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.

Initial shipments of oil could begin by summer 2015 via an existing rail line and barge system from Alberta to Hay River and Tuktoyaktuk.  Oil would then be loaded onto tankers on the Beaufort Sea. The second and third phases 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.

Pipeline plans are facing opposition in the West [Northern Gateway, Trans Mountain], the East [Energy East], and the South [Keystone XL].  Now, a Canadian premier is in the U.S. this week promoting this as an alternate route for exporting oil.  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.”

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.”

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers forcast suggest that 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.”

One of Thunder Bay’s Council of Canadian members has stated: “We just get started fighting one pipeline, then another is proposed. The fossil fuel companies and our federal government are truly determined to get this  dirty oil out of the ground and to export market”

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