An Enbridge official says the company expects a decision from the federal government on its proposed Northern Gateway pipeline by mid-2014, meaning the pipeline could be moving oil by 2018.
But senior vice-president Vern Yu says the Calgary-based company expects that decision to be challenged by pipeline opponents.
"We expect that there would be some appeals to that decision and that would take us into early 2015 and at that point we would be able to start construction, which would allow for somewhere around a 2018 in-service date," Yu said.
Yu says the company is working at building support in B.C. for the pipeline and has released a new series of media ads that promise a better pipeline.
"Obviously that is a lightning rod project where we are actively working on building more support in B.C. for the project."
CEO Al Monaco said Enbridge has done well engaging communities affected by Northern Gateway, but broader issues around oil and gas development and general skepticism over energy projects have become bigger and bigger factors in the public debate.
Monaco said he remains confident Northern Gateway will be built because it's "so important to Canada."
U.S. activists ramp up Canadian campaign
Meanwhile the U.S. office of conservation group Forest Ethics says it is expanding its campaign against the Northern Gateway and the Trans Mountain projects.
The oil sands opponents, who have used their public relations muscle to fight the Keystone XL pipeline that would flow from Canada into the United States, are turning their sights on two pipeline proposals in British Columbia.
"From pipelines to tankers to crude-by-rail, we're facing an onslaught of new oil proposals, many of them toxic oilsands oil, that would turn the Pacific Northwest into a giant shipping lane for oil, gas and for coal," spokesman Matt Krogh said at a news conference Tuesday in Seattle.
"This is a cross-border question. It has cross-border impacts."
Forest Ethics and others have fought a high-profile, celebrity-populated campaign against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in the United States, stalling for several years the project that would deliver oilsands bitumen from northern Alberta to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
A final decision from President Barack Obama on Keystone is expected in the coming months, Krogh said, and attention is turning toward the impact that oil shipments to the B.C. coast will have, including tankers and an increase in oil-by-rail from Canada.
"You're seeing the first steps in an international wall being created that's actually going to stop tar sands export," Krogh said.
Canadian conservation groups, including Forest Ethics in this country, have long been battling the B.C. pipeline projects.
The campaign south of the border was launched with a website tarsandssos.org, featuring real-time tracking of all tankers in and out of Kinder Morgan's tanker terminal in Burnaby -- the terminus of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta.
On Tuesday, the website showed the Liberian-flagged Aqualiberty and the U.S.-flagged Sea Reliance moored in Burrard Inlet.
The Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Calgary-based Enbridge would deliver 525,000 barrels of petroleum a day to a tanker terminal in Kitimat, on the north coast of B.C.
Kinder Morgan's proposed expansion of its existing Trans Mountain line would increase its capacity from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000.
Kinder Morgan improving marine safety
A Kinder Morgan official said that Canada and the United States have a shared interest in the safe transport of oil through the Salish Sea.
"As we are developing our application to the National Energy Board, we have been meeting with Canadian and U.S. agencies involved in the marine safety regime and are committed to continue discussions on both sides of the border," Mike Davies, senior director of marine development for the project, said in an email response to a request for an interview.
Kinder Morgan is expected -- after much discussion of its expansion plans -- to officially file an application for the Trans Mountain line later this year.
Federal government officials were in British Columbia last week to meet with First Nations groups that have staunchly opposed Northern Gateway, and Enbridge officials met over the summer with leaders from more than a dozen communities along the pipeline route.