Kinder Morgan, of Houston, Texas, said Thursday, April 12, 2012, it plans to proceed with expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline system from Alberta to the BC Lower Mainland. The company made the announcement after what the energy industry calls an “open season,” a search for customers where it received “strong binding commitments” from existing and new shippers. They pledged commercial support to an additional 660,000 barrels per day of bitumen sands crude from the pipeline. Demand has been high and reports say Kinder Morgan has had to ration petroleum products for its existing customers.
The 20 year commitment from the customers means the pipeline capacity would increase to 850,000 barrels per day from 550,000 barrels. That would make the eventual capacity of the Kinder Morgan pipeline much larger than Enbridge Northern Gateway’s proposed 525,000 barrels per day.
In a release, Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada said, “We are extremely pleased with the strong commercial support that we received through the open season, which reinforces the appeal of our project and our approach. This strong commercial support shows the market’s enthusiasm for expanding market access for Canadian crude by expanding an existing system.”
Now Kinder Morgan has to get approval from the National Energy Board and acceptance from the local communities along the pipeline route from the Alberta bitumen sands to the terminals and refineries in Vancouver and in Washington state and for tanker export.
“This support from the market better defines the project and enables Kinder Morgan Canada to fully engage the local communities. We are still early in the engagement process of the project,” Anderson said in the release. “We share respectful, open relationships with many communities and organizations interested in our business. We are committed to an 18 to 24 month inclusive, extensive and thorough engagement on all aspects of the project with local communities along the proposed route and marine corridor, including First Nations and Aboriginal groups, environmental organizations and all other interested parties. We will also consider providing financial support to local communities for environmental initiatives. We have been planning for this day for many years and we are keen to start in depth engagement this summer.”
Kinder Morgan says the preliminary scope of the proposed project includes:
- Projected capital cost of approximately $5 billion.
- Twinning the existing pipeline within the existing right-of-way, where possible.
- Adding new pump stations along the route.
- Increasing the number of storage tanks at existing facilities.
- Expanding the Westridge Marine Terminal.
Anderson added, “We anticipate filing a facilities application initiating a regulatory review with the National Energy Board in 2014. If our application is approved, construction is currently forecast to commence in 2016 with the proposed project operating by 2017.”
In addition to extensive engagement, the company will conduct traditional land use and environmental and socio-economic studies, and undertake detailed engineering and design studies, the release says.
The Trans Mountain proposal, like the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is a “facilities application,” and one uncertainty facing the company will be the highly controversial decision by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to speed up all future project applications of that type. Environmental groups have already expressed strong opposition to the speed up, while the energy industry has said faster application approval is long over due.
As well as the facilities application, Kinder Morgan says it will file “a commercial tolling application to review the company’s proposed commercial structure for the expansion. This filing, which is anticipated in summer 2012, will seek National Energy Board approval on how the company will charge its customers for transporting their product through the proposed expanded pipeline.”
Kinder Morgan says that for almost 60 years, the 1,150-km Trans Mountain pipeline system has been safely and efficiently providing the only west coast access for Canadian oil products, including about 90 percent of the gasoline supplied to the interior and south coast of British Columbia.
However, the continuing controversy over the Enbridge Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects, together with some accidents including the spill of 100,000 barrels of light crude near Abbotsford, has raised the profile of the Kinder Morgan line and therefore will likely bring more public scrutiny. Any increase in the capacity of the pipeline will also mean more tanker traffic in the already crowded waterways of the Vancouver harbour system and along the west coast.
Last June, Kinder Morgan also proposed the building of second pipeline from the bitumen sands to the west coast, roughly following the route of the Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat. There was no mention of that project in today’s announcement.