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Alberta

TC Energy invites bids for Keystone pipeline space as plans advance for Keystone XL

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CALGARY — The Calgary company building the Keystone XL pipeline is inviting oil shippers to bid for capacity expected to be made available when it opens in about two years despite a vow by the incoming U.S. president to halt the project.

TC Energy spokesman Terry Cunha says about 80,000 barrels a day of capacity on the existing base Keystone export pipeline system is expected to be freed up when barrels are moved to the expansion pipeline after it is completed.

He says those moves are written into contracts the company has with its oil shipping customers, adding he couldn’t say how many shippers plan to switch volumes to the new pipeline.

The launch of the “open season” to seek binding commitments is being made despite a campaign promise made last spring by incoming U.S. president Joe Biden to rip up Keystone XL’s vital presidential permit. He’s expected to take office on Jan. 20.

TC Energy has forged ahead with construction, however, since announcing its decision to proceed last March after the Alberta government agreed to invest about US$1.1 billion (C$1.5 billion) as equity and guarantee a US$4.2-billion project loan.

In November, Bevin Wirzba, president of liquids pipelines for TC Energy, said the project’s creation of union jobs and support by Indigenous investors would help convince Biden that Keystone XL fits into his “Build Back Better” agenda.

“We’re very confident in our project and we’re continuing to proceed with our planned activities to be in service in 2023,” said Cunha.

“This open season is just really a reflection of today’s market and trying to sign up those contracts as some of our capacity shifts to Keystone XL.”

Keystone XL is designed to add 830,000 bpd of oil export capacity from Alberta to Nebraska and is fully contracted. The existing Keystone system has capacity to move about 590,000 bpd from Alberta to refining markets in the U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2021.

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Alberta

Political scientists say Kenney must rethink pugilistic approach on oil, environment

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EDMONTON — Political analysts say Premier Jason Kenney must rethink his traditional “fight back” approach and start building bridges to reconcile environmental concerns with oil and gas development.

“Attacks are not going to persuade anybody,” Lori Williams, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, said in an interview Thursday.

“You don’t set up a war room whose purpose from the get-go is to go after environmentalists. That’s a problem when you have an environmentalist in the White House.”

U.S. President Joe Biden, on his first day in office Wednesday, fulfilled a long-standing campaign promise to cancel the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline expansion.

The line would have taken more oil from Alberta through the United States to refineries and ports to help alleviate the current price discount on the province’s landlocked oil.

Biden had promised to cancel former president Donald Trump’s permit for the line on the grounds that product from Alberta’s oilsands does not mesh with broader goals to battle climate change.

Kenney called the decision an insult to Alberta and urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to deliver a breakthrough in talks or, if that fails, impose trade sanctions on the U.S.

Kenney’s comments also lauded Canada’s environmental record. Williams said those are valid arguments that Kenney needs to make a priority, married to policy initiatives as necessary, rather than throw them in as add-on talking points.

She suggested Kenney needs to pick a lane on the environment. Right now, she noted, he is promoting the federal climate plan as justification for Keystone while simultaneously challenging in court the plan’s consumer carbon tax.

Political scientist Jared Wesley said Kenney’s stance seems to be more about political damage control for a doomed project his government contributed $1.5 billion to last spring even though, at the time, it was a risky proposition.

“Kenney’s not the first premier to have one gear when it comes to intergovernmental relations,” said Wesley with the University of Alberta.

“The fight-back approach seems to be in (Kenney’s) political DNA. He doesn’t like being questioned and when his plans don’t turn out, the default position is to blame someone else.”

Kenney’s challenge is that bridge-building premiers run the risk of being perceived as weak, Wesley said, so Kenney may feel he needs to be bellicose and hard line given his popularity is being challenged on the far right.

Kenney beat the NDP in the 2019 election in part by promising to challenge what he said are shadowy global foes and environmentalists who seek to undermine Alberta’s oil industry. He set up a $30-million-a-year “war room” and struck a public inquiry into foreign funding of oil opponents. Both endeavours have been undermined by self-generated mistakes and controversies.

Kenney has blamed many of the province’s economic and oil woes on the Trudeau government’s policies. Yet the Liberal government in 2018 stepped in to buy the one pipeline that is proceeding – the Trans Mountain expansion from Alberta to the B.C. coast.

Wesley said Kenney blaming Trudeau has almost become a cliché and one that will hurt Alberta.

“The move (to blame Trudeau) has become so predictable that it’s laughable,” he said. “That’s not just among his opponents here in Alberta, but among people he’s supposed to be persuading nationally and internationally.”

Political scientist Duane Bratt, also of Mount Royal University, agrees.

“This is really setting the stage for the old playbook of ‘let’s blame Trudeau’ … and I’m not sure it’s going to work this time,” Bratt said.

“We’re seeing the collapse of the fight-back strategy in so many different realms. Not only has it not worked, it has cost Alberta taxpayers billions of dollars and a real hit to our reputation.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Loss of Keystone XL pipeline expected to hurt future oilpatch growth: experts

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CALGARY — An industry analyst says Western Canada’s oil producers will likely cope better in the short term with Joe Biden’s cancelling of the Keystone XL presidential permit this week than they did with the same move by ex-president Barack Obama in 2015.

But Phil Skolnick, a New York-based analyst for Eight Capital, agrees with other observers that the end of the pipeline will stifle new investment and production growth in the Canadian oilpatch for years to come.

Shortly after being inaugurated on Wednesday, U.S. President Biden, who was Obama’s vice-president, fulfilled a campaign promise and took away the pipeline permit that former president Donald Trump returned to builder TC Energy Corp. in 2019.

Skolnick says the difference between now and 2015 is that producers are looking forward to opening two other export pipelines — Line 3 and Trans Mountain — that together provide nearly one million barrels a day of export capacity.

Richard Masson, an executive fellow and energy expert at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, agrees the two remaining pipelines will provide enough capacity to allow oil production to grow into the second half of this decade.

But he says uncertainty about capacity beyond that point makes it impossible for producers to make decisions about new multibillion-dollar oilsands projects, which could take five years or more to plan and build.

Canadian Energy Pipeline Association CEO Chris Bloomer, meanwhile, says excess space in the oil transport system is vital going forward to provide optionality, energy security and stable pricing for producers.

Earlier Thursday, TC Energy Corp. said it planned to eliminate more than 1,000 construction jobs related to its decision to halt work on its Keystone XL pipeline expansion project. 

The company had previously warned that blocking the project would lead to thousands of job losses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.

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