Northern Gateway is not alone: 5 more pipelines to watch

Pipelines proposed N America mapFrom Keystone XL to Trans Mountain – 5 pipeline systems that could help move oil out of Alberta

By Max Paris, CBC News, June 17, 2014

It’s decision day for the Northern Gateway pipeline. In Ottawa, camera positions are being marked out, pencils sharpened and microphones tested. All eyes are fixed on the clock, waiting for markets to close, so today’s announcement doesn’t ruffle any financial feathers.

But Northern Gateway isn’t the only pipeline that could remake the face of North America’s energy supply and roil the continent’s political waters. Here is a list of five more — some well-known, others not so much:

1. Keystone XL

Why it matters
If the oilsands are going to expand by two-million barrels per day in the next eight years, the industry needs as many ways of getting it out of Alberta as possible. TransCanada’s Keystone XL will be a big part of that export plan. If it ever gets up and running, the plan is for it to carry 830,000 barrels per day from just outside Edmonton, through the middle American states and down to the Texas refineries on the Gulf of Mexico coast.

What’s the problem?
U.S. President Barack Obama’s unwillingness to make a decision on whether or not to allow the pipeline to cross the border. The Americans tell us they want to make sure it’s safe, technically and environmentally. The truth of the matter is, it’s all about politics. Obama, like politicians on both sides of the American political divide, sees the dollar signs next to TransCanada’s pipeline. But he gets a lot of money from environmentalists and they have turned Keystone XL into the bad boy of climate change.

Where it stands
The southern portion of the pipeline is built and working, although there were some problems with the welds. After two U.S. State Department environmental assessments and a redrawing of the route around an environmentally sensitive area in Nebraska, everyone is still waiting on a decision from the White House.

2. Energy East

Why it matters
If Northern Gateway doesn’t get built, this is another way to get 1.1-million barrels per day of Canadian oil to tidewater – the long way around, mind you. The terminus for this pipeline is Saint John, N.B. For now though, it is about breaking eastern Canada’s Middle Eastern and West African oil habits.

What’s the problem?
The plan is to change an existing natural gas pipe into an oil pipe. That means a lot of retrofitting and it also worries Ontario gas customers, who get 40 per cent of their home heating fuel in the winter through that pipe. Also, the existing pipeline ends just west of Montreal. To make it to Saint John, about 900 kilometres of new pipes need to be built.

Where it stands
TransCanada submitted a project description to the National Energy Board in March. NEB information sessions have only just begun.

3. Line 9 reversal

Why it matters
Canadian energy independence. And another way to eventually get bitumen to tidewater. When Enbridge built the pipeline between Sarnia, Ont., and Montreal in the 1970s, it was originally meant to bring western oil to eastern Canada. As the global economics of oil changed, the flow was reversed to bring Middle Eastern and African oil to Ontario. Now Enbridge wants to switch it back around.

What’s the problem?
While Enbridge will initially use Line 9 to ship conventional oil, the company has left open the possibility of switching to heavier grades (i.e., oilsands bitumen) in the future. That has many people in the Toronto area worried since the pipe runs through important municipal water sources. There is also a fear in the U.S. state of Maine, where the belief is that Line 9 will be hooked up to the Montreal-Portland Pipeline sending Alberta bitumen through areas where there are many important municipal water sources.

Where it stands
The pipeline is divided into two sections. Line 9a runs from Sarnia, Ont., to just west of Hamilton. The regulatory process is complete and the flow has been reversed for that portion. Line 9b runs the rest of the way to Montreal. The NEB hearings are over and in March of this year approval was granted to reverse the flow.

4. Trans Mountain expansion

Why it matters
It’s the only pipeline that brings Alberta oil to the Pacific coast. Owner Kinder Morgan wants to expand the carrying capacity of the line by twinning the pipes. Right now, it carries about 300,000 barrels per day. If the expansion is approved, that number will bump up to 890,000 barrels a day. The pipeline has been in operation since 1953, largely incident free.

What’s the problem?
Northern Gateway. It would be fair to say that Trans Mountain’s expansion application is suffering collateral damage from the controversy farther north.

Where it stands
Kinder Morgan filed its application with the NEB in December of last year. If it makes it through the application process, construction begins in late 2015 or early 2016, and by 2017 the company should be pumping that extra 600,000 barrels of oil each day.

5. Flanagan South/Seaway Twin

Why it matters
This is actually two pipelines but they will work in tandem. They are both in the U.S., but they are linked and integral to the Canadian system. Flanagan South — an Enbridge project — will move an additional 600,000 barrels per day from Illinois to the big storage hub in Cushing, Okla. Seaway Twin, owned by the Seaway Crude Pipeline Company, will move an additional 450,000 barrels a day out of Cushing to the refineries on the Texas coast.

What’s the problem?
None – if you’re an Alberta oil guy. More bitumen flowing means more money. Plenty – if you’re an environmentalist. More bitumen flowing means more greenhouse gases.

Where it stands
Seaway will be up and running later this month. Flanagan South is built and is scheduled to start pumping sometime later this year.

Posted on June 17, 2014, in Oil & Gas and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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