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AltaGas partners with Japan’s Idemitsu on gas projects. (Ewan Nicholson)
AltaGas partners with Japan’s Idemitsu on gas projects. (Ewan Nicholson)

Pipe dreams: A look at Canada’s six leading pipeline proposals Add to ...

NORTHERN GATEWAY

Proponent: Enbridge Inc.

Volume: 525,000 barrels per day of exported oil sands bitumen, 193,000 barrels per of imported diluent, an oil-based solvent used as a thinning agent so the thick, heavy bitumen can be shipped by pipeline

Destination: Kitimat, the small British Columbia town at the head of the Douglas Channel. Super tankers would deliver oil to refineries in Asia and California.

State of play: Enbridge is mid-way through regulatory review, and has received financial support from major oil companies and foreign refiners interested in shipping crude on the line.

Decision expected: The National Energy Board has been mandated to provide a decision by the end of 2013.

Opposition: Environmental groups and first nations in B.C. and across Canada have placed massive emphasis on blocking Gateway. The B.C. government has given the project a cool reception, releasing five conditions for its support of a new oil pipeline. Legal challenges are expected if Gateway gains regulatory approval.

Pipe dream: With implacable opposition from some first nations and the B.C. New Democratic Party – which is favoured to win a May election – Enbridge faces extremely long odds in getting Gateway built.

TRANS MOUNTAIN EXPANSION

Proponent: Kinder Morgan

Volume: 590,000 barrels per day (current pipeline is 300,000 barrels per day; expansion will take it to 890,000)

Destination: Burnaby, B.C., home of Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Marine Terminal, where smaller tankers would take Canadian oil primarily to California, although Asian shipments are also possible

State of play: Kinder Morgan is mid-way through an application asking the National Energy Board to approve commercial tolls for the project. A formal application seeking authority to build the expansion is expected later this year.

Decision expected: Depending on when Kinder Morgan applies, the regulatory review could be completed by 2015, with construction starting in 2016 and operations commencing in 2017.

Opposition: Local forces have begun to marshal against the project, including some first nations and the mayors of Burnaby and Vancouver. British Columbia’s provincial leaders – Premier Christy Clark and Adrian Dix, the NDP Leader expected to gain power this year – have not yet made public their thoughts on the expansion.

Pipe dream: TransMountain hopes its route to approval will be less contentious than the Gateway brouhaha, but the line ends at the waterfront near Vancouver and there is much local opposition to the increased tanker traffic it would bring. 50-50, at best.

ENBRIDGE MAINLINE EXPANSIONS

Proponent: Enbridge Inc.

Volume: 1 million barrels per day by 2015

Destination: The U.S. Midwest, Gulf Coast and possibly eastern seaboard

State of Play: Enbridge carries the bulk of Canada’s oil on its complex Mainline network of pipes. The company is mid-way through a broad expansion of that network to push more oil through. It will come in several stages, as Enbridge adds more pumping stations to a number of existing pipelines. It hopes to add 300,000 barrels per day this year, another 600,000 barrels per day in 2014 and one million in total by 2015.

Opposition: Because the pipelines are already built, the Enbridge plans have generated little profile, and little controversy. However, the company needs a presidential permit to expand one of its larger pipelines, Alberta Clipper, by 350,000 barrels per day, roughly a third of the total increase Enbridge is working toward. Seeking that approval – similar to what Keystone XL requires – could expose the company to the complicated U.S. political machinery.

Pipe dream: Since much of the work involves expanding existing pipelines, these are among the surest bests for Canada’s industry. But the need for a presidential permit does open this project to some of the same political firestorm that has met Keystone XL in the U.S.

THE DREAMIEST OF PIPELINE DREAMS

Proponent: The Alberta government

Volume: Unknown

Destination: Churchill; Alaska via the NWT

State of Play: Desperate for more money – and equally desperate to show a restive public that it’s working to fix pipeline problems – the Alberta government has taken an unusual role as pipeline dreamer-in-chief. In recent weeks, ministers have come up with an array of new pipeline ideas. They have suggested a pipeline to Churchill, Man., which has the virtue of not crossing either B.C. or Quebec – but the significant downside of shipping oil through waters that are heavily choked with ice much of the year. And they’ve suggested pumping oil north through a small existing pipeline out of Norman Wells, NWT, then building a new pipeline along the Second World War-era Canol pipeline route through Yukon, and on to Alaska. This idea uses existing pipeline rights-of-way, but is unlikely to be celebrated by northern first nations groups.

Pipe dream: These are ideas generated by a government with no ability to actually build a pipeline, and therefore the latitude to toss out suggestions with little regard to their degree of craziness. Take them more as evidence of political desperation.

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