HICKS ON BIZ Some big ifs in pipeline expansion BY GRAHAM HICKS FIRST POSTED EDMONTON SUN: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 01, 2016
Congratulations to Premier Rachel Notley for her part – acknowledged by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – in securing federal approval for doubling the oil-carrying capacity of both the Trans Mountain pipeline to the west coast, and Enbridge’s Line 3 to the American midwest.
IF – and that’s a huge if – the pipelines actually get built, another million barrels of oil a day can be shipped from Alberta.
IF – and that’s a minuscule if incoming American President Donald Trump approves the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast refineries, another 800,000 barrels a day can be exported.
The ability to export another 1.8 million barrels a day means the oil industry and the province can continue a slow, measured, environmentally friendly expansion of oil and gas production for several decades.
The big IF is getting Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion built and operational, given the intense opposition on the B.C. Lower Mainland to any new pipelines and/or increased oil tanker traffic.
Remember the now-dead Northern Gateway pipeline was originally approved by the federal government in 2014, but the decision was overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal on the grounds of insufficient consultation.
If 100,000 Canadians are convinced their cause transcends the laws of the land and the economic well-being of the other 35,900,000 Canadians, there will be havoc.
The jobs alone ought to dampen down the opposition. During the Trans Mountain construction window of 2017 to 2019, Kinder Morgan says 15,000 skilled new jobs will be created. For Line 3, from 2017 to 2020, 7,000 skilled trades persons will be needed. What welcome news for the 40,000 pipe fitters, welders and carpenters laid off in the Western Canadian energy sector since 2014.
A total of $14.3 billion will be injected into Western Canada – about the same economic impact as Suncor’s Fort Hills oilsands project now in its final construction stages.
Some worries about pipelines I understand. Others I don’t.
Commentators supporting responsible pipeline expansion argue that Canada’s new oil pipelines are among the safest and most leak-proof in the world.
To the residents of Burnaby and other west coast communities worried by an expanded pipeline through their communities, we can point to Edmonton and region.
With more pipelines – 10, 20, 30 times more — than any other Canadian city, Greater Edmonton has never had a serious pipeline leak or rupture other than a residential gas line in Mill Woods being bust by a bulldozer about 40 years ago.
To those who believe the beauty of the Canadian wilderness will be irreparably scarred by pipelines, we say look beside Hwy 16 in Jasper National Park. Three years ago Kinder Morgan doubled the size of the Trans Mountain pipeline through the park. Today, you cannot tell there’s a pipeline.
Two recent oil spills, however, dramatically altered pipeline safety perception.
In 2015, the Nexen oil company gave the entire sector a big, black eye when a leak in a new pipeline on its Long Lake property went undetected for about two weeks — after 31,000 barrels of oil had been spilled.
A few months ago, a punch to the other eye: A leak in a secondary Husky oil pipeline in Saskatchewan went undetected for days. About 1,500 barrels of oil flowed into the North Saskatchewan River, endangering the drinking water of three downstream cities.
While 2.4 million kilometres of pipelines may safely move all manner of liquids around North America, the Nexen and Husky leaks are proof to pipeline opponents that accidents can happen.
Back in Edmonton, Greenpeace spokesperson Mike Hudema was doing the media rounds on Wednesday, commenting against the new pipeline approvals.
Hudema is an environmental absolutist. For him, it’s not low emissions, it’s no emissions. In Hudema’s perfect world, Alberta’s fossil fuels would forever be left in the ground.
Hudema insists that renewable energy projects can replace the economic activity of Alberta’s oil and gas industry. But he never produces remotely believable numbers.
Meanwhile, 40,000 Albertans in the resource industry have been laid off since the 2014 oil price crash and the industry has reduced employment by 29%.
We need these pipelines!