire crews who are up north during much of the shipping season.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

Do you think Omnitrax is taking enough precautions to prevent oil spills? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 9, 2014 A11

History

Updated on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 8:34 AM CST: Replaces photo

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Home buying

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A gosling stares near water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think volunteers dragging the Red River is a good idea?

View Results

Ads by Google