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All of a sudden, it looks like Canada could get a massive surge in oil pipeline capacity. Donald Trump has just signed an executive order opening the door to Keystone XL, and Justin Trudeau previously approved both Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion and Enbridge's Line 3 replacement project. Taken together, the three new projects could add 1.79 million barrels per day of export capacity, as shown below.
The impact of this new capacity will be keenly felt at the end of this decade: without it, the collision between growing production and the limits of existing pipelines could blow out the differential between Canadian heavy crude oil (Western Canadian Select) and West Texas Intermediate.
That last happened back in 2013, when the spread between the two benchmarks approached $40 per barrel—and cost Canadian producers billions. "Right now, the differential is only $15 or so," says Trevor Tombe, an economist at the University of Calgary. "But if we don't build new pipelines, the National Energy Board expects that as production growth takes place in Alberta, that differential will grow."
And make no mistake: Production growth from the oil sands is still coming. "There's a lot of current investment projects in the works that are locking in sizable chunks of near-term future production growth," Tombe says. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers' 2015 forecast pegged the amount of new production coming out of the oil sands by 2019 at 600,000 barrels per day. If Keystone gets built, says Tombe, "it could plausibly provide enough export capacity until the end of the next decade."