Why doesn't the public know about this pipeline?

YOU ASKED:I know from managing Steelhead Provincial Park that there is an oil pipeline across the face of the park between the lower set of camping spots and the lake. I would like to know who owns this pipeline, if it still active, if it is oil, and, mostly, why it is never mentioned when the talk of oil pipelines heats up?

It crosses the mouth of where the lake becomes the river and then comes through the park and on towards the housing outside the perimeter of the park. Several years ago, a pipeline inspector came to inspect for defects, as use was to be increasing. When asked, he told me that it had been there for many, many years and that it brought oil down from the Fort St. John area.

How is this unknown to the general public, so close to the lake, crossing under the river?

- Beverley Campbell

OUR ANSWER:After scouring the Internet and employing some expert help from Hardy Friedrich at the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, we've narrowed the possible pipelines to Plateau Pipe Line Ltd.'s Western System pipeline.

That line runs 804 kilometres from Taylor (near Fort St. John) to Kamloops and was constructed in 1961-62 by Western Pacific Products and Crude Oil Pipelines Ltd.

It was built just 10 years after B.C.'s first oil well was discovered near Fort St. John and almost 10 years after the Trans Mountain pipeline was built.

The plan at the time was to run 30,000 barrels of crude oil out of the Fort St. John area through that pipe, connecting it with the Trans Mountain line at Kamloops.

It's still active. The 30-centimetre-diametre pipe carries an average of 18,500 barrels of oil a day to Kamloops.

The Western System pipeline has been well documented over the years, but, as with most things that are out of sight, it tends to go largely unnoticed. Unless, of course, there's a problem, as there was in the summer of 2000 when the line spilled about 985 cubic metres of light crude oil on the Pine River near Chetwynd.

That spill cost Plateau Pipe Line Ltd.'s owner Pembina $30 million to clean up.

The flow of oil was stopped again in summer of 2011 - this time before any spillage - when the company noticed exposed portions of the line in the northeastern part of the province.

Friedrich said the Western System is one of the larger lines in B.C.

It's difficult to say why it's not on the public radar the way other pipelines are. Perhaps, size is a consideration. The pipe is only a third the diameter of Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

It's a small player even compared to Keystone's Trans Mountain pipeline, which is 60 cm.

As for finding information about pipelines in B.C., there are some good online sources for maps, such as the Centre for Energy ( http://www.centreforenergy.com/FactsStats/MapsCanada/BC-EnergyMap.asp),Natural Resources Canada ( http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/maps/economic/transportation/pm_pipelines) and Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers ( http://www.capp.ca/canadaIndustry/oil/Pages/PipelineMap.aspx).

You can also find information on the Integrated Land and Resource Registry (https://apps.gov.bc.ca/apps/ilrr/html/ILRRWelcome.html) where you can sign in as a guest user. Another mapping site that may be useful is iMap B.C. ( http://webmaps.gov.bc.ca/imfx/imf.jsp?site=imapbc), which creates maps based on the details you request.

Of course, Friedrich's communications team at the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission has fact sheets available as PDF downloads on its website ( http://www.bcogc.ca/).

As for the pipeline's proximity to Kamloops Lake and the Thompson River, that's not unheard of. The Trans Mountain line, for example, crosses the Fraser River and several kilometres of farmlands. At one point, it actually crosses over the Coquihalla River.

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