Would Kinder Morgan Sell A Money Making Pipeline?

By Roy L Hales

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claims that buying the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline is acting in the national interest. Ben Parfait put his feeling about the $4.5 billion purchase to music:  “Broken hands on broken ploughs, Broken treaties, broken vows, Broken pipes, broken tools/ People bending broken rules.” Economist Robyn Allan estimates  Canadian taxpayers will spend $20 billion before the controversial pipeline expansion is finished; If it is finished. Would Kinder Morgan sell a money making pipeline?

Ramping Up Oil Sands Production

Market Snapshot: Oil Sands Bitumen Production will continue to grow to 2040 – National Energy Board

If the 1,150 kilometre pipeline project is completed, it could increase the capacity of  diluted bitumen flowing from Alberta through British Columbia’s most populated urban area from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day. This at least potentially means more tanker traffic passing through Vancouver and out the Salish Sea to the Pacific Ocean.

According to the National Energy Board, this is part of a plan to ramp up the oil sands production close to 75%  over the next 22 years. “Raw bitumen production in 2016 averaged just under 2.6 million barrels per day (MMb/d) and is projected to reach 4.5 MMb/d by 2040.”

Supposed Benefits of the Pipeline

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a visit to the United States in 2016 by trumpvstrudeau via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

According to a press release from the Department of Finance Canada, the federal government’s purchase is “protecting thousands of jobs in Alberta and British Columbia.”

Elizabeth May responded by quoting the estimates from Kinder Morgan’s submission to the National Energy board.  2,500 people will be employed for the two years it will take to build the pipeline expansion. A total of 90 permanent jobs will be created.

Canadian energy expert David Hughes points out that only 50 of these long term jobs are in British Columbia.

He adds that the estimates Kinder Morgan presented to the National Energy Board are derived from an economic scenario that is no longer relevant.   

“The transportation bottleneck that caused the differential between international and North American [oil] prices from 2011 through 2014 and led to enthusiasm for pipelines with tidewater access has nearly been eliminated.”

The lure of $73 billion in revenues, which Kinder Morgan is dangling before the Canadian and Albertan governments,“likely won’t materialize.”

Kinder Morgan Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Kean is clearing excited about selling off his company’s liabilities … er, “assets.”

“The outcome we have reached represents the best opportunity to complete TMEP and thereby realize the great national economic benefits promised by that project.”

The Cost of Canada’s Ramp Up

Project Map from the National Energy Board Site

According to a more recent report by Hughes, the government is enabling a “sell-off of the highest-quality portion of remaining [gas and oil] resources at rock-bottom prices.”

The industry is highgrading, extracting “the most economic resources first and [leaving] the lower-quality, higher-emissions and higher-environmental-impact resources for last. Canada’s oil and gas resources remain a valuable backstop should renewable sources prove to be insufficient. Selling off the best of Canada’s remaining non-renewable resources at low prices, with minimal and declining returns to the public, compromises future energy security.”

He added, “Ramping up oil and gas production is a non-starter if Canada wants to meet its emissions-reduction targets.” Assuming that the industry is capable of maintaining production, it would result in“a 47% growth in emissions from the oil and gas sector.” The resulting burden would gut the rest of Canada’s economy, which employs close to 98% of the nation’s workforce.

Tweet form NDP MP Nathan Cullen

“To meet the 2030 target, non-oil and gas sectors must contract 49% from 2015 levels and then contract a further 71% from 2030 levels by 2040, when the oil and gas sector would constitute 76% of Canadian emissions.”

“We are absolutely shocked and appalled that Canada is willingly investing taxpayers’ money in such a highly controversial fossil fuel expansion project so risky that a major resource company has walked away and there are no known buyers lined up. No means no – the project does not have the consent it requires, and we will not stand down no matter who buys this ill-fated and exorbitantly priced pipeline. When the CEO says ‘it’s a great day’ after selling a project, the buyer should worry,” says Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

Top photo credit: 2014 Rally against Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain by Mark Klotz via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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