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Enbridge wants to pipe tarsands oil to Montreal

The $100-million Line 9B reversal is expected to be available for service in early 2014, assuming it gets National Energy Board approval.

Posted on May 18, 2012   by Michelle Lalonde

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Enbridge+pipe+tarsands+Montreal/6640747/story.html

MONTREAL – Now that Enbridge Inc. has announced its intention to pipe oil from Alberta’s oilsands projects not just through Ontario, as previously announced, but all the way to Montreal, Quebec environmental groups are demanding a National Energy Board assessment of the overall project.

 

 

Public hearings into the company’s project to reverse the flow of crude oil between Sarnia, Ont., and North Westover Station near Cambridge, Ont. are to begin in London, Ont., next week. But this week, the company announced it will be also be asking the National Energy Board to approve a project to reverse the flow in existing pipelines to get oilsands oil from Ontario to Montreal.

Quebec environmental groups sounded the alarm last August that Enbridge was reviving piece by piece its controversial Trailbreaker project, abandoned in 2009 due to a poor economic climate. That project proposed to reverse the flow direction in existing pipelines that have traditionally brought foreign oil from Portland, Maine, up to Montreal and west to Ontario refineries. The idea with Trailbreaker was to allow the same pipelines to bring Alberta oil east to Montreal, and then south.

Enbridge says the Trailbreaker project is still dead, but the company wants to reverse the flow in its Westover-to-Montreal pipeline because it now has long-term commitments from the Suncor refinery in Montreal East and the Ultramar refinery in Lévis.

The pipeline, which Enbridge calls Line 9B, can carry up to 240,000 barrels of crude per day. Refineries are now interested in Alberta crude because it’s selling at about $20 less per barrel than the foreign-sourced oil they are buying now, a spokesperson for Enbridge told The Gazette.

“Quebec refineries have been forced to take crude from the North Sea or West Africa or the Middle East and they are paying quite a bit more for that crude than those who have access to production from Western Canada,” said Stephen Wuori, president of Enbridge’s Liquids Pipelines division.

Équiterre’s Steven Guilbeault and ecologist David Suzuki said Quebecers’ interests will not be served by this project.

“The pipeline, which would carry the tarsands oil all the way from Alberta to Quebec, would go through some of the most densely populated areas of the country, such as the Greater Montreal area,” Guilbeault said, adding polls have shown Quebecers are against oilsands oil because of the environmental impacts of that industry.

Suzuki said Canadians should be reducing their dependence on oil, and pushing their governments toward renewable energy.

“We have always said that the tarsands oil should stay in the ground, period,” said Suzuki, in Montreal this week on speaking engagements. “But this whole battle over pipelines is masking the big question, which is why don’t we have a national energy policy in this country?”

Environmental Defence and Équiterre released a statement Thursday charging that pumping oilsands oil through pipelines in Ontario and Quebec will mean more air pollution and more risk of toxic spills into waterways. They demanded that the National Energy Board assess Enbridge’s full plan, rather than just pieces of it, so that questions of greenhouse gas emissions and risks of spills over long distances can be addressed.

“Getting raw tarsands oil through pipelines is like moving hot, liquid sandpaper that grinds and burns its way through a pipe, thus increasing the chance that weakened pipelines will rupture,” the groups said in their joint press release, adding that pipelines that transport tarsands oil in the U.S. spill three times as much oil per mile as the average pipeline.

But Wuori objected to this characterization.

“The notion that we are putting sandy crude through the pipe is absolutely false,” he said.

The oil that will be shipped through the 9B pipeline will be either diluted bitumen or partially refined crude, and more likely the latter since it is a lot like the light crude refineries in Montreal and Lévis are currently refining, he said.

Wuori stressed that oilsands oil is not sandy by the time it goes into the pipeline. The crude is analyzed at the intake to the pipe to ensure it is no more than 0.5 per cent sediment and water, he said.

“I can’t say that any particular crude is never going to move through that pipeline, but this project is really about light crude for these refineries, because they can get it at more attractive prices than their current sources,” Wuori said.

The $100-million Line 9B reversal is expected to be available for service in early 2014, assuming it gets National Energy Board approval.

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