Calgary-based oil pipeline operator Enbridge said Wednesday it has lined up enough shippers to fill its proposed Northern Gateway pipelines project that would ship oilsands crude to the west coast for transport to Asian markets.
Enbridge did not identify which Asian and Canadian companies have committed to use the $5.5-billion facility, but Chinese refining giant Sinopec has said it is on board with the project.
Companies have fully subscribed to long-term service on both a 525,000-barrel per day line carrying crude from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C., as well as a smaller line that would bring imported condensates inland.
Janet Holder, Enbridge's executive vice-president of Western access, called the shipper agreements "a major step forward" for the project, which she said would enable Canadian energy companies to fetch a better price for the crude they produce.
The project would diversify the market for Alberta oilsands producers beyond the current sole customer, the United States, where demand growth is expected to slow.
'Enbridge's pipeline isn't happening, period.' —Chief Larry Nooski, Nadleh Whut'en First Nation
But it is controversial with environmentalists, First Nations groups and others who say the threat of a spill poses a threat to the northern B.C. ecosystem.
"Enbridge's pipeline isn't happening, period. It doesn't matter who they get a deal with," Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut'en First Nation in northern B.C., said in a release.
"They plan to come through our territories and we've already said no, and we'll use every legal means we have to stop them. Their proposed pipeline is against our laws because we refuse to put our communities at the risk of oil spills.
"Northern Gateway will link two of Canada's most important competitive strengths: our tremendous petroleum reserves and our Pacific advantage — safe deepwater ports that are close to the growing markets of the Pacific Rim," said Holder.
"The project has the potential to move Canada into receiving premium prices in the global energy marketplace, rather than the landlocked, one customer price-taker it is today.
Northern Gateway is currently under review by the National Energy Board, and hearings are set to begin in the new year.