Chevron frustrated at oil seeping into Burrard Inlet but plans new tactics to minimize impact

Larry Pynn
Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Chevron Canada Ltd. says it will deploy a combination of new absorbent technology and piping to help minimize the impact of oil continuing to seep into Burrard Inlet from its Burnaby refinery.

Chevron spokesman Ray Lord said Tuesday it is frustrating that the source has not been identified and the leak stopped, but that the company is committed to resolving the problem.

"It is frustrating and reflects the complexity of the situation, the challenges of geology and topography of the area," he said.

"This is not a simple challenge. We're as concerned as anybody that it's there. We'd like to see it stopped and that's our intention."

Lord estimated 50 to 100 millilitres of oil -- about five to seven tablespoons -- are observed and recovered at Burrard Inlet every day, arguing that's not enough to cause significant environmental damage or to soil birds or other wildlife.

Containment booms and soaker pads have been used on the beach north of the refinery, although in the new year Chevron plans to deploy a new type of engineered absorbent mat to catch oil. "It has not been used in B.C. before," Lord said. "It's buried below the rocks and sediments. It preferentially absorbs hydrocarbons. It creates a barrier."

Additionally, Chevron will be working with Canadian Pacific Railway to install a pipe in a ditch to intercept and divert clean groundwater

from becoming contaminated and a second perforated pipe to allow contaminated water to be absorbed into a pumping system to be returned to the refinery for treatment, he said.

Other initiatives, since August, include the installation of 10 wells at varying depths within the refinery in an attempt to extract any oil

before it leaves the site. The company says the area of the refinery that is contaminating the groundwater has been in operation since the 1950s.

Chevron continues to work to locate the source of the leak, including the use of video technology within the refinery's effluent system.

"We've found nothing to indicate a chronic or current contributing new source of material into the ground under the refinery."

Although the leak into Burrard Inlet became known last April, the company has been aware of it at the refinery since 2004 due to a

perimeter monitoring program, Lord said, and increased the number of monitoring wells since 2009 following evidence of oil movement in the area.

Lord said the Ministry of Environment continues to oversee the company's efforts to stop the leak and that "anything we do down there involves their approval."

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