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Bruce March, president and CEO of Imperial Oil, addresses the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Thursday, April 28, 2011. (Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Bruce March, president and CEO of Imperial Oil, addresses the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Thursday, April 28, 2011. (Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Imperial not backing Northern Gateway, Trans Mountain - yet Add to ...

Those keeping track of Enbridge Inc.’s financial backers and wannabe shippers on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline can strike Imperial Oil Ltd. off the list. And while they’re at it, put a question mark beside Imperial when it comes to Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Trans Mountain expansion aspirations.

Bruce March, Imperial’s chief executive, said his company is not among those signed up to transport oil to the west coast via the two proposed projects. At least not yet.

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“We typically don’t divulge those commercial arrangements, but I can confirm that we haven’t done anything with either at this time,” he told reporters Wednesday after the company’s annual meeting in Calgary.

“With Gateway, they don’t have a regulatory permit yet, and with Trans Mountain, the open season isn’t closed yet.”

Does Imperial’s cool stance on pipelines to Kitimat and Burnaby mean it is confident the United States can sop up all the bitumen Alberta can produce? Energy companies desperately want to get their product to refineries on the Gulf Coast, which are calibrated to handle heavy oil, but running under capacity now that the heyday of Venezuelan crude is over. There is an oil glut in the American Midwest now, which could be alleviated if pipes reached the Gulf. This is especially important considering the industry’s expansion plans.

“Oh, gosh, when you look at the capacity for the Gulf Coast refineries to run the diluted bitumen crudes that will likely be the growth crudes, if you could get the pipeline capacity to it, it would be decades before we would fill that,” Mr. March said.

He declined to say whether Imperial has signed on to TransCanada Corp.’s stalled Keystone XL line. “We wouldn’t comment on that. It isn’t a no or a yes,” Mr. March said.

All three lines, as well as other proposals to get oil out of western Canada, enjoy support from producers across the board. While Imperial didn’t risk signing up for Gateway before it has regulatory approval, a handful of companies have paid up in hopes it proceeds.

Cenovus Energy Inc., Nexen Inc., Suncor Energy Inc., MEG Energy Corp., France’s Total SA, and China’s Sinopec are already part of the Gateway project. The six confirmed they are among the supporters who each bought at least one $10-million unit from Enbridge, giving them the right to buy equity in the line, and ship crude at cheaper tolls. Enbridge sold 10 of the units. If there are other buyers, they have not been revealed. This, however, does not mean other potential Gateway customers will be excluded from shipping on the line should it be built.

Follow on Twitter: @CarrieTait

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