British Columbia rebuffs Northern Gateway pipeline

An important westbound route for Canadian bitumen has met new official resistance in the province it would cross.

The government of British Columbia said evidence presented in federal hearings failed to allay its concerns about the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project between Edmonton, Alta., and Kitimat, BC.

In its submission to the Joint Review Panel, the provincial government said Northern Gateway, a subsidiary of Enbridge Inc., hasn’t adequately addressed spill preparedness.

Although Northern Gateway claims to be able to respond effectively to land and marine spills, it said, the company “has presented little evidence about how it will respond in the event of a spill.” The province said, “It is not clear from the evidence that [Northern Gateway] will in fact be able to respond to spills either from the pipeline itself or from tankers carrying diluted bitumen from the proposed Kitimat terminal.”

The project involves a 1,177-km, 36-in. pipeline to carry 525,000 b/d of bitumen diluted with condensate to Kitimat and a twin 20-in. line to return 193,000 b/d of condensate to Edmonton.

The proposal has encountered opposition from environmental and some First Nations groups. The Liberal government of British Columbia Premier Christy Clark earlier made clear that provincial approval of the project wouldn’t be automatic (OGJ Online, Sept. 12, 2012).

Sharing wealth

Clark has insisted that British Columbians share wealth generated by production from the oil sands region of Alberta, a view opposed by Alberta Premier Alison Redford, a Progressive Conservative.

In a press statement about its submission to the Joint Review Panel, the British Columbia Ministry of Environment repeated the claim on oil sands revenue in this list of conditions for provincial approval of heavy oil pipelines:

• Successful completion of the environmental review, which for Northern Gateway “would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Board that the project proceed.”

• “World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention, and recovery systems” for British Columbia’s coastline.    

“World-leading practices” for preventing and responding to land spills.

• Assurance that First Nations legal and treaty rights are addressed and that First Nations have opportunities, information, and resources “to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project.”

• A “fair share” for British Columbia “of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy-oil project that reflect the level, degree, and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment, and taxpayers.”

Straining logistics

Northern Gateway is one of several proposed outlets for production from the Canadian oil sands region, growth of which is beginning to strain existing logistical systems.

Environmental opposition also has delayed US approval of the border crossing of another proposal, TransCanada PipeLines Ltd.’s Keystone XL project, which would be able to carry about 830,000 b/d of oil sands products to the US Midwest and Gulf Coast (OGJ Online, May 31, 2013).

Also, Kinder Morgan plans to apply for a 590,000-b/d expansion of its Trans Mountain Pipeline between Edmonton and Vancouver.

And TransCanada is assessing shipper interest in a project that would carry as much as 850,000 b/d of crude from Hardisty, Alta., to refineries and ports in eastern Canada (OGJ Online, Apr. 2, 2012).

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