Building the foundation of BC’s energy future
Maintaining and improving our natural gas system is one of the important ways we work every day to ensure the safe and reliable delivery of energy to our more than one million customers. This work can include everything from building new gas lines to support the growing needs of BC’s communities to upgrades that allow us to use the latest technology available.
Work to improve our system today will help us support BC’s tomorrow, as we shift towards a lower-carbon future. In the future, the lines that we currently use to deliver natural gas will start supplying more renewable alternatives such as Renewable Natural Gas, hydrogen and syngas, as we work with customers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by the year 2030 as part of our 30BY30 target.
This resource centre will help you understand the types of activities that might be taking place in your neighbourhood as part of our work maintaining and enhancing our natural gas system.
Safety first | Working to maintain and upgrade our natural gas system | Gas line construction | Regulatory process | Supporting local jobs and creating economic opportunities | Working with local communities to get the work done right | Partnering with Indigenous communities | Environmental stewardship | Leaving behind a legacy
Safety is at the core of everything we do, every day. The system we use to deliver natural gas has an excellent safety record. This record is a direct result of our work maintaining and upgrading our system, our rigorous adherence to safe practices, rules and regulations, and the diligence of our employees in carrying out our commitment to safety on a daily basis.
When it comes to our major projects, safety is embedded at every stage, starting with selecting a route and choosing a construction contractor. Throughout construction, our safety experts regularly visit worksites to ensure safety practices are being followed – looking at everything from potential tripping hazards to safely working in confined spaces to vehicles properly using safety spotters.
FortisBC will not compromise employee and public safety, and strives for excellence in safety performance.
Learn more about
FortisBC’s safety policy | The facts about LNG safety | Incorporating safety into project planning | How we keep our natural gas lines safe | 25 years of gas line safety | Our Target Zero mission to ensure everyone is working safely everyday
Working to maintain and upgrade our natural gas system
While there are various reasons we complete work on our system, there are generally two main types of projects:
- Gas line construction: This includes building, upgrading and maintaining the gas lines we use to deliver gas to customers’ homes and businesses. FortisBC owns and operates almost 50,000 kilometres of gas line throughout BC.
- Facility and system upgrades: This includes building energy storage capacity such as the Tilbury and Mt Hayes liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, or enhancing our system so it can be inspected using the latest technology.
Our projects typically go through three key stages that help ensure we deliver them successfully and they meet the needs of both our customers and the communities where they are taking place. These are:
- Planning and regulatory: This is where we identify the need; start planning key elements such as scope, location and route; begin engaging with customers, stakeholders and Indigenous communities; complete site and environmental investigations; and apply for regulatory approval.
- Construction: This is when the project is built, from early works such as clearing vegetation and preparing for excavation to construction and bringing the new asset into operation. Often this is when people notice our projects.
- Restoration: Once construction is complete, we ensure we properly restore the areas we worked in. This means leaving the areas in as good – or better – condition than before we arrived, and can include everything from replanting vegetation to restoring roads and driveways.
Gas line construction
We use two main construction methods for our gas line projects: open cut and trenchless. Combined these give us the flexibility to deliver projects safely, as quickly as possible and with the least disruption possible under a range of circumstances.
Open cut construction
We use open cut, or trench, construction for the vast majority of gas line construction. Simply put this involves digging an open trench, lowering in the gas line, re-filling the trench and restoring the area.
Open cut is a standard choice for gas line construction. It can be done safely and efficiently within the smallest amount of space.
At a typical open cut worksite you’ll see heavy equipment such as excavators, as well as long lengths of gas line waiting to be installed.
We use trenchless construction in locations such as where a gas line needs to cross a major road intersection, river or ecologically sensitive area. It involves installing our gas line using an underground borehole, leaving the surface undisturbed and minimizing disruptions.
Two worksites are required for trenchless construction, to send and receive the gas line underground. These are usually larger and deeper than those used for open cut construction.
Our projects can fall within a range of regulatory processes. Depending on the nature of the project, the process may include obtaining approval from our regulator the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC), as well as provincial and federal assessments. These regulatory processes provide important oversight for our work to ensure our ratepayers are getting value, and we deliver quality projects in a way that respects the local community, Indigenous groups and the environment.
- BCUC: As a regulated utility, most of our projects require approval from our regulator the BCUC, including via a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (or CPCN). This requires us to demonstrate the need for the project, as well as provide evidence that planning and engagement has been completed in a satisfactory manner, including engaging with those living, working and representing the areas where work is planned to take place.
- Environmental/Impact Assessments: Large-scale projects in BC undergo a process led by the Environmental Assessment Office to assess its potential environmental, economic, social, cultural and health effects. Projects may also be subject to a federal impact assessment by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, if they meet certain thresholds. These assessments follow a framework to produce a report that goes to government ministers to make a decision on whether a project can proceed.
- Other permits: Permits may also be required from agencies including the BC Oil and Gas Commission (OGC), municipalities and regional districts, government agencies, and other utility operators such as BC Hydro or TELUS. We work closely with these groups when needed.
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Supporting local jobs and creating economic opportunities
Part of maximizing the benefits our projects generate for BC communities is ensuring they generate local and Indigenous job and procurement opportunities. There are a number of ways we do this, such as working with contractors on their hiring policies or organizing business networking opportunities where local and Indigenous firms can learn about upcoming work.
For example, our FortisBC Gas Line Upgrades project delivered approximately $74 million to local businesses between 2014 and 2019, while we’ve spent more than $119 million in BC since 2014 expanding our Tilbury LNG facility in Delta.
Working with local communities to get the work done right
Serving the community is a privilege. That’s why we’re committed to developing meaningful and mutually beneficial working relationships with the communities where our projects are taking place. This starts with publicly announcing our project and getting feedback from stakeholders, Indigenous groups, customers and the community as part of the regulatory and planning process.
As our projects progress, we make sure we update the community early and often both during and ahead of construction. This includes: holding information sessions, pop-up booths and coffee chats; sending out direct mail notifications and regular project update emails; media, advertising and social media outreach to reach the wider community; and maintaining a dedicated project website, phone line and email. Using a range of methods such as this means we can keep everyone informed of what is happening near them, as well as identify and mitigate potential issues early.
Our projects also provide us the unique opportunity to support local organizations, businesses and events, and in the process build a better community for everyone. Before the current health crisis, this included everything from local festivals and markets to business networking opportunities and annual community events. We look forward to joining you at local events again once it is safe to do so.
Your feedback is crucial for our projects’ success
Delivering a project successfully requires ongoing and meaningful engagement with stakeholders, Indigenous communities, customers and the local community. This engagement is an opportunity to talk with those who live and work in the neighbourhoods where our projects take place, giving both them and us the opportunity to learn more. Feedback from local experts such as municipalities and neighbourhood groups can help shape our projects, including influencing the route, traffic management and environmental considerations.
- In 2020, in response to feedback we received from the community on the Eagle Mountain – Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project, we announced a new potential site for our planned Squamish compressor station.
- In 2018, we launched our FortisBC Gas Line Upgrades project and announced plans to close East 1st Avenue – a major commuter thoroughfare – during the summer months so construction could be completed safely and as quickly as possible. The plan for a full road closure was carefully developed in close collaboration with the local municipality, the City of Vancouver.
Learn more about
How we work with local businesses during a project | The importance of communicating early and often | Traffic management planning | Partnering with local events | Supporting local community organizations near our project | Putting on local events near our projects in Squamish and Delta | Adjusting our approach to address impacts on our Eagle Mountain - Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project
Partnering with Indigenous communities
Engaging meaningfully with Indigenous groups where our work is taking place through transparent, frequent, two-way dialogue is very important to us. This engagement is guided by FortisBC’s Statement of Indigenous Principles, which was developed in 2001, with guidance and input from Indigenous leaders across BC.
Working closely with Indigenous communities and building strong relationships is key to ensuring everyone benefits from our projects through opportunities such as procurement, education and training.
- We are working closely with Indigenous groups on our Eagle Mountain – Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project and in 2016 signed an environmental assessment agreement with Squamish Nation – the first of its kind in Canada.
- The Musqueam Capital Corporation is working with Clough as general contractor on an expansion of truck loading capacity at our Tilbury LNG facility. The project is bringing economic opportunities to local Indigenous businesses including Musqueam-affiliated companies.
- We spent $4.2 million on services from 11 Indigenous-affiliated businesses for our FortisBC Gas Line Upgrades project between 2014 and 2019, including for environmental monitoring and equipment, while almost one in five of those working on the project self-identified as Indigenous.
- We are making sure there are contracting opportunities for local Indigenous communities on our Inland Gas Upgrades project, including using contractors from Ktunaxa Nation and Mcleod Lake Indian Band to complete early works in 2020.
- We developed an equity partnership with the Stz’uminus (Chemainus) First Nation and Cowichan Tribes in 2012 on our Mt Hayes LNG facility, creating jobs and economic opportunities in the communities including $70 million in local investment and 12 full-time operations jobs at the facility.
- We worked with a Prince George Indigenous employment and training association to create unique on-site training opportunities for students in 2020 in Mackenzie as part of our Inland Gas Upgrades project.
- We donated cedar logs to Suwa’lkh School in Coquitlam in 2018 that the school used to teach students traditional art and carving firsthand.
We operate in the traditional territories of more than 150 Indigenous communities.
Learn more about
FortisBC’s Statement of Indigenous Principles | The origins of our Statement of Indigenous Principles | Generating economic opportunities in the Lower Mainland, Kootenay, and Mackenzie regions | FortisBC receives first-ever Environmental Certificate from Squamish Nation | Partnering with Indigenous communities for our Mt Hayes LNG facility | General contracting opportunities for Indigenous businesses at our Tilbury LNG facility | Generating training opportunities for Indigenous youth in Prince George | Supporting Indigenous schools in Coquitlam
We are committed to delivering our projects in an environmentally responsible manner. This means detailed planning to guide construction, as well as working with experts, Indigenous communities, and local groups every step of the way.
As part of project planning and before shovels hit the ground, we complete thorough assessments of an area to identify important factors such as environmental and archaeological sensitivities that may require additional protection, seasons when construction cannot take place due to salmon spawning or bird nesting, and any areas that require additional attention during restoration. The information collected is used to develop an environmental management plan for the project as well as site-specific environmental protection plans that must be followed during construction. These plans include requirements such as limiting the width of excavations, ways to prevent run-off into any nearby creeks and expectations around restoration.
When it comes to restoration, we believe we should be leaving the areas we work in as good – or better – condition than they were before we started. For example, restoration for our FortisBC Gas Line Upgrades project near Burnaby Mountain in 2019 included planting a pollinator garden that would provide an important source of food for wild bee species that live in the area.
We recognize the importance of minimizing impacts to archaeological and cultural sites near planned construction areas, and work with Indigenous communities to identify, monitor and protect these important sites. This includes pre-construction assessments of an area by archaeologists and Indigenous community representatives, which help us select a route that avoids impacting known archaeological and cultural sites, as well as archaeological monitoring during construction.
If an archaeological site is discovered during construction, then the archaeologist will follow BC Archaeology Branch and OGC processes, which can include pausing construction until more is known about what was found and we have received input from Indigenous communities on our next steps forward.
Learn more about
How FortisBC is helping re-think BC’s low-carbon future | Sustainability and our 30BY30 target | Environmental protection at FortisBC | Sediment control to protect streams, fish and fish habitat | Restoring areas and habitat once construction is complete | Burnaby Mountain pollinator garden
Leaving behind a legacy
When we finish work in a neighbourhood we do our best to leave it improved. One of the ways we do this is through collaborating on legacy items that people can enjoy long after our work is completed. In recent years we’ve partnered with municipalities and local groups to deliver crosswalks in Italian colours on Commercial Drive in East Vancouver, bike and walking trail upgrades in Penticton and Coquitlam, and a new agility centre for a Delta animal shelter. We’ve also contributed to improving streets, parking lots and parks as part of restoration work following excavation for gas line construction.