Public participation required for oil spill simulation

August 25, 2014

To study potential oil spill dispersion from Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, and from spills along the marine shipping route, researchers at the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the Georgia Strait Alliance are teaming up with the City of Vancouver to conduct an oil spill simulation on the Fraser River and in Burrard Inlet.

The oil spill simulation will release hundreds of biodegradable plywood cards (‘drift cards’) on Tuesday, August 26 at the Port Mann Bridge where the pipeline crosses the Fraser River. Drift cards will also be dropped at three locations in Burrard Inlet. Each card is marked with a unique serial number; citizens who spot the cards as they wash-up on shore are asked to report where they were found. Tracking the card recovery locations will help develop an understanding of the potential spread of spilled oil and provide important information for spill response planning and assessing ecological impacts.

“Kinder Morgan’s plan for a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic through our local waters represents an enormous threat to our economy and environment,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “The drift card project will provide important new insight into the significant risks of a major oil spill, and I encourage everyone to get involved by looking out for drift cards on our beaches and shores.”

In their proposal to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline, Kinder Morgan included information on simulated spills of diluted bitumen at the proposed Port Mann pipeline crossing. However, efforts to obtain detailed simulation data through information requests to the National Energy Board (NEB) have been unsuccessful. Notably, the Kinder Morgan simulation is limited to a small number of locations and their simulation at the Port Mann Bridge only runs for a matter of days, whereas the oil could spread for a much longer period.

“We know that oil can move on the river or ocean surface for weeks or months. Drift cards give us a broader picture of where and when oil could appear in the long term,” said Andy Rosenberger, Raincoast marine biologist and project leader.

This card drop is a continuation of an October 2013 study, which found that cards dropped in the Salish Sea could travel to places as far away as Haida Gwaii, BC’s north and central coasts, Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and the west coast of Vancouver Island.

“Clean beaches, wild killer whales and healthy salmon runs are a big part of why people choose to live, visit and do business here in British Columbia. The drift card project reveals the cherished places and species that could be damaged by an oil spill, and calls on everyone to get involved in choosing what kind of future we want to build for our region,” said Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director of Georgia Strait Alliance.

Members of the public are being asked to look out for the drift cards on local beaches and shores. To report a found card and view the results of the study to date, visit To report a card by phone contact -1-877-655-1229, extension 227.


Media Contacts:

Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Andy Rosenberger, 250-889-2830, 
Christianne Wilhelmson, Georgia Strait Alliance, 604-862-7579, 
City of Vancouver, Corporate Communications, 604-871-6336,