Sending oilsands bitumen north through N.W.T. to a port in the Arctic is feasible, according to a study commissioned last year by Alberta.

Dubbed the Arctic Gateway Pipeline, the proposed link would ship bitumen along the Mackenzie Valley to a port in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.

It says shipping of bitumen through Tuktoyaktuk could start as early as next summer, using freight trains to Hay River, N.W.T., then barges the rest of the way down the Mackenzie River and on to Tuktoyaktuk.

N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod said he is happy with the study's findings.

"The report lays out a number of options," he said. "We can start on a smaller scale, and eventually advance to where the report indicates the best option is a pipeline to the coast."


The proposed pipeline from Fort McMurray, Alta., to Tuktoyatuk, N.W.T., would cover 2,400 kilometres. (An Arctic Energy Gateway for Alberta/Canatec)

He added it would reduce the cost of developing the Northwest Territories' oil and gas resources.

Energy analyst Doug Matthews said there are drawbacks to a small-scale plan.

"The more times you have to handle a commodity like oil and move it from one mode of transportation, say rail, to another, to a barge or to an off-shore tanker, the more things can go wrong," he said.

The report admits the plan would require construction of both a pipeline and a port, but points out Alberta companies would be in line to profit from such construction projects in N.W.T., where construction in other jurisdictions such as B.C. or the U.S. would more likely to go to local firms.

It also acknowledges shipping from Tuktoyaktuk would likely be seasonal, and oil flowing north would have to be stored in the community over the winter.