Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. announced Thursday it has filed an application with the National Energy Board to build a $5.5-billion Northern Gateway Pipeline between Edmonton and a terminal on the west coast at Kitimat, B.C.

The 1,172-kilometre project is planned as a twin underground pipeline system, with one 90-centimetre diameter pipeline to carry oilsands crude west and a 50-centimetre-wide pipe to bring condensate east.

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The Northern Gateway crude oil pipeline would run 1,172 kilometres from just outside Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C. ((Enbridge Inc.))

Condensate is natural gas in a liquid state and is used to thin oil so it can be pumped through a pipeline.

"The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project will open important new markets for Canadian crude oil; it will create jobs and a substantial long-term boost to our nation's economy as well as the communities through which it will pass," CEO Pat Daniel said in a release.

Tankers would move the oil to markets on the U.S. west coast or to Asia.

In a news release, Greenpeace said the project would bring more than 200 oil tankers through the treacherous waters of the Great Bear Rainforest every year.

The Great Bear Rainforest is the name given by environmental groups to a forest region of 64,000 square kilometres that stretches from Vancouver Island to the Alaska border.

Greenpeace fears tanker accidents

"Accidents happen," Greenpeace said. "If oil tankers are brought to the Great Bear Rainforest, it's not a question of if a spill will occur, it is a question of when, where, and how large.

"That is to say when you move oil, you spill oil. No amount of technology or process can eliminate human or mechanical error." the release said. 

A joint review panel of the federal Environment Department and the National Energy Board will review the bid.

Environmentalists and a coalition of B.C. First Nations has publicly declared opposition to the proposed pipeline, saying that it would jeopardize the land, people and wildlife for generations to come.