Oil sands pipelines

Neither the federal government of Canada nor the government of the province of Alberta is doing anything to constrain the development of Canada’s oil sands. In fact, both governments are doing everything they can to drive development at the most rapid possible pace, with no regard for the air and water pollution being generated, the forests being cut down, the wishes of First Nations communities, or the impact on the Earth’s climate.

One of the few mechanisms available for constraining the growth of the oil sands sector is to block the construction and enlargement of proposed pipelines that would allow the oil to get to world markets:

Specific projects that deserve opposition include:

  • The Keystone XL pipeline – intended to run down to the Gulf Coast of the United States
  • The Northern Gateway pipeline – intended to run west to the coast of British Columbia
  • The TransMountain pipeline expansion – intended to carry additional oil sands crude to Vancouver

Last updated: 25 January 2012

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. February 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Kinder lapping rivals in Canadian pipeline race

Kinder Morgan Inc., which this year will become the largest U.S. pipeline company after its $20.7-billion purchase of El Paso Corp., aims to extend its lead over competitors in transporting oil across Canada for export to higher-paying markets in Asia.

Kinder is pressing forward with plans to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline, the only conduit connecting Canada’s oilsands region to the Pacific Coast, to take advantage of regulatory setbacks that stalled competing projects at TransCanada Corp. and Enbridge Inc., both of Calgary.

Kinder, whose Houston-based pipeline partnership, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, has jumped 13 per cent since the end of October, is seeking commitments from Canadian oil drillers so it can double the line’s capacity to 600,000 barrels a day.

“We’re seeing a real sense of outrage” in Canada, chief executive Richard Kinder said at a conference in Houston this month about TransCanada and Enbridge’s delays.

. February 15, 2012 at 11:38 am
. February 16, 2012 at 11:56 am

There are three major pipeline systems that currently bring crude oil into eastern Canada: the Enbridge Mainline (722 kbpd on Lines 5 and 6b) which terminates at Sarnia/Nanticoke, Enbridge Line 9 (240kbpd, connected to the mainline), and the Portland-Montreal pipeline (140kbpd).

. February 22, 2012 at 8:55 am

Another pipeline debate kicks off as Kinder Morgan lines up shippers

Oil producers have thrown their support behind the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the West Coast, but the latest project aimed at providing much-needed shipping capacity for the oil sands industry now faces regulatory hurdles and growing resistance to pipelines.

Kinder Morgan Inc. $3.8-billion plan to double the amount of oil it can move from Alberta to the Pacific has garnered “strong” support from shippers and the company will now carry on with engineering and planning, it said Tuesday.

The momentum means the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will attract greater scrutiny – something it has largely avoided as local communities and environmental groups turned Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline into an international debate. The federal government supports greater access to the West Coast, but arm’s-length regulators must deliver their verdicts before the projects can proceed.

. February 29, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Washington’s pipeline war

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has become a crucial front in the election-year battle

President Barack Obama’s denial of a permit for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline has not stopped a shadow battle from unfolding on Capitol Hill over the proposed link from Alberta’s oil sands to the Gulf Coast. Congress is teeming with proposed legislation for and against the pipeline, which has been transformed from a mere infrastructure project into a political litmus test on American energy policy. And while Obama’s decision may have led to some hand-wringing over the state of Canada-U.S. relations, it’s hard to recall another time that a Canadian government cause has garnered as much support and attention in Congress—usually a more challenging arena for Canadian interests given the parochial concerns of lawmakers.

For Republicans who control the House of Representatives, the pipeline has become Exhibit A in their case against Obama’s energy policy—while for Democrats it has become a way to make common cause with environmentalists. And both pro-pipeline Republicans and anti-pipeline Democrats are littering Congress with bills aimed at keeping the pipeline issue alive for their supporters. It is a phantom fight, because in this bitterly polarized election year there are few bills of any sort that can pass both the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate, and garner the required signature of the President to become law. But that hasn’t stopped either side from using the legislative process to keep the spotlight on the pipeline and the oil sands.

Indeed, the once-obscure Keystone XL issue has become a staple on the Republican campaign trail and in the press. The loudest salvo from the pro-pipeline forces came on Feb. 16. The House of Representatives passed a transportation funding bill that included a provision that would remove the decision-making power over the pipeline from the State Department and President, and give it to Congress. Currently, the review process for the pipeline is led by State because the pipeline crosses an international border. The White House issued a warning, saying the President would veto the transportation package for a variety of reasons, including the pipeline provision.

. February 29, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Quebec stalls Alberta oil pipeline

MONTREAL — The environmental group Equiterre and a citizen from Dunham, Que., have won a Quebec Court ruling that will temporarily stall the attempt by oil companies Enbridge and Suncor to ship oil from Alberta through Montreal to Portland, Maine.

The $17-million Trailbreaker Pipeline project proposes to reverse the flow of oil in two existing pipelines that now ship oil from Portland to Montreal and on to Sarnia, Ont.

The two companies want to pipe about 200,000 barrels a day of Alberta oil east to Portland and then ship it by tanker to Gulf Coast refineries.

The group opposes piping “dirty oil” through Quebec, claiming that it poses a significant environmental hazard and encourages the expansion of the oilsands, which is among Canada’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.

. March 9, 2012 at 10:59 am

New Keystone plan ready within weeks

An executive with the Canadian company seeking to build an oil pipeline across the United States to the Texas Gulf Coast says a plan for a new route around Nebraska’s environmentally sensitive Sandhills region will be ready within weeks.

TransCanada president of energy and oil pipelines Alex Pourbaix said Tuesday that the company plans to resubmit its permit request to the U.S. State Department.

He also said construction of the southern tier of the Keystone XL pipeline, which doesn’t require a special permit, will begin by late spring or early summer.

. March 27, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Enbridge venture plans oil pipes to Gulf as Keystone blocked

Bloomberg News
Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2012

By Will Kennedy and Yuriy Humber

Enbridge Inc., the biggest Canadian pipeline company, and Enterprise Products Partners LP plan to expand shipments from the northern U.S. to the Gulf Coast as supplies increase from Canada’s oil sands and the Bakken shale in the Northern Plains.

The expansion follows U.S. political opposition that has thwarted construction of the Keystone XL line sponsored by TransCanada Corp. Enterprise and Enbridge will add 450,000 barrels a day of capacity to the Seaway pipeline, linking the U.S. oil trading hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, with the Gulf Coast, according to a statement. Enbridge will expand its Flanagan South project also, linking Illinois with Cushing.

The project will increase the U.S.’s capacity to move oil from north to south after President Barack Obama blocked the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline linking Canada and the U.S. Gulf Coast. The rise of production from Canada’s oil sands and Dakota’s Bakken shale is reducing U.S. dependence on oil shipped to import terminals.

“Expansion of the Seaway pipeline, along with Enbridge’s Flanagan South project, will provide crude oil producers in the Bakken region and other emerging crude oil sources capacity to move secure, reliable supply to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, offsetting supplies of imported crude,” Pat Daniel, chief executive officer of Enbridge, said in the statement.

Enbridge shares are little changed in Toronto this year, valuing the company at C$29.9 billion ($30.2 billion). Enterprise shares have gained 9.8 percent in New York.

. March 27, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Enbridge, Enterprise to double Seaway oil pipeline

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO: Quote) and Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPD.N: Quote) will more than double capacity of the Seaway Pipeline and expand another line from Illinois to ship more crude oil out of the glutted U.S. Midwest.

The companies said late on Monday they will invest more than $2 billion in expanding the U.S. pipeline network after securing sufficient customer commitments for shipping a growing surplus of crude in the U.S. Midwest to refiners along the Gulf Coast.

The projects, when completed by mid-2014, should help end the glut of landlocked U.S. crude that has driven the price of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude below the price of European Brent crude by as much as $28 a barrel.

. March 30, 2012 at 11:15 am

Oilsands nearing pipeline pinch

Crude-on-crude competition for export pipeline space is moving up predictions for a pinch point faced by oilsands producers that some observers warn will have to postpone or scrap future expansions, unless new pipe is laid.

Fast-growing supplies of conventional crude from North Dakota and western Canadian provinces are fighting for room in pipelines with rising bitumen output, the Canadian Energy Research Institute said in a report Mon-day, forecasting that by 2015 oilsands growth could grind to a halt should no additional lines be built.

Other observers acknowledged they are also retooling their outlooks with a similar view, citing a well-documented explosion of oil output in North Dakota and Saskatchewan and lesser-known growth trajectory for new oil plays in Manitoba, Alberta and even B.C. The trend is playing out across North America, as energy firms un-lock previously un-economic oil from deep underground thanks to recent technological advances. “If no new pipeline capacity is added, (oilsands) projects will be cancelled and delayed,” said CERI report author Dinara Millington in an interview.

Current export capacity amounts to about 3.5 million barrels per day, Millington noted in CERI’s annual report on costs and development of oilsands projects, arguing combined oilsands and conventional crude production will exceed that by 2015.

With the recent U.S. denial of the proposed Alberta-to-Texas Keystone XL line and extended regulatory hearings faced by the Northern Gate-way project envisioned to the West Coast, new capacity is not certain, she said.

. March 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Speeding up Northern Gateway review risks ‘battle’

Head of Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Stewart Phillip attacks government decision

B.C. First Nations are reacting with anger to the government’s decision to retroactively shorten the regulatory review for the Northern Gateway pipeline project in British Columbia.

“This incredibly stupid move on the part of the Harper government will only serve to expedite the battle in the courtrooms and on the land itself,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. He described the situation between B.C. aboriginals and the federal and provincial governments as “volatile.”

This “pipeline is going to traverse the territories of literally dozens and dozens of First Nations. And all of them have said very clearly that they do not support the Northern Gateway project and that they will do everything that they can to stop this project,” added Phillip.

. April 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Ewart: Federal budget policies no help to oilsands

You’re not helping, Mr. Prime Minister, you’re hurting.

Stephen Harper is generally considered a good friend of the oilpatch, but there are times when the prime minister goes too far with his small-government fiscal conservatism and otherwise well-intentioned efforts do more harm than good.

The latest budget from Harper’s government, for example, fast-tracks environmental reviews for big industrial projects, slashes spending for Environment Canada and cut the entire budget for the respected National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the current environmental review process is threatening the economy.

Predictably, opposition politicians and environmentalists were apoplectic.

“Everybody believes Harper is anti-environment and pro oil and gas and he just confirmed it for everybody,” noted one observer.

Such a comment would be expected from the Green party or the Pembina Institute, but it came from an executive in the oil and gas industry.

“Laying off a thousand scientists in Environment Canada isn’t how you help the oilsands,” he said.

There is a reason lawmakers from Europe and the United States are looking to regulate the gasoline refined from oilsands.

. April 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Keystone XL pipeline bill wins approval


Lawmakers voted 44-5 Wednesday to give final approval to a bill (LB1161) that will allow Nebraska to proceed with a $2 million study to find a route for TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state.

Gov. Dave Heineman is expected to sign the measure into law.

The $7 billion, 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline would run from Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The project initially was met by fierce resistance from landowners and advocacy groups worried about the effects of an oil spill in the Sandhills, where water tables — including those of the massive Ogallala Aquifer — are particularly high in many places.

It has become a political lightning rod in Washington, D.C., and in Lincoln, where state lawmakers met in special session in November and passed two major pipeline bills. During the special session, TransCanada agreed to look for a new route that avoids the Sandhills.

. April 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Kinder Morgan plans $5B pipeline expansion to Vancouver


The Kinder Morgan pipeline company is rolling out plans to spend $5 billion to nearly triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline that carries crude oil from the Alberta oilsands to tankers in Vancouver

When completed, the proposed expansion will increase capacity in Trans Mountain from the existing capacity of 300,000 barrels per day to 850,000 barrels per day, said Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada, in a statement on Thursday.

It will also include the expansion of the Westridge Marine Terminal in Vancouver to allow larger tanker ships to transport the oil to Asia.

The company says it is committed spending up to two years consulting with communities along the route, including First Nations and environmental organizations starting this summer.

“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,” said Anderson.

. April 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Kinder Morgan to proceed with $5-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to Burnaby

Oil pipeline expansion to be 40 per cent larger than anticipated on strong demand

Kinder Morgan Energy’s oil pipeline expansion plans grew even larger Thursday after the company received huge commitments from Asian customers.

The new plans would ship enough crude oil from Alberta to fill 25 to 30 tankers a month through the company’s Westridge, Burnaby terminal.

The proposed expansion of the existing Alberta-to-Metro Vancouver pipeline, which Kinder Morgan wants operational by 2017, is to cost $5 billion. It will increase pipeline capacity for crude by 550,000 barrels a day, to 850,000 barrels from the current 300,000 barrels a day.

The expansion is bound to be controversial; Kinder Morgan now plans to construct as much new capacity as Enbridge Inc. has proposed for its contentious Northern Gateway pipeline, said Wilderness Committee campaigner Ben West.

. April 16, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Obama puts oil pipeline on fast track

Deep in Republican oil country, President Barack Obama is fending off criticism of his energy policies, pointing to plans to fast-track an oil pipeline that emerged after he delayed the larger Keystone XL project earlier this year.

Mr. Obama was directing federal agencies Thursday to expedite a 485-mile line from Oklahoma to refineries on Texas’ Gulf Coast that would remove a critical bottleneck in the country’s oil transportation system. The directive would also apply to other pipelines that alleviate choke points.

. April 16, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Five ways to argue with a Keystone XL pipeline supporter


5. When they say: “If we don’t use the tar-sands oil, someone else will!”

You can say: Buck up, mate!

According to this fatalistic, all-or-nothing logic, any and all action we can imagine taking to mitigate climate change is hopeless unless we can get every nation on earth to agree to take the same steps at the same time. But that’s never the way real political change unfolds: Someone always has to take the first step, raise awareness, trigger new ways of looking at a problem, and start a chain reaction.

. April 16, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Hot on the heels of a federal budget that doubles down on the full exploitation of Alberta oilsands, Harper is placing himself in tricky terrain — an ostensibly unfiltered hour of questioning that will dangle, among other things, the political pinata of Keystone XL.

The planned TransCanada pipeline isn’t remotely a foreign issue in Washington any more, if it ever was. And the challenge for Harper, whose government so unabashedly wants the project to proceed, is to field questions on the matter without sounding like a cheerleader for the Republican contenders vying for Obama’s job in November.

Team Obama has already been backed into a corner by Republicans pounding the drum for Keystone XL, with the president travelling to the oil hub of Cushing, Okla., last month to signal enthusiasm for the southern half of the project as part of his administration’s pivot to a centrist energy policy.

But the other half — the portion that would link Cushing to Hardesty, Alta. — remains in regulatory limbo, with no decision expected until after the election. Convenient timing for Obama as his re-election team scrambles to keep an increasingly doubtful environmental constituency inside his tent.

Harper has juggled this hot potato many times before without burning himself to any degree. But with front-runner Mitt Romney and his increasingly unlikely Republican rivals seizing upon Keystone XL as a requisite element of their campaigns against Obama, it is fair to say the potato has never been hotter.


. April 16, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Keystone approval wouldn’t stop plans for Northern Gateway: Harper


WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada will not abandon plans for a western pipeline to ship oil to Asia even if the United States suddenly allows the Keystone XL pipeline to be constructed in that country.

Harper told an audience at an American think-tank Monday it is crucial for Canada to avoid being tied down to the U.S. as our only oil customer.

He said this is harmful in two ways: the price of Canadian oil has already been devalued because this country is seen as a “captive supplier”; and Canada’s economic health is put in jeopardy by the fact that the U.S. could some day stop importing the oil.

“Look, I’m a strong and firm believer in the economic importance of our relationship, the security importance, and the importance of the United States and the world,” Harper told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“But we cannot take this to the point where we are creating risk and significant economic penalty to the Canadian economy.”

“And to not diversify to Asia, when Asia is a growing part of the world, just simply makes no sense.”

. April 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm

CALGARY . With the future of the proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline proposed by Enbridge Inc. looking bleak because of hardening opposition, competitor Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP surged from behind Thursday with a plan for a better-looking replacement – a $5-billion expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver.

The expansion would increase the capacity of the 62-year-old line – the only one moving oil from Alberta to the West Coast and Asia – to 850,000 barrels a day, from today’s 300,000.

The expansion is bigger than under previous plans, which called for a $3.8billion, 600,000-bpd project, and would reduce the need for Northern Gateway, with a capacity of 550,000 bpd, at least for now. If approved by regulators, the expanded system would be operational by 2017, years before Northern Gateway’s planned startup.

The Kinder Morgan plan is backed by 20-year commitments from existing and new shippers after a so-called open season. They suggest that producers, refiners and offshore interests are backing a new horse in the race to diversify Canada’s oil market in Asia.

“The [commitments] imply confidence in the oil-producing capabilities of Alberta, they imply a vote of confidence and the importance of accessing more global markets and providing more outlets for Canadian crude, and it’s a vote of confidence in our operation and in our prospects for successful expansion,” Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada, the Canadian unit of the Houston-based energy infrastructure giant, said in an interview.

. April 17, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Canada government to decide fate of big pipelines
Tue, Apr 17 16:32 PM EDT

* Government removes key role from energy regulator

* It says will make decisions in national interest

OTTAWA, April 17 (Reuters) – In a major change of policy that could benefit the oil and gas industry, the Canadian government said on Tuesday that it would have the final say on approving major pipelines from now on.

The announcement means the government is stripping key veto powers from the National Energy Board, Canada’s federal energy regulator, which currently decides whether pipeline plans should go ahead.

An official document said Ottawa would “establish clearer accountability for decisions on major pipeline projects in the national interest by giving government authority to make the ‘go/no go’ decisions, based on the recommendations of the National Energy Board”.

. April 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Oil sands critics take on Ontario pipeline battle

Oil sands opponents are turning their eyes on Ontario to throttle shipment of western Canadian oil sands bitumen eastward.

A coalition of 11 environmental groups claims to have prompted a flood of 41,000 comments to the National Energy Board by people opposed to reversing the flow of Enbridge’s Line 9, between Sarnia and the Westover terminal near Hamilton.

The line currently carries oil imported to east coast ports westward to refineries in Sarnia.

Opponents see the reversal as the first stage of an effort to send western oil sands crude eastward for export from Portland, Me.

Enbridge says it’s simply responding to market conditions. The company points out that the line piped conventional western oil eastward when it was built in 1975, but was reversed in 1999.

. May 17, 2012 at 11:25 am

If you hear a politician say the word “Keystone” this year, you can bet s/he’s a Republican.

Obama has been trying to please everyone on the issue of the Keystone XL pipeline — denying it a permit in January, then praising its southern leg in March. Predictably, he’s just managed to piss everyone off, so expect him to avoid the topic from here on out.

Republicans, on the other hand, are doing everything in their power to keep the issue in the news — and they’re getting help from pipeline builder TransCanada, which recently reapplied for a permit. The GOP argues that Obama’s unwillingness to rubber-stamp the pipeline is hampering the economy and making America less energy secure — even though those arguments are false. Currently the GOP is trying to force Keystone approval into a big transportation bill.

Many Democrats, meanwhile, are walking on eggshells around this one. They don’t want to anger the green wing of the base, which showed its might by elevating Keystone into a national issue last year. But they also don’t want to be painted as anti-job or tick off any of the unions that want to help build the pipeline (the labor community is split on the issue). A poll released by Hart Research in February suggested that the Keystone fight is winnable for Dems if they articulate a clear message — say, that the pipeline would create as few as 50 permanent jobs, according [PDF] to researchers at Cornell University, and that much of the oil it transports would be shipped overseas. But savvy, strategic messaging is not a Democratic strong suit of late.


. May 24, 2012 at 6:33 pm

10 things you probably didn’t know about the oil patch

1. TransCanada Corp’s (TRP-T) Keystone XL may be a necessary link for bringing Canadian crude to the Gulf Coast. But it’s not likely going to feed energy appetites in the U.S., where gasoline demand is shrinking. That’s a controversial notion among environmental groups. But it’s reality, says David Goldwyn, president of Goldwyn Global Strategies, LLC. The “future for Canadian heavy is probably going to be as it’s converted into refined product and exported,” he says, pointing to burgeoning shipments of refined products to Latin America. “All this capacity is going to be for export.”

2. Enbridge Inc. (ENB-T) isn’t done building new pipe. In fact, it’s looking at ways to bring Canadian oil directly to Philadelphia, whose refining complex is sputtering in part because it relies on high-priced imported oil. “We are looking at land solutions to Philadelphia, as an example, and also water solutions to Philadelphia to provide more of a WTI-based feedstock to those refiners,” said Stephen Wuori, president of liquids pipelines for the company. WTI, or West Texas Intermediate, is the North American benchmark oil, which has been trading much cheaper than its international Brent counterpart.

3. But that doesn’t mean TransCanada has a shot at bringing oil east, by converting part of its natural gas pipe system into oil service. Mr. Wuori doesn’t think there is enough demand in Ontario and Quebec to do both the TransCanada line as well as his own company’s proposal to bring oil (CL-FT) from Sarnia to Montreal on its already-built Line 9. That said, those projects could load oil onto barges that feed St. John, N.B. and the U.S. East Coast — and if that happens, demand could be far higher.

4. Speaking of oil exports to the U.S., few doubt Keystone XL will be approved early next year. But it’s worth noting that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who promised to approve the line on his first day in office, could be doing the project harm if he doesn’t win. The risk is that he is “branding this as a Republican pipeline and making it awkward for the [Obama] White House and for Democrats in Congress” to approve the line, said Robert Johnston, director of global energy and natural resources at Eurasia Group. But, he added, “I would agree that despite that, it will probably still get done.”

BuryCoal May 24, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners has reduced the size of a planned expansion of its pipeline to the Pacific Coast after fewer shippers than expected signed 20-year con-tracts that would allow surging oil supplies to be shipped to Asia, the company said on Wednesday.

Kinder Morgan now plans a $4.1-billion expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline to the Vancouver area from Alberta, increasing capacity to 750,000 barrels a day from 300,000. That is down from last month’s estimate of 850,000.

. May 30, 2012 at 7:59 pm

The government is pulling out all the stops to get these projects approved. The budget bill includes sweeping changes to the cumbersome procedures that govern environmental approval of energy projects. These now involve up to 40 federal departments and agencies. Under the bill, only those directly involved would be able to intervene in hearings; fishery habitat will no longer automatically be considered; and most assessments will have to be completed within 18 months. The federal government would have the power to overrule the energy board, but also to cede the assessment process to the provinces. These changes could quicken the prospects of big hydropower schemes in Manitoba, Labrador, British Columbia and Quebec, aimed at exporting electricity to the United States.

. May 30, 2012 at 8:00 pm

. June 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Spill sends 22,000 barrels of oil mix into Alberta muskeg

A huge spill has released 22,000 barrels of oil and water into muskeg in the far northwest of Alberta.

The spill ranks among the largest in North America in recent years, a period that has seen a series of high-profile accidents that have undermined the energy industry’s safety record. The Enbridge Inc. pipeline rupture that leaked oil near Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, for example, spilled an estimated 19,500 barrels.

The most recent spill was discovered May 19 emanating from pipe belonging to Pace Oil & Gas Ltd. , a small energy company that produces about 15,000 barrels a day, roughly half of that oil.

. June 8, 2012 at 9:28 am

Handcuffs, Conventional Wisdom and Dirty Oil: Activism’s Big Win Against the Keystone XL Pipeline

Session Type(s): Panel

Starts: Thursday, Jun. 7 10:30 AM

Ends: Thursday, Jun. 7 11:45 AM

Room: Ballroom A

This January, against long odds, the environmental movement dealt a blow to Big Oil, forcing President Obama’s rejection of a presidential permit for the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline—the industry’s marquee project and a conduit to the continent’s biggest “carbon bomb.” The hard-fought campaign united indigenous communities, Nebraska ranchers and Texas landowners, union representatives, youth climate activists, interfaith leaders and grassroots citizen activists and breathed new life into a movement fractured and demoralized after having failed to advance meaningful climate legislation following the election of a Democratic Congress and a new president who promised to lead on clean energy and climate solutions. Panelists will discuss the lessons the environmental, climate and progressive movements can take from the KXL fight and how these movements might build on this success to continue fighting the southern leg of the pipeline expedited by the president and to reclaim our democracy from corporate polluters and gain lasting wins for a safe climate and justice-fueled future.

. July 16, 2012 at 7:53 am

Oil patch searches for customers as inventories soar

Too much unsold product inventory is the bane of any business. Whether it’s cars, corn or calculators, a surplus of goods in the storeroom puts pressure on price. It’s no different in the oil industry. Excess barrels, bottled up in storage tanks and rock caverns, sour the market.

And the market is sour.

North American oil prices have slid nearly 25 per cent since early May. Not long ago, $100 (U.S.) would buy a cup of coffee and a barrel of Texas light. Today, West Texas intermediate (WTI), the continental benchmark, is trading at $83.75, and Canada’s premium crude – Edmonton Light – is slightly cheaper than that.

The causal side of the equation is clear. Economic woes continue to weigh on global oil demand growth; U.S. consumption is in decline; and North American production is soaring. All these factors converge in inventory, where continental levels are at a 22-year high. Buyers of oil know that there is no need to pay up when white storage tanks at key gathering points like Cushing, Okla., are heading to the spill point.

. July 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm


Are relations worse today? Burney and Hampson claim that Obama snubbed Canada when he chose to defer a decision on the Keystone pipeline until after this November’s presidential election. They further claim that approving Keystone should have been an “easy diplomatic and economic decision” for Obama.

In fact, Keystone was a very tough political call for the president, who faced strong domestic interests pulling in opposite directions, including a powerful environmental movement. Any politician worth his or her salt – perhaps even some in the Harper government – would have understood the political logic of Obama’s decision, and the fact that it was not intended to insult Canada. (What’s more, the pipeline permit application has been amended and resubmitted, and may be approved in early 2013, after the election.) Yet, Burney and Hampson portray this episode as a rebuff of historic proportions.

. July 17, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Southern Gateway: An American pipeline giant’s plans for Vancouver

Starting in September 2012, Texas-based pipeline giant Kinder Morgan will begin public consultations for an estimated $4 billion expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands in Edmonton to Metro Vancouver. Their plan is to more than double the capacity of the pipeline by 2017. The project rivals Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, which aims to export oil sands crude through the Great Bear Rainforest. With the benefit of an existing right-of-way, could Kinder Morgan succeed in making Vancouver the first major artery of oil sands expansion on the West Coast? Or will their record of oil spills tar up their plans?

. July 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Pipeline giant Enbridge Pipelines Inc. will be allowed to reverse the flow on a portion of its Line 9 pipeline between Sarnia and Hamilton to flow east, the National Energy Board has decided.

Enbridge applied last August to reverse approximately 194 kilometres of pipeline between the Sarnia Terminal (at Sarnia, Ont.) and the North Westover Pump Station (near Hamilton, Ont.) to flow in an eastward direction.

. July 29, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Yet most politicians continue to insist, or concede grudgingly, that oil, notably from the Alberta tarsands, is our economic salvation — well worth the frequent, mostly “minor”, pipeline leaks; the ongoing assault on wildlife; or, the potential for a catastrophic spill on our pristine west coast. Never mind the larger impact of climate change.

But if politicians are slow to catch on, the public isn’t. Growing concern about the specific risks of the Northern Gateway — which will snake through virgin forest, and under hundreds of streams in interior B.C., to deliver oil to tankers plying dangerous ocean channels near Kitimat — finally got Premier Christy Clark’s attention.

Facing almost inevitable defeat in provincial elections in May, this week Clark took a stand (sort of) on the pipeline. To wit: B.C. is taking 80 per cent of the environmental risk and only getting 8 per cent of the benefit, by way of enhanced tax revenues. Clark wants more money, or, “no pipeline.”

She also wants the federal government to finance a serious oil-spill disaster team near Kitimat, and the private sector to cover the entire cost of any leak in B.C.’s interior, no matter how extensive.

It sounds as if Clark isn’t as concerned about environmental catastrophe as she is about B.C. taxpayers being stuck with the cleaning bill. In fact, her case is based on the inevitability of disaster.


. August 8, 2012 at 1:46 pm

As befits a federation, section 92(13) of the BNA Act gave the provinces legislative authority over “property and civil rights in the province.” But realizing that provincial politicians would often be tempted to play beggar thy neighbour against other provinces, the founding fathers put balancing provisions in section 92(10). Subsection (a) gives the federal Parliament jurisdiction over railways, canals and “other works and undertakings” (including pipelines in today’s world) extending across provincial boundaries. British Columbia, or any other province, simply does not have constitutional jurisdiction to block a pipeline coming from another province if federal authorities approve it.

Even stronger is the so-called “declaratory power” found in subsection (c). This allows Parliament to declare a work, even though “wholly situate within the province,” to be for the general advantage of Canada, or of two or more provinces, and therefore to come under federal jurisdiction. Parliament could invoke the declaratory power over all the local roads, bridges, storage facilities, hydro connections and any other physical installations necessary to construct and maintain a pipeline.

Section 92(10) powers are an extremely important and often used part of the Canadian Constitution. In the first five decades of Canadian history, the declaratory power was invoked more than 400 times, mostly to ensure that Canada’s burgeoning railway system grew to national advantage. By the First World War, virtually every inch of rail track in Canada was under federal jurisdiction. More recently, the declaratory power was used to make Canada’s nuclear industry a federal matter.


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