Imperial Oil asks to delay Mackenzie Gas Project construction deadline

The company is asking the National Energy Board to extend the board's approval of the project by seven years.

'The cost and time required to start over would be a significant deterrent,' says company

Imperial Oil now says the earliest it can start building the Mackenzie Gas Project in N.W.T. is in 2022.

The company is asking the National Energy Board to extend the board's approval of the project by seven years. Under the current terms of the project's approval, construction would have to begin by the end of this year or else that approval — gained after a five-year-long environmental review — would expire.

If that happens — and if Imperial Oil and its partners want to proceed with the project — they would have to reapply for approval and undergo another review.

"The cost and time required to begin again, to start over, would be a significant deterrent, we believe, to future development of resources in the Mackenzie Delta," said Pius Rolheiser, a spokesperson for Imperial Oil.

The silver lining for supporters of the long-delayed project? According to the 2012 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, environmental reviews conducted by the National Energy Board have to be completed within one year.

No guarantees

Imperial Oil says currently there's too much natural gas glutting the North American market and that the price of gas is less than half of what it was a decade ago.

It says it wants to take the next three years to assess potential changes to that market. If the company then decides the economic conditions are right to move ahead with construction, planning will begin — a process Rolheiser says would take four years.

Approval from the National Energy Board aside, "The number of specific permits that we would need to execute the project would literally be in the thousands," said Rolheiser.

According to the updated schedule, construction would finish in 2026.

N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Gwich'in Tribal Council and the Tulita Land Corporation all sent letters to support Imperial Oil's request.

"In light of the significant investments already made to date in order to acquire the [approval], I also believe that the proponents have much to gain and nothing to lose by continuing to hold the [approval]," wrote McLeod.  

Imperial Oil would not disclose how much money it and its partners have already spent since applying for the approval in 2004.


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