08.04.16 / Environment

A passion for environmental protection

Q&A with Eagle Mountain - Woodfibre Gas Pipeline project manager Danielle Gillanders

Danielle is a chemical engineer and a nature-lover. When she’s not working, you’ll find her with her golden retriever, Murphy, at one of the many parks near her home or at the beach. Luckily, as a project manager for FortisBC’s proposed Eagle Mountain – Woodfibre Gas Pipeline, occasionally she gets to work outside in the beautiful Squamish area.

Last fall Danielle spoke at a She Talks event showcasing inspiring women working in a variety of technical disciplines, where she described her experience as a woman in a male-dominated field. She’s also been featured in the Squamish Chief, and in the Financial Post as an engineer who is championing the environment from within the energy industry.

We asked Danielle a few questions about the Eagle Mountain – Woodfibre Gas Pipeline project, and the role she plays:

Why is this project important?

We’re proposing an expansion of our existing pipeline system that serves Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Squamish, so we can supply our customer, Woodfibre LNG Ltd., with natural gas. Woodfibre LNG would liquefy the gas and export it on specialized marine carriers.

Woodfibre LNG’s market is Asia, which currently relies heavily on coal for energy. When you look at all the components that make up air pollution and smog, natural gas is relatively clean. I believe natural gas from BC can have a big impact on reducing emissions and improving air quality there.

What keeps your job interesting and challenging?

I don’t ever have a day where I do the same thing twice. I’m often in several different places in one day, meeting with the project team, regulators, consultants, Aboriginal leaders and government representatives.

Working with Aboriginal communities is particularly interesting. I’m learning about their concerns and how we can work together to address them, which is really rewarding. And it’s always great to go out into the field and work with the consultants who are doing research.

What kind of research are you doing in the Squamish area?

As we did last year, we have environmental consultants doing a series of geological and geotechnical investigations throughout 2016. Our focus is in the Skwelwil'em Squamish Estuary Wildlife Management Area, which is a very sensitive environment that also has cultural significance for local First Nations.

We’re planning to install pipe in an underground tunnel to avoid surface disturbance in that area, so we need to understand what’s going on underground: what kind of rock is under there? What are the structures like? We’re doing visual assessments and soil sampling so we can design the system to work safely and efficiently.

Last summer when we took soil samples on Squamish River Dyke Road, these two baby bears were running around trying to check us out, and they were really funny to watch. Their mama was keeping an eye on them… it was pretty cool to see. Of course, our work site was fenced off so everyone was safe.

How do you protect wildlife and the environment when you’re doing field research?

There’s a ton of different things we do. We have environmental management plans and wildlife awareness programs. We use inert materials that aren’t harmful to the environment, and we have environmental monitors out there with us when we’re doing work. They go out in advance, walking very carefully while they look for baby birds’ nests, and they stake them off so the research crew avoids that area.

When we’re done working in an area, we don’t leave anything behind. You have to be really focused on minimizing your footprint with every step—you don’t even want to break a twig if you can avoid it, especially in a sensitive environment like the Squamish Estuary.

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