PLANT

TransCanada confident eastern pipeline gets approved

Proposal involves converting its part-empty natural gas mainline to ship western oil eastward.


CALGARY—TransCanada Corp. does not expect to see a big environmental pushback from its plan to ship western oil eastward, which could come to fruition around 2017, a company executive said Wednesday.

Alex Pourbaix, who is in charge of energy and oil pipelines at TransCanada, said 80% of the pipe required is already in the ground.

“Even where we don’t have pipeline in the ground, we already have right of way and have relationships with landowners in that part of the world. So I think that’s very significant,” he said.

Eastern Canadians are also keenly aware of how such a plan would affect fuel prices where they live, he added.

“Right now eastern Canada has the highest refined products prices on the continent,” he said.

He added, “it doesn’t take a great leap of logic” to conclude that filling eastern refineries with domestic crude is better than importing pricier oil from overseas.

Pipeline proposals to the other side of the country, on the other hand, have been met with fierce resistance, particularly within BC where there are concerns that a spill from a pipeline itself, or from supertankers moving through coastal waters could cause dire environmental harm.

Eastern and western attitudes differ when it comes to pipelines, said Pourbaix.

“Unlike BC, there is a pretty significant long-term tradition of moving oil in that part of the world,” he said.

For instance, tankers have moved to and from the Irving Oil refinery in St. John for 50 years.

“Every day, tankers transit up and down the St. Lawrence Seaway and I think everybody also gets the concept that, to the extent we are able to extend a pipeline towards the East Coast, that would have the impact of actually reducing tanker transits, which I think everybody sees as more risky than pipelines.”

TransCanada’s proposal would involve converting a portion of its part-empty natural gas mainline to gas service with the help of extra pump stations and other tweaks.

The company has deemed the proposal to be economically and technically feasible and has said its customers would be keen to see it built. It intends to more formally gauge just how much support the project has in the coming months.

Taking into account a few years of regulatory review and a few years of construction, Pourbaix said he sees it starting up around 2017.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said in an interview Tuesday he supports the eastern pipeline proposals, provided they undergo a thorough environmental review.

In contrast, he dismissed Enbridge’s $6-billion Northern Gateway pipeline between Alberta and the West Coast as a “non-starter” on environmental grounds and that approving it would be a “historical mistake.”

©The Canadian Press