11/26/2014 09:13 EST | Updated 01/26/2015 05:59 EST

Kinder Morgan's survey shows Burnaby mountain stable enough for pipeline

Preliminary work shows Burnaby Mountain is stable enough to support a tunnel for the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline, according to engineers hired by Kinder Morgan.

The team from BGC Engineering has been working since last Thursday, when police began enforcing a court injunction ordering protesters to leave the work site.

They've drilled two boreholes about 200 metres deep in the Burnaby Conservation Area, and pulled up core samples to look for fractures and assess the rock's strength.

"The strength is relatively high so it's quite good and stable," says Alex Baumgard, Senior Geotechnical Engineer with BGC Engineering.

"We're quite confident the strength and condition of the rock we're finding is going to prove that we have a feasible solution for one of the trenchless options we're proposing."

Kinder Morgan wants to drill through Burnaby Mountain, about 20 to 100 metres below ground, to make way for its proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline between Edmonton, Alberta and Burnaby, B.C.

The geotechnical assessment is required by the National Energy Board to consider Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion proposal.

The proposed $5-billion expansion would nearly triple the capacity of the pipeline that carries crude oil from near Edmonton to the Vancouver area to be loaded on tankers and shipped overseas.

Another week of drilling amid escalating protests

More than 100 protesters have been arrested so far for crossing a court-ordered no-go line at the Burnaby Mountain work site.

Baumgard says the "hostile" environment makes work difficult, but he tries to tune it out.

"Where we're getting verbal abuse thrown at us, it can be distracting. It can increase stress levels. However, at same time we're brought in to get a job done, we're professionals so we focus on getting work done."

The drilling work will wrap up in the next three to five days at the Centennial Way site, where protesters have been gathered, says Baumgard. A second site, further from the road and accessed by helicopter, will see drilling for another week or more.