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NEWS: Saint John mayor boasts of Energy East pipeline export options in the Bay of Fundy

Saint John mayor Mel Norton is a major proponent of TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline, a 4,400 kilometre artery that could carry 500,000 to 850,000 barrels per day from Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick as soon as 2017. Norton has been in Alberta for the last couple of days to meet with TransCanada, Cenovus Energy, Shell Canada and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.

The Canadian Press reports Norton saying, “They’ll never build a ship too big to bring it up the Bay of Fundy. You’ll never build enough capacity to bring to New Brunswick that we can’t fill those ships and take it out to world markets. …Saint John is a place where we absolutely, 100 per cent want to see the pipeline end … We want to see it filled with Alberta oil and refined in Canada’s largest oil refinery and shipped out to world markets from our deep-water port.” Norton also told Alberta Oil Magazine, “(We have) Canada’s largest oil refinery and we have a deep water oil handling facility and we can bring in the largest ships in the world to load either refined or crude oil bound for markets all around the globe. Geographically, we are positioned closer to refineries in India, South America and the U.S. and Europe than any other port.”

TransCanada CEO Russ Girling has commented, “If we’re going to be an oil-exporting nation, we’re going to have to get oil exported on the water.” Brian Ferguson, the CEO of Cenovus, a Calgary-based oil company, has stated, “The capacity of the pipeline is far in excess of the Irving refinery size so the key is to get to a deep water port and be able to put production onto tankers and acess international markets.” Today’s article adds that federal natural resources minister Joe Oliver backs the pipeline and notes “the need to increase Canada’s access to lucrative markets abroad”.

In terms of potential obstacles for the pipeline, the article notes, “Norton said the pipeline isn’t a tough sell in Alberta and New Brunswick, but he predicted it will take work to get all the ‘in-between’ provinces on board.” Those provinces are Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

“New Brunswick Premier David Alward and Pauline Marois, his Quebec counterpart, agreed in February to create a working group to weigh the risks of allowing oilsands crude to be piped across their provinces. Their decision came shortly after Alward was in Alberta to meet with Premier Alison Redford and oil industry leaders.” According to the Montreal Gazette, the working group will examine the technical, environmental and economic implications of the TransCanada pipeline for Quebecers.

It may not be smooth sailing for TransCanada in Quebec. In mid-February, the Globe and Mail reported, “Marois wants to know more before deciding whether (the TransCanada pipeline) would be in Quebec’s interest. Alward (tried) to convince Marois that moving Alberta oil to the East Coast through Quebec would benefit all provinces. But Quebec Premier did not say if she was swayed by his arguments. …Quebec Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet said in an e-mail statement that he favours a public inquiry to ensure social acceptance of the pipeline projects, given the environmental concerns. …(For now), the government has not committed itself to holding such an inquiry.”

Energy security?
The Irving Oil refinery in Saint John has the capacity to handle 300,000 barrels per day. Mathematically, if the Energy East pipeline met its capacity of 850,000 barrels per day that could leave up to 550,000 barrels per day for export from the Saint John port. That could mean 30 oil tankers a month travelling through the Bay of Fundy to markets in India, China and Europe. Communities on the Bay of Fundy shoreline include St. Andrews, Blacks Harbour, and Sackville in New Brunswick and Amherst, Truro, Wolfville and Digby in Nova Scotia.

The Globe and Mail reports that if the Energy East pipeline ended at Quebec City, it could be serviced by the Valero Energy Corp. refinery that can handle 230,000 barrels per day. That refinery also has a terminal at the Port of Quebec that can accommodate all-weather crude carriers, with a capacity of up to 1,000,000,000 barrels of oil to ship to the Atlantic basin and beyond. Valero is also supporting Enbridge’s plan to reverse the Line 9 pipeline into Montreal and then barge it on the St. Lawrence River.

TransCanada has argued that Canada imports 600,000 barrels a day to service Eastern refineries. But while supporters of the pipeline say it will promote energy security for Atlantic Canada, a long-time proponent of a Canadian energy strategy disagrees. In an opinion piece in the Montreal Gazette last month, Gordon Laxer writes, “Why am I skeptical about TransCanada’s proposal? Because it’s all about exports and corporate profits, and has nothing to do with energy or environmental security for eastern Canadians. Big — mainly foreign — Oil and the big pipeline corporations seized on sending Alberta oil east after they were blocked from shipping sands oil south through TransCanada’s planned Keystone XL line to Texas and west via the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to the B.C. coast. Shipping oil from Alberta 4,400 kilometres to the Atlantic Ocean sounds like a slow boat to China, but Big Oil is desperate to get oil to where oil prices are higher.”

For more, please read:
NEWS: North Bay, Ontario expresses opposition to the Energy East pipeline
VIEW: Laxer opposes west-to-east pipeline proposals
NEWS: TransCanada CEO says we need to “get oil exported on the water”
NEWS: Cenovus CEO confirms TransCanada pipeline to New Brunswick for export