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Supplies ordered by Coastal GasLink, including pipes from India temporarily stored at a port in Stewart, B.C., will start being transported this week to stockpiling locations near Kitimat on the West Coast and Chetwynd in northeast B.CHandout

TC Energy Corp.'s $6.6-billion Coastal GasLink project is poised to start taking delivery of steel pipes, a crucial prelude to the launch of construction next summer on the 670-kilometre pipeline that will run from northeastern British Columbia to Kitimat on the coast.

Supplies of large-diameter pipes from Japan, India and Saskatchewan will begin reaching sites across northern B.C. this month, a milestone that has been more than seven years in the making.

“We’re excited about it. I mean it’s a strong indication and representation that the project is moving ahead,” Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. president David Pfeiffer said in an interview.

The natural gas pipeline to be built across northern B.C. has already produced economic spinoffs on the Prairies, notably hundreds of millions of dollars being invested to procure steel pipes made at the Regina operations of Evraz North America PLC, he said. More than 60 per cent of Coastal GasLink’s budget will be spent in Canada.

Specialty pipes have been sourced in Japan and other pipes in India. Supplies ordered by Coastal GasLink, including pipes from India temporarily stored at a port in Stewart, B.C., will start being transported this week to stockpiling locations near Kitimat on the West Coast and Chetwynd in northeast B.C.

“We’ve a got great milestone starting here in early December," Mr. Pfeiffer said. “It’s progressing on schedule right now.”

In the weeks and months ahead, steel pipes from Saskatchewan will make their way by train and truck to other sections of the pipeline route.

Mr. Pfeiffer, who became Coastal GasLink president in February, said the project will help with Canadian energy exports while creating jobs for Indigenous people and spurring economic growth in northern B.C. communities.

In mid-2012, TC Energy (then called TransCanada Corp.) proposed building the pipeline to carry natural gas from northeast B.C. to an industrial site in Kitimat. The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office approved the proposal in 2014.

In Kitimat, Royal Dutch Shell PLC-led LNG Canada is constructing an $18-billion terminal that will export liquefied natural gas to Asia. LNG Canada made its final investment decision to forge ahead in October, 2018, and Coastal GasLink has been clearing and grading along the pipeline route for the past year.

Pipes will be stockpiled near Kitimat and Chetwynd over the next several months before construction begins in the summer of 2020, when the pipes will be assembled and then installed in trenches. Deliveries of pipes to other areas will be spread out until April, 2021, with cranes lowering sections of pipes in trenches through 2022.

Coastal GasLink hopes to be in service by the end of 2023 to start a series of tests, while LNG Canada wants to begin exporting to Asia by early 2025.

British Columbia’s NDP government, which is opposed to the Trans Mountain oil expansion project, supports Coastal GasLink and LNG Canada. LNG Canada’s terminal site is located on the Haisla Nation’s traditional territory, and the Haisla elected band council backs the pipeline and terminal.

Natural gas is considered less environmentally risky to export in ocean tankers than oil. Elected Indigneous leaders along Coastal GasLink’s route say they fear the B.C. coast would be ruined if diluted bitumen were spilled, versus what they view as an acceptable risk under a scenario of leaking LNG, which would likely evaporate into the atmosphere.

Coastal GasLink, which will employ 2,500 construction workers, has the support of all 20 elected First Nation councils along the route. But the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, governed by hereditary chiefs, opposes the project, saying Indigenous authority rests with hereditary and not elected leaders over a large segment of the route.

“We’re reaching out all the time to engage all the Nations, including hereditary chiefs,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “Our focus is to put people to work and help people improve their lives.”

Five of the 20 elected band councils that support the pipeline belong to the Wet’suwet’en Nation: Wet’suwet’en First Nation (formerly known as the Broman Lake Indian Band), Burns Lake, Nee Tahi Buhn, Skin Tyee and Witset.

A section of the pipeline route crosses the unceded territory of Dark House, one of 13 Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary house groups. In a recent statement through its affiliate Unist’ot’en, Dark House reiterated opposition to Coastal GasLink: “Unist’ot’en members have been reoccupying our traditional territory for the past 10 years in order to dedicate ourselves to protecting the nourishing and sacred Wedzin’ Kwa (headwaters), the animals, plants, medicines and our ancestral sites."​

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