Disaster Zone

4 Lessons from the Gas Pipeline Explosion in Canada

Disaster resilience comes from preparations before the event.

by Eric Holdeman / October 10, 2018

Out here in "the other Washington," we are dealing with a natural gas pipeline explosion in Canada. See Canada pipeline blast risks Washington natural gas shortage.

The event, in another country, reveals a number of lessons and issues:

  1. Once again we are reminded about the fragility of our "just in time" delivery system that moves bulk products like fuels, but also our manufacturing has been "made lean" by the same just-in-time system. There isn't much fudge factor in our ability to work around disasters.
  2. Yes, we are linked to other states and other nations. What happens there matters. However, have you ever seen a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant allow for coordination and participation by Canadians? If you are looking for an international wall, one does exist when it comes to working with our Canadian partners. It has been built by DHS. Crazy? Yes!
  3. A liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant is under construction in the Tacoma Tideflats, near the Port of Tacoma. It is being built by Puget Sound Energy (PSE) the provider that is mentioned in the Washington Post article linked above. There has been significant environmental opposition to the plant from local groups. The major purpose of the plant will be to convert natural gas into LNG that will be used by ships at the Port of Tacoma, eliminating the very polluting bunker fuel used by ships now. Another stated purpose of the 8-million-gallon storage tank (small by LNG standards) is that the gas stored there could be used to back-feed the natural gas supply in the region during times of high demand — or say, when the supply is cut off due to a pipeline explosion hundreds of miles away. 
  4. Which brings me to disaster resilience. We can be adaptive and innovative at the time of a disaster, but to become resilient requires forethought and planning. The LNG plant like the one described above provides redundancy. It is a value that is not held in high esteem when compared to saving money in our 21st-century, quarterly profit world. 

In conclusion, I still think we are headed the wrong way in the majority of our thinking. Short-term gains outweigh long-term savings. A quick buck today trumps any thought about future generations or circumstances that to many sound like only a series of "what if" questions.