Enbridge says Northern Gateway could carry upgraded petroleum sometime in the future

In a blog post on the Northern Gateway website Enbridge says the Northern Gateway pipeline could eventually carry upgraded crude—but doesn’t say when in the future that will happen.

The blog is promoting an opinion piece by Northern Gateway spokesman Paul Stanway : “who decides the national interest when it comes to our energy exports?” that was published in the Vancouver Sun.

Expanding on the opinion piece, the Enbridge blog says

Northern Gateway expects to ship upgraded oil Some Canadians don’t like the idea of shipping bitumen from the oil sands without upgrading it first. Others note that Alberta upgraders and refineries are currently operating at peak capacity and it could be some time before new upgrading capacity is built. Still others note there is a shortage of skilled workers already in the oil and gas industry, and while creating new jobs is certainly important, there are plenty of opportunities for qualified job seekers at this time.

Regardless of your position on the upgrading issue, that debate is peripheral to Northern Gateway—we expect to ship upgraded oil. Like most of Canada’s economic resources, from natural resources to human services, market demands play a large role in determining what is sold, where and when.

Crude oil was Canada’s most valuable export in 2010, amounting to $50 billion in exports. If we include all of Canada’s energy exports—a market worth $94 billion in 2010—nearly 25 per cent of all exports from Canada were energy products.

The article repeats the argument that Canada can no longer depend on one customer, the United States, for its petroleum exports and also links to a page on the Gateway site that repeats the valid argument that coal is more dangerous for the climate than the bitumen sands.

The argument that Enbridge might someday ship upgraded petroleum through the Northern Gateway seems to be an attempt to win over those who support a pipeline carrying a more refined product, but without a timeline and the fact that there are no current plans to create new upgrading capacity in Alberta, means that if the pipeline does go through, it will be carrying bitumen for the foreseeable future.