Forget the Keystone XL, or Northern Gateway pipelines. The pipeline that really could change Canada’s energy industry is the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Currently the Trans Mountain carries oil across the Rockies to the Kinder Morgan-owned Westridge Terminal in Vancouver. There it is loaded onto a tanker, once every week, and shipped off around the world, actually the tankers generally head off down to L.A.’s Long Beach.
Kinder Morgan now intends to more than double the capacity of the pipeline, up to 750,000 barrels a day, and see a tanker full of crude leave Vancouver port almost everyday. Using tankers will allow Canada to deliver oil to almost any nation in the world, and sell the product at global prices, rather than be stuck selling the majority of the oil to the oversupplied US at a discount. Most of the oil will probably still be sent to California, but that doesn’t matter because oil is sold at the dock, which means that as soon as it leaves Vancouver, the Canadian oil company will already have been paid at the international price, regardless of the ultimate destination of the oil.
Expanding the Trans Mountain line could also see an expansion to the oil sands which will allow for years of growth, and could turn Vancouver into a major oil tanker hub.
The Trans Mountain expansion is already receiving similar opposition that met Enbridge’s plans to build the Northern Gateway, even though the project has not yet been formally announced. The announcement is expected next year.
Another block that may hinder this plan is the treatment that oil tankers receive in Vancouver. Regulations state that they can only sail during the day, at high slack water, a window that sometimes only lasts for 25 minutes. They must also travel through clearly defined channels which means other ships must wait. Without some reformation these strict rules will restrict the volume of crude that can be shipped out of Vancouver, regardless of the amount arriving in the new pipeline.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com