Pipes for the Trans Mountain pipeline project are seen at a storage facility near Hope, B.C., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Pipes for the Trans Mountain pipeline project are seen at a storage facility near Hope, B.C., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canada Energy Regulator projects there may be no need for Trans Mountain expansion

Ottawa bought the existing pipeline for $4.4 billion in 2018

A new report from the Canada Energy Regulator projects that if Canada strengthens its climate policies to cut more greenhouse-gas emissions, it could eliminate the need for both the Trans Mountain expansion and the new Keystone XL pipeline.

The Energy Futures report, issued Tuesday, estimates energy production and consumption through 2050, based on two scenarios: one in which no more climate policies are introduced after this year and an “evolving” one where more initiatives are added to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.

Under the status quo scenario, the regulator projects the three pipelines under construction — Keystone XL, Trans Mountain and Enbridge Line 3 — will be the last ones needed to handle future growth in crude oil production. Under the evolving scenario, crude production still grows about 18 per cent before peaking in 2039, but the report says Line 3 alone is enough added capacity to handle that increase.

Cam Fenton, Canada team lead at 350.org (named for a “safe” level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) pointed out regulator twice recommended the government approve the Trans Mountain expansion, but is now projecting that Prime Minister Justin “Trudeau’s own actions on climate could make the pipeline he bought unnecessary.”

However Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said not going ahead with all three pipelines would be a mistake.

He said stopping pipeline capacity to handle total maximum annual production doesn’t take into account ebbs and flows of shipments, comparing it to only building freeways using the total number of cars travelling daily, rather than during peak periods.

“That would be an inefficient transportation system,” he said. “In Canada we have struggled with under capacity or full capacity. Neither of those are efficient systems.”

Keystone XL is already in jeopardy because U.S. president-elect Joe Biden promised to rescind Washington’s approval for the cross-border project. Trans Mountain restarted construction in 2019 after pausing in 2018 because of the court decision on federal approval.

The Trudeau cabinet had to approve the Trans Mountain expansion twice, after the Federal Court of Appeal said the first approval lacked sufficient Indigenous consultation and environmental review.

Ottawa bought the existing pipeline for $4.4 billion in 2018, after Kinder Morgan Canada was threatening to walk away from the expansion project amid political opposition that was delaying construction.

Trudeau pledged Canada would expand it, and then sell it back to the private sector.

It’s currently estimated it will cost about $12.6 billion to expand the pipeline by building a nearly parallel version that will almost triple total capacity.

READ MORE: Fossil fuels to decline but remain big player in Canada’s energy use by 2050: report

Tom Gunton, a resource and environmental planning professor at Simon Fraser University, said the status quo scenario in the Energy Futures report is not realistic, since the government just introduced legislation last week to make getting to net zero emissions by 2050 legally binding.

The report itself notes to get to net zero, Canada will have to be more aggressive at moving away from fossil fuels than even what its “evolving” scenario lays out. The report says Canadians will still get almost two-thirds of their energy from fossil fuels by 2050 under the evolving scenario.

Net zero means any emissions still produced are absorbed by nature or technology, rather than left in the atmosphere to contribute to global warming. Gunton said the evolving scenario is the more likely situation in the report, and that scenario makes it pretty clear “you’re not going to need these pipelines, so you should at least defer or shelve construction.”

He said if the projections change, they can be revisited but at the moment we could be spending more than $22 billion to build pipelines that aren’t needed.

Canada Energy Regulator CEO Gitane De Silva told The Canadian Press in an interview that the goal of the report isn’t to comment on existing policy but to paint a picture of where things could go using a variety of assumptions.

“Really, our hope is that this information will help inform that policy process going forward,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the regulator also later clarified that the report is not saying whether or not any specific pipelines should be built, but rather looks at potential crude production based on a number of assumptions. The spokeswoman said the chart is not a forecast, and is not an attempt to assess the optimal capacity for Canada’s pipeline system.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

oil and gasTrans Mountain pipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Forty-two residential properties in Oak Bay were assessed the speculation and vacancy tax in 2019 for a total of $693,000. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
74 Oak Bay property owners paid $693,000 in spec tax

42 properties were assessed with the SVT in 2019

Jail cell - Reporter file photo
Two of Greater Victoria’s most notorious teenaged killers have parole privileges extended

Derik Lord gets overnight privileges while Kelly Ellard’s are extended

Staff at Artemis Place Secondary were shocked to find that one of the student-built greenhouses on the campus was stolen overnight on Jan. 11. (Artemis Place Society/Facebook)
Saanich school hopes to catch greenhouse thief red-handed

Student-built greenhouses stolen from Artemis Place Secondary on Jan. 11

Sipili Molia, regional kettle manager, shows off the Salvation Army’s new contactless donation system for the 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria raises record-breaking $350,000 for Salvation Army

The charity says it’s seen an increase in need since COVID-19 hit

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. finds its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Nanaimo RCMP seek public assistance after numerous tire slashings between Jan. 12-14. (News Bulletin file)
Police seek public’s help after ‘tire slashing spree’ in central Nanaimo

Ten reports of slashed tires in the last three days, say Nanaimo RCMP

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials says it will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 12

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

50 km/hr speed limit sign.
POLL: What do you think the speed limit should be on residential streets without a centre line?

Traffic on side streets around Greater Victoria could soon be travelling at… Continue reading

Letisha Reimer died Nov. 1, 2016 after being stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.
No evidence that killer was in ‘psychotic state’ during Abbotsford school stabbing: Crown

Second day of closing arguments at ‘not criminally responsible’ hearing for Gabriel Klein

Luke Marston works on the seawolf mask for Canucks goalie Braden Holtby. (Mike Wavrecan photo)
B.C. Coast Salish artist designs new mask for Canucks goalie

Braden Holtby’s new mask features artwork by Luke Marston inspired by the legend of the seawolf

Most Read