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Oil Firms Doubtful Trans Mountain Pipeline Will Start Full Service by May 1st

Oil companies planning to ship crude on the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline in Canada are concerned that the project may not begin full service on May 1 but they would be nevertheless obligated to pay tolls from that date.  

In a letter to the Canada Energy Regulator (CER), Suncor Energy and other shippers including BP and Marathon Petroleum have expressed doubts that Trans Mountain will start full service on May 1, as previously communicated, Reuters reports.

Trans Mountain Corporation, the government-owned entity that completed the pipeline construction, told Reuters in an email that line fill on the expanded pipeline would be completed in early May.

After a series of delays, cost overruns, and legal challenges, the expanded Trans Mountain oil pipeline will open for business on May 1, the company said early this month.

“The Commencement Date for commercial operation of the expanded system will be May 1, 2024. Trans Mountain anticipates providing service for all contracted volumes in the month of May,” Trans Mountain Corporation said in early April.

The expanded pipeline will triple the capacity of the original pipeline to 890,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 300,000 bpd to carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands to British Columbia on the Pacific Coast.  

The Federal Government of Canada bought the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) from Kinder Morgan back in 2018, together with related pipeline and terminal assets. That cost the federal government $3.3 billion (C$4.5 billion) at the time. Since then, the costs for the expansion of the pipeline have quadrupled to nearly $23 billion (C$30.9 billion).

The expansion project has faced continuous delays over the years. In one of the latest roadblocks in December, the Canadian regulator denied a variance request from the project developer to move a small section of the pipeline due to challenging drilling conditions. 

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The company asked the regulator to reconsider its decision, and received on January 12 a conditional approval, avoiding what could have been another two-year delay to start-up.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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