Workers survey around pipe to start of right-of-way construction for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, in Acheson, Alta., on Dec. 3. 2019 Work on the 1,150-kilometre pipeline twinning had started again after government re-approval earlier this year. The twinning of the line and increased oil transport has been controversial since it was first proposed in 2013. The line was bought in May 2018 with $4.5 billion in public money by Prime Minister Trudeau who said the line was in the national interest (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Huge Trans-mountain pipeline: Study now questions its need

The trans mountain pipeline (TMX) project involves the twinning of a decades old pipeline from the oil centre of Edmonton Alberta, over the Rocky mountains to a Pacific Ocean port terminal near Vancouver.

The new pipeline would triple existing pipeline capacity in transporting Alberta’s oil sands crude to the port for shipment to Asian markets.

The new pipeline will run 1,150 kilometres along much of the route of the existing line., built in early 1950 The twinning of the existing pipeline would nearly triple its capacity to an estimated 890,000 barrels a day and increase traffic off B.C.’s coast from approximately five tankers to 34 tankers a month. Most objections are to the potential environmental damage from leaks and spills (CBC News)

The project to twin the existing line in 2013, came under massive protests from a wide range of  environmentalists and some Indigenous bands, and ongoing legal and regulatory challenges were such that to the American Kinder-Morgan firm behind the project backed out in 2018.

The Liberal government under Liberal leader Justin Trudeau stepped with public money to buy the line for $4.5 billion saying it is important for the nation and will provide substantial profits for the country. Completion of the new line is additionally estimated to have increased to over $12 billion.

Protesters hold signs and an effigy of Justin Trudeau during an anti-pipeline demonstration in Vancouver in Jun 2019. Protests against the line have been almost non-stop since it was first announced. ( Darryl Dyck- CP)

The government takeover has also not stopped protests and legal challenges. Other issues that have since arisen for the project include some major insurers backing out.

Now a new study questions the viability of the line.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is a  non-partisan think tank on public policy issues, sometimes described as ‘left leaning’. Today it released a report called, Reassessment of Need for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project.

It says government claims that bringing Canadian crude to the Pacific for shipment to Asia will provide greater profit than current pipelines to the US, are no longer true, and in fact will result in a loss of $4-$6 a barrel. It notes that presently most of the oil shipped through the existing line is already going to the U.S which has more than half the world’s refining capacity.

The report notes that currently there is a glut of oil on the market, and that Asia has limited refining capacity. It also notes the increased capacity would also make Canada’s 2050 commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions impossible” by incentivizing additional oil production growth”.

An aerial view of the Kinder Morgan oil terminal in Burnaby B.C near Vancouver where the pipeline ends. The CCPA study says instead of making a profit, oil shipped via the new pipeline from the port now could lose money on each barrel sold ( Jonathan Hayward- Canadian Press)

The report notes that the completion of Enbridge’s Line 3 and Mainline gives enough capacity for Canadian exports. Author Hughes also says the $12.6 billion would be better spent on emissions reductions. He adds the Liberal government has no plans on how to meet 2030 emissions reductions let alone the 2050 target and the claim that a completed TMX will help fund projects to reduce emissions is not viable.

Adding to that are other analyses, such as that by oil and gas giant BP which is reducing their own investment in petroleum and shifting toward renewables sayin they believe peak demand for oil has been reached and will begin a long slow decline in years ahead.

The government has said the pipeline has earned $29 million in net revenues since purchase. The twinning of the existing line is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

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