The Alberta Government has agreed to pay $50,000 to a consulting company to look into the feasibility of piping bitumen north to Tuktoyuktuk for export by sea.
Alberta has hired Canatec Associates International to assess the project’s feasibility. The Calgary-based consultancy, which specializes in the offshore and Arctic petroleum business, is expected to submit its findings before the end of the year.
The Northwest Territories, which under new agreements with Ottawa is set to manage its own natural resources by 2014, is emerging as an energy powerbroker and resource powerhouse in its own right. But the region will need more pipelines to improve the viability of its own projects — including Canol, or shale oil, production in the territory. There exists an oil pipeline now that carries oil from Norman Wells south to Alberta.
In recent years the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline dominated the discussion. The concept of an oil pipeline possibly bringing product north is new and has not undergone much scruitiny or discussion. A main community that would be affected would be Tuktoyaktuk.
Tuktoyaktuk has a population of 929 people. It is located on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. There are 274 private dwellings, and a population density of 78.6 inhabitants per square kilometre (204 /sq mi). The average annual salary of a full-time worker is $45,598 Canadian. Tuktoyaktuk has a large Protestant following, with a sizeable Catholic population as well. Local languages are Inuvialuktun and English. Tuktoyaktuk is predominately Inuit/Inuvialuit (79.7%) with 16.4% non-Aboriginal, 2.8% North American Indian and 1.1% Métis.
A second, more complex project involves rail shipment from Alberta to the Valdez oil terminal in Alaska via N.W.T. and Yukon. Vancouver-based G7G Ltd. (Generating for Seven Generations) is proposing a 2,400-kilometre-long railway running northwest from Fort McMurray, Alta. to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline at Delta Junction, which currently ships oil from the state’s dwindling North Slope oil fields to the Valdez super-tanker terminal.
The ‘go north’ option will become more attractive in coming months if the the Northern Gateway build and Trans-Mountain expansion are turned down. The wild card is oil prices. A northern pipeline build ipso facto requires high sustained oil prices.