Enbridge pipeline heads to hearings
Amid environment, land-claim concerns
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/12/2011 (3993 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
VANCOUVER — Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline project began life nearly a decade ago as a market study on how to open up Alberta’s oilsands resources to ocean trade with Asia.
And now, public hearings on the $5.5-billion dual-pipeline proposal are set to begin Jan. 10.
The company and the federal government are pushing for approval, characterizing the project as a national imperative worth $270 billion to the Canadian economy over its lifetime. In the eyes of many environmentalists and FirstNationscommunities,however,theproject represents the risk of a major oil spill — either from pipeline rupture or a tanker accident off British Columbia’s pristine north coast.
Aboriginal concerns are a key issue in the project’s progression, with 130 First Nations vowing to block the development, including a large number whose land claims cover a huge swath of the pipeline route.
“(Enbridge’s) objective is to outline the credibility of the application,” company spokesman Paul Stanway said in an interview.
“We have detailed engineering and environmental studies to prove (the pipeline) can be operated safely, and we’re confident at this point we can make a very good argument,” for its regulatory approval, Stanway said.
Bituman from the oilsands near Fort Mc-Murray is now shipped through a network of pipelines to Bruderheim, Alta.
Enbridge’s Northern Gateway bid is to build two pipelines from Bruderheim, 60 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, along a 1,172-kilometre route to Kitimat on the B.C. coast.
One would be a 91.4-centimetre pipe, which would deliver to Kitimat for export of up to 525,000 barrels per day of mostly diluted bitumen, the raw product extracted from oilsands, or synthetic crude oil, the product produced after the first stage of refining bitumen.
The other would be a 50.8-millimetre pipe that would carry up to 193,000 barrels a day of imported condensates, a kerosene-like fluid used to dilute bitumen so it flows more easily, back in the opposite direction. The pipeline’s route travels through Alberta, over the Rocky Mountains just east of Tumbler Ridge, then takes a path across B.C.’s northern interior through Fort St. James, Burns Lake and Houston before piercing the Coast Mountains with two six-kilometre-long tunnels before reaching the Kitimat terminus.
The condensate and bitumen will be imported and exported by giant tankers, between 190 and 250 per year, which will dock at Kitimat.
And while Enbridge initially had difficulty securing firm commitments from potential users of the pipeline, the company has enlisted a roster of 10 supporters, each of which has put up $10 million to back its development during the regulatory process.
So far, the only named supporter is stateowned Sinopec, China’s second-largest oil producer and refiner. Enbridge has not identified the others, though in August it announced it had reached commercial agreements with shippers that want to use the pipeline.
Stanway said Enbridge has also committed $100 million to developing the project’s design and carrying it through the regulatory process, the price of which could rise to $300 million before it is over.
The job of weighing the project’s benefits and risks is about to hit the public phase. The National Energy Board — which has been charged with conducting a joint review of the project under NEB regulations and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act — is holding community hearings in the Haisla First Nation of Kitamaat Village on Jan. 10, near the project’s proposed terminus on the Douglas Channel on British Columbia’s north coast.
Under NEB rules, the review will determine Canada’s need for the project and decide if it is in the national interest, while the CEAA review will assess environmental safety.
Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver has said Ottawa is “committed to a thorough environmental assessment and consultation with aboriginal groups,” about the project.
However, in recent months Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made it clear the federal government considers it a priority to break Canada’s dependence on the U.S. market for oil exports, a refrain repeated by Oliver.
— Postmedia News