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Bitumen by the sea

April 22, 2013

Alberta oil sands production ramps up towards 3 M barrels per day by 2018. The Keystone Pipeline south complements the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan projects to the west. There is only one problem with the western route—it goes through BC.

Enbridge is the proponent behind the Northern Gateway pipeline which, if approved , would bring 525,000 (bpd) to Kitimat, BC to export to Asian markets.

BC is in the midst of a provincial election. The ruling Liberals trail the New Democrats by 20 points. The NDP leader opposes Northern Gateway and any proposal should transform Vancouver into a major port for oil export.

Kinder Morgan has the existing Trans-Mountain pipeline, which has been used largely to serve the west coast market, including the Chevron refinery in Metro Vancouver and other refineries such as Cherry Point in Washington State. Only about 80,000 barrels per day of the current pipeline is exported via tanker from Vancouver. Kinder Morgan proposes increasing the existing pipeline capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Trans-Canada proposes a 4,400-kilometre pipeline that will carry between 500,000 and 850,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries in Eastern Canada. It will create a new domestic market for Western Canada’s oil production and potentially open a new channel for international exports in the future.


The Northern Gateway pipeline will not pass muster in BC, particularly with a new government likely to take office in May. Prospects of bitumen being exported from the west coast are not rosy. Bitumen needs to head east and south, not likely by the sea.