EIS for Ultramar's proposed pipeline designates Hydro-Quebec right-of-way as preferred route
Ultramar has filed an environmental impact study (EIS) for its proposed Saint-Laurent pipeline project with both Quebec's Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks (MDDEP) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA). The underground pipeline, approximately 245 kilometres long, would link Ultramar's Saint-Romuald refinery at Lévis, near Quebec City, with its Montreal East distribution centre. Its preferred route would generally follow the right-of-way for Hydro-Quebec's power transmission lines.
The proposed pipeline would provide a complementary mode of transport for Ultramar, combining safety, reliability and respect for the environment. It would also reduce the need to use other modes of transportation, mostly trains and ships, between Lévis and Montreal East.
The EIS was conducted by Groupe Conseil UDA in co-operation with other firms specializing in the environment, archaeology, risk management and emergency measures. The general study zone was the south shore of the St Lawrence River, with three corridors defined within this zone. Within each corridor, a preliminary route was delineated and evaluated.
Since Ultramar first filed notice for the project in February 2005, Pipeline Saint-Laurent representatives have held more than 100 meetings and consultations with federal, provincial and municipal politicians, as well as municipal and provincial officials, representatives of Quebec's agricultural producers' union (UPA), environmentalists, the general population and the property owners concerned.
In addition, site visits were made to more than 600 properties along the selected route in order to gather information and develop inventories. These inventories helped ensure that impacts would be kept to a minimum along the anticipated route of the pipeline, taking into consideration all existing characteristics or constraints on the preferred route.
Above all, the inventories afforded the company flexibility in modifying the route initially planned, in response to issues and elements singled out by property owners. The information and the inventory process led to the company's selection of the Hydro-Quebec right-of-way corridor as the preferred route among the options initially considered.
Louis Bergeron, Ultramar's director of corporate development and terminal management, said the purpose of the EIS is to optimize the integration of the pipeline project into its host environment.
"Keeping that in mind," he said, "a great number of parameters were considered, including the following:
*consideration of the current and future role of the territory, be it in an agricultural, forest or urban environment;
*avoidance of the sensitive components of the human, biological and physical environments in order to reduce environmental impacts on them; [and]
*concern for safety and quality of life by bypassing densely populated areas."
The EIS proposes a narrower width for the permanent right-of-way along the entire proposed route than was originally conceptualized. This resulted from an analysis of surveys conducted on the lands in order to gain a better understanding of their topography and geology. Instead of 23 metres, the right-of-way would be reduced to 18 metres. Also proposed are reductions in the extent of deforestation, particularly in forest stands of special interest.
Bergeron further noted that the EIS has outlined several alternatives for some sections of the future pipeline. "The alternatives studied primarily concern the area lying south of the Lévis refinery, the bypassing of Sainte-Eulalie, the section between Drummondville and Saint-Hyacinthe, where the partial use of the Esso right-of-way was considered, and the Verchères Woodland sector, where other bypass options are presented.
"All of these options will be studied by government and regulatory authorities, before the final route is selected. The general public, but in particular the property owners concerned, will eventually have an opportunity to express their views on the project as a whole," he said.
The EIS also examines the technological risks associated with the operation of a structure such as the future underground pipeline. It reviews the other means of transport currently used and the constraints associated with each of them, in the event that the pipeline is not selected to transport petroleum products from Lévis to Montreal. A preliminary emergency response plan has been prepared as well.
The EIS will now be reviewed by the MDDEP and CEAA as well as representatives of several other government ministries and organizations directly interested in the project. Further to this review, the MDDEP and CEAA may submit requests for more detailed or additional information to the Pipeline Saint-Laurent project officials. Once this stage is completed, the study will be made public by Quebec's office of environmental public hearings (BAPE). Subsequently, public hearings may be held at the request of groups or individuals concerned about the project.
Ultramar processes approximately 215,000 barrels of oil per day at its Saint-Romuald facility, marketing gasoline and diesel fuel via a network of approximately 1,000 retail sales outlets and 90 cardlocks. It also sells home heating oil to some 160,000 customers. More information is available from Louis Forget, vice-president, public and government affairs at Ultramar, 514/499-6442, E-mail email@example.com.