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NEWS: TransCanada East Coast pipeline eyes tar sands exports to China, India and Europe

A potential destination for Albertas tar sands bitumen via TransCanadas East Coast pipeline? Shells Pernis refinery in the Netherlands, which has a 400,000 barrels per day capacity.

A potential destination for Alberta’s tar sands bitumen via TransCanada’s East Coast pipeline? Shell’s Pernis refinery in the Netherlands, which has a 400,000 barrels per day capacity.

The Globe and Mail reports, “As protests in the West threaten to scotch plans to export crude off B.C.’s coast, the energy industry is escalating efforts to send oil tankers to India and China by way of the east coast. TransCanada Corp. is now months away from formalizing its plan to pump oil through part of its cross-country natural gas pipeline network (which would allow) the energy industry to access Asia’s lucrative markets while bypassing the controversial projects that are designed to reach tidewater on the west coast. …It is shorter to reach India’s west coast refining hub via Canada’s east coast than it is to ship oil off the west coast, Laurie Smith, partner at Bennett Jones LLP, said in an interview… Further, the Eastern Canadian route extends to China by moving tankers through the Straight of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia and then north through the South China Sea. Shipping oil to major refining facilities in Europe, such as the Netherlands’ Rotterdam, are also under consideration, Mr. Smith said.”

“TransCanada Corp’s plan has won broad support from political and business leaders, who see it a way to ensure refineries in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick consume Canadian oil, rather than relying on more expensive imports from Europe, Africa and the Middle East. …Asked about the potential for Atlantic exports, Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada’s president of energy and oil pipelines, says the project’s primary focus is to feed eastern refineries. ‘Eastern Canadian refineries consume about 700,000 to 800,000 barrels per day, so right off the bat I think the most obvious market for any eastern movement of western crude oil would be those domestic markets,’ he said. But it’s clear TransCanada and the broader industry are contemplating export options.”

Beyond TransCanada’s East Coast pipeline proposal, there is also Enbridge’s planned reversal of Line 9. The Globe and Mail recently reported, “Enbridge Inc. is planning to reverse the flow of a pipeline known as Line 9 that now runs from Quebec into Ontario, in order to deliver western crude oil to Suncor’s refinery in Montreal. Enbridge has already won approval to reverse a portion of Line 9 to deliver western crude from Sarnia, Ont., to a refinery in southwestern Ontario…” There is concern that after Enbridge receives approval to ship oil to Montreal, they may then seek to export through the Montreal-Portland pipeline. In October 2011, Bloomberg reported, “Enbridge is in talks with Valero Energy Corp. and other refiners about reversing the flow of a pipeline to ship Canadian crude to the U.S. East Coast, said Chief Executive Officer Patrick Daniel.” Environmental groups have stated that from Portland the bitumen could be loaded onto tankers and shipped along the eastern US coast and down to the Gulf of Mexico to refineries in Texas.

Additionally, “A delegation from Calgary travelled to the Port of Montreal several months ago and asked questions about the possibility of exporting oil from Montreal, a person familiar with the visit told The Globe and Mail. …Further, Korea National Oil Corp.’s Canadian company, Harvest Operations Corp., is examining whether it could rail Alberta oil to the east coast and then send it on barges to its refinery in Come By Chance, Nfld., which has struggled with the cost of the Atlantic-sourced crude it now uses.” In terms of rail transport, Maclean’s recently reported, “Fraught with lengthy construction timelines, environmental scrutiny and bottlenecks, oil pipelines are beginning to take a back seat among producers to a more flexible and old-fashioned delivery system: railways. Jason Konzuk, an oil and gas analyst with Dundee Capital Markets, said Canadian Pacific anticipates crude oil shipments will rise from 13,000 carloads in 2011 to 70,000 carloads in 2014 and CN shipments will climb from 5,000 carloads in 2011 to over 25,000 carloads this year. One oil firm, Calgary’s Gibson Energy Inc., recently expressed interest in building a train loading facility near Hardisty, Alta.—a key departure point for crude from the oilsands. It would allow the company to bypass the pipeline bottleneck at the oil hub in Cushing, Okla., and move up to 60,000 barrels of oil per day to markets across North America.”

The Council of Canadians opposes export pipelines and rejects Harper’s vision of Canada as an ‘energy superpower’. We speak against the impact of current and expanding tar sands extraction on Indigenous peoples, the climate, and water. We are also concerned about the safety of pipelines that carry either conventional oil or the more corrosive bitumen, particularly given the Line 9 route includes Sarnia (located on Lake Huron), Westover/ Hamilton (near Lake Ontario), and Montreal (on the St. Lawrence Seaway, the gateway of the Great Lakes). We believe in a national energy strategy that promotes energy security through publicly-owned, green and sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind-power.

The Globe and Mail article about the TransCanada East Coast pipeline potentially shipping oil to India, China and the Netherlands can be read at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/transcanada-eyes-an-east-coast-export-alternative/article4587622/. The Harper government is currently negotiating major trade deals with India and the Netherlands, and recently concluded a sweeping new investment protection agreement with China that it will make law without a parliamentary vote, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=16860.