At oilsands official opening, Alberta premier talks Trans Mountain timeline

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the challenges facing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion shows her province can do everything by the book and still get shortchanged. The premier was in Fort McMurray on Monday for the official opening of Canada's newest mega oilsands project.

Lack of pipelines continues to cost Canada $40 million a day, Rachel Notley tells Fort McMurray audience

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks during the Suncor Fort Hills grand opening in Fort McMurray Alta, on Monday, September 10, 2018. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the challenges facing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion show her province can do everything by the book and still get shortchanged.

Notley said Monday the recent Federal Court of Appeal decision quashing the expansion project has provoked frustration and anger in Alberta, but her government will continue to fight to get the pipeline built.

Without the pipeline, ongoing bottlenecks will continue to cost Canada $40 million a day in a discounted price for oil, Notley said.

The premier was in Fort McMurray on Monday for the official opening of Canada's newest mega oilsands project.

Alberta Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd and federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi also toured the $17-billion Fort Hill mine and processing facility, which came online earlier this year.

The Fort Hills project took five years to build. The project is a joint venture that involves Suncor, the majority owner, Vancouver-based mining giant Teck Resources and French multinational Total S.A.

It was shelved in 2008 during the global financial crisis and resurrected in 2013.

The project, 90 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, is expected to produce 194,000 barrels of oil a day.

Fort Hills, an open-pit mine with a life expectancy of 50 years, began producing oil in January and has been ramping up production since.

The site is the size of a small town. It accommodates 2,000 employees and comes with shops, places to eat, two movie theatres and two gymnasiums.

The Appeal Court ruled the federal government did not consult properly with First Nations and did not take into account the impact of tanker traffic on marine life. 

The Trans Mountain expansion project would triple the capacity of the existing line, which takes oil products from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. 
The tension between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Rachel Notley was apparent when the two met in Edmonton last week to talk about the Trans Mountain. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

The Alberta government has repeatedly said the lack of pipeline access forces producers to sell exclusively to the U.S. market at a substantial price reduction.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his government is considering all options to get the project restarted. Notley met with Trudeau last week in Edmonton and said the prime minister promised her a new timeline within weeks.

Suncor optimistic about Trans Mountain

Suncor CEO Steve Williams also waded into pipeline politics at Monday's ceremony.

Williams said he was disappointed by the federal court decision but remains confident the pipeline will eventually get built.

"I am still optimistic about it," Williams said. "I still think this pipeline will get constructed. So, I think in the mid and long run, there are still significant growth opportunities"

The company said it has already secured pipeline space to transport bitumen, so the Trans Mountain delay will have no impact on Fort Hills.

On Monday, the mine was producing 150,000 barrels per day, short of the goal.

The company said it hopes to be running at full capacity by the end of the year.

Fort Hills a step forward for carbon cutting

Williams said Fort Hills heralds an era, where the production of a barrel of oil has a similar carbon footprint to oil produced in the United States.

"That's a big step forward for the industry," he said. "We can compete with the best in the world."

Oil produced by Fort Hills has a lower emissions rate, he said, because it uses a process to extract bitumen that doesn't require upgrading.

with files from The Canadian Press