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NWT premier promotes 100,000 bpd ‘Arctic Gateway’ tar sands pipeline

Northwest Territories premier Bob McLeod is in Washington, DC promoting a proposed 100,000 barrel-per-day ‘Arctic Gateway’ pipeline, a 2,400 kilometres long pipeline from the tar sands of northern Alberta through the Mackenzie Valley to the port of Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean.

The Canadian Press reports, “With pipeline plans facing opposition in the West [Northern Gateway, Trans Mountain], the East [Energy East], and the South [Keystone XL], a Canadian premier is in the U.S. this week promoting an alternate route for exporting oil: the North. …McLeod has promoted the plan in meetings with Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute, Canadian diplomats, and in appearances before two Washington think-tanks with numerous members of the Obama administration in attendance.”

“He explained in a separate interview that there could be initial shipments by summer 2015. An existing rail line would carry oil to Hay River, and then an existing barge system would ship it to Tuktoyaktuk, to be loaded onto tankers on the Beaufort Sea and shipped anywhere in the world. …The second and third phases, he said, would include additional infrastructure, the reversal of an old pipeline, and finally, within five years, the construction of a brand new pipeline from Fort McMurray to Tuktoyaktuk that could export oil all year round.”

Earlier this month, the Financial Post reported, “A newly released report, commissioned by the Alberta government last year, by Arctic petroleum consultants Canatec Associates International Ltd. … suggests that getting oil-sands bitumen to the Far North port of Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., could be a cheap, efficient and effective way to get Alberta’s landlocked bitumen to oil-hungry Asia.”

Among the numerous other pipelines being opposed by concerned communities:

TransCanada Energy East

1.1 million barrels per day

32 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from the crude oil production required to fill it

39 per cent increase in tar sands production from 2012 levels

4,600 kilometres – Hardisty, Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick

Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain

890,000 barrels per day

270 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over a 35-year period

1,150 kilometres – Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia

TransCanada Keystone XL

830,000 barrels per day

22 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions

1,897 kilometres – Hardisty, Alberta to Houston, Texas

Enbridge Alberta Clipper (Line 67)

880,000 barrels per day

1,607 kilometres – Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin

Enbridge Line 5

540,000 barrels per day

1,767 kilometres – Superior, Wisconsin to Sarnia, Ontario

Enbridge Northern Gateway

525,000 barrels per day

27 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions

1,177 kilometres – Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia

Enbridge Line 9

300,000 barrels per day

830 kilometres – Sarnia, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec


According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers 2014 Crude Oil Forecast, total Canadian crude oil production will increase from 3.5 million barrels per day in 2013 to 6.4 million barrels per day in 2030. Most of that increase would come from the tar sands, from 1.8 million barrels per day in 2012 to 5.2 million barrels per day by 2030. But according to the International Energy Agency, two-thirds of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves must stay in the ground in order to limit the rise in average global temperature to the 2-degree-Celsius threshold that climate scientists warn we must not cross.

There may be reason to be optimistic. Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow recently tweeted, “Statoil cancels tar sands project because of lack of pipeline capacity. Our activism is working!” This was in reference to the announcement by Norwegian oil firm Statoil that it was postponing (possibly indefinitely) a 40,000 barrels per day tar sands project in Alberta primarily due to lack of pipeline access. Reuters notes, “While a handful of other projects have also been delayed or canceled this year, due in part to rising costs, Statoil is the first company to explicitly cite the issue of ‘limited pipeline access’ as a reason.”

As we noted in a November 2011 campaign blog, the Globe and Mail has reported, “Protesters have long complained about growing development in the oil sands, but have never been able to slow activity in Alberta’s bitumen-rich north. But by focusing on pipelines, rather than attacking dozens of oil projects themselves, critics have found an effective approach in their effort to thwart expansion in the broader oil sands industry. …Observers argue all of these pipelines are needed to keep up with Canada’s forecast production growth in the oil sands. Blocking one or more means bitumen production will have to slow because existing pipelines will be full by 2015.”