Kinder Morgan has pared down the size of its Trans Mountain pipeline twinning project, slightly reducing the number of oil tankers that would be expected to load up in Burnaby if the controversial expansion is approved.
The $4.1-billion pipeline expansion would now increase capacity from the current 300,000 barrels per day to 750,000 – down from a previous estimate of 850,000.
About 400,000 to 450,000 barrels per day, much of it diluted heavy crude from Alberta’s oil sands, would be allocated for export via tanker, according to Kinder Morgan spokesman Andrew Galarnyk.
He said that translates into about 300 oil tankers a year calling on the Westridge Marine Terminal on Burrard Inlet, compared to 32 last year and a record of 69 in 2010.
“We previously indicated roughly 25 to 30 tankers per month,” Galarnyk said. “We’re probably going to be at the low end of that range now – probably 25.”
He said the tanker estimates assume continued use of existing Aframax size tankers, not larger Suezmax tankers that hold up to one million barrels, but which would require Port Metro Vancouver dredging the Second Narrows.
“Our project is going to stand alone on the current types of vessels that are calling on our facility.”
The project has been downsized because some shippers that would use the twinned pipeline failed to get the approval of their boards to sign binding contracts with Kinder Morgan.
The pipeline project would open up much more access for Canadian crude oil to reach new markets in Asia.
Kinder Morgan expects to launch community consultations in the weeks ahead, which would precede a formal project application to the National Energy Board at least 18 months from now.
The company aims to begin construction in 2016 and open the new line in 2017.
Trans Mountain’s right-of-way runs from northern Alberta southwest through B.C. and runs through the Lower Mainland, passing through Chilliwack and northern stretches of Abbotsford, Langley and Surrey before crossing the Fraser River and passing through Coquitlam and Burnaby.
The plan is opposed by city councils in Burnaby and Vancouver, as well as various environmental groups.
The Trans Mountain project is in addition to Enbridge’s proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry oil on an all-new route across northern B.C. to Kitimat and then overseas via tanker.
For more on the logistics, risks and politics around Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline plan, see the Black Press Oil & Water series.