Enbridge has no plans to resurrect Northern Gateway project, says CEO

The new government in Alberta wants Enbridge to bring back its proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline, but the company’s chief executive said there is little chance that will happen.

Company will also focus on developing much smaller pipeline projects in the future

Enbridge president and CEO Al Monaco prepares to address the company's annual meeting in Calgary on Wednesday. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The new government in Alberta wants Enbridge to bring back its proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline, but the company's chief executive said there is little chance that will happen.

In the campaign platform of the newly elected UCP government, the party vowed to fight for the re-start of the project, in addition to TransCanada's Energy East project. TransCanada has already said it has no plans to revisit its project.

On Wednesday, Enbridge's CEO Al Monaco poured cold water on reviving Northern Gateway.

"I think it's probably sailed. The first thing you need with something like that is commercial support and I think at this point, just given where the basin is and the other projects that are in the queue, if you will, it would be tough to see that getting re-started at this point," said Monaco to journalists, after the company's annual general meeting in Calgary.

Monaco said there would likely need to be an entirely new regulatory process for the project, since so much time has passed since Northern Gateway received its initial approval from the National Energy Board (NEB).

Enbridge's now defunct proposed Northern Gateway pipeline route for crude oil through northern B.C. (Canadian Press)

The federal government's proposed Bill C-48 would ban tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tonnes of oil from docking along B.C.'s north coast, an area that stretches from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border. Experts have said the legislation would make it nearly impossible for Northern Gateway to ever be built.

In early 2015, Enbridge seemed to already be turning away from Northern Gateway since it paid little attention to the project. Enbridge also still had several hurdles to complete before even considering construction, including meeting the 209 conditions issued by the NEB, bringing more indigenous communities onside and securing continued commercial support by oil companies.

The main problem Enbridge faced was its relationship with First Nations along the pipeline route. Although more than half had signed up, many of those who hadn't were staunchly opposed to the project, even as the company contemplated offering an ownership stake. 

Rulings by B.C.'s Supreme Court and the Federal Court of Appeal were also significant setbacks for the project.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney wants to fight for all proposed pipeline projects and re-start other projects like Northern Gateway to export oil out of Alberta. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Focus on much smaller projects

On Wednesday, not only did Monaco shoot down the idea of resurrecting Northern Gateway, he also said it's unlikely the company will build large oil export pipelines of that size again. 

Instead, the company would propose much smaller offshoots from its main pipeline network that would be easier and faster to develop. 

They would be in the size of 50,000 to 300,000 barrels per day, he said, compared to Northern Gateway's proposed size of 525,000 barrels per day, for instance.

"Ones that can ensure we get through the regulatory process efficiently and in a time frame that makes sense for us to invest," he said, describing them as expansions compared to large new projects.

If rebuilt, Enbridge's Line 3 will transport an additional 370,000 b/d of oil compared to current capacity. The pipeline's original capacity was 760,000 b/d, but was reduced by the company to 390,000 b/d in recent years.


Kyle Bakx

Business reporter

Kyle Bakx is a Calgary-based journalist with the network business unit at CBC News. He files stories from across the country and internationally for web, radio, TV and social media platforms. You can email story ideas to