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Trudeau approves Trans Mountain pipeline expansion



Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has approved the construction of a long-awaited major crude oil pipeline that runs from Alberta to Vancouver.

Steel pipe stored for use in the Trans Mountain pipeline
(Image via Reuters)

First signed off in 2016, the expansion project has been beset by delays following challenges by environmental campaigners and local regulators. The project has been on hold since August last year, but was kept alive by the government when they purchased it off Kinder Morgan Inc. for C$4.5 billion (US$3.4bn).

It has now been given the go-ahead by the cabinet, who say the project has met strict requirements on safety and consultation with Canadian indigenous groups. 

The expansion project will almost triple the amount of oil shipped from Alberta’s tar sands to the Vancouver export terminal from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. It’s expected to increase oil tanker traffic in the area from five tankers up to 34 tankers per month.

“Take a look at my record, and you’ll see that I’ve talked about the importance of developing our resources for a long time,” Trudeau said at a press conference in Ottawa. 

"It is in Canada's national interest to protect our environment and invest in tomorrow, while making sure people can feed their families today,"

He stressed that all revenues that the government earns from the project will fund a “transition to a green economy”.

The proposed pipeline route brings crude from the tar sands of Alberta to the export terminal in Vancouver, British Columbia
(Image via Trans Mountain)

The sign-off from the government will not eliminate all hurdles for the project. The government of British Columbia is seeking a separate ruling from the Supreme Court on whether it can restrict oil shipments through the province. Plus further protests are expected from environmental groups that could disrupt construction.

The decision could also be reversed by an opposing government, should Trudeau lose his majority to one in October’s elections. 

However it remains a major step towards getting this long-delayed project off the ground, with many supporting the economic benefits and jobs that it will create.

The Trans Mountain pipeline is an essential solution to increasing the capability of Canadian oil producers to increase their exports - with a lack of shipping capacity already having affected local heavy crude prices and preventing production increases.

Prices were only able to be alleviated from record lows after the Alberta government implemented industry-wide output cuts that limited how much drillers could produce. 

With the new pipeline, opportunities for exports can open up and allow production to continue increasing.

“Fundamentally, this isn’t a choice between producing more conventional energy, or less,” said Trudeau. 

“It’s a choice about where we can sell it, and how we get it there safely.”

Construction is expected to cost C$7.4 billion. So far a start date has not been set, but Trudeau has suggested that he hopes to have shovels in the ground later this year. 

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