Just three months after cancelling its Energy East pipeline proposal, TransCanada Corp. has announced that it plans to proceed, full steam ahead, with the cross-border Keystone XL project.

The Calgary-based company announced Thursday that it has locked in adequate commercial support for the pipeline, closing its open season (a call for new shippers) with roughly 500,000 barrels of oil per day for firm, 20-year commitments.

An "instrumental" customer, TransCanada revealed in its news release, was the government of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. The province's Crown corporation, the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission, has pledged 50,000 barrels per day for two decades.

"KXL is really about the differential because we don't have the pipelines keeping up with our supply right now, so we're shipping it on rail, which obviously is at higher cost," Notley's spokeswoman, Cheryl Oates, told National Observer on Thursday morning.

"Obviously right now, we believe that with projections, we will need at least two more pipelines."

Cheryl Oates, Alberta, Premier Rachel Notley
Cheryl Oates, director of communications for Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, said that more pipelines were needed to keep up with the supply of oil to be shipped. Oates is featured here attending a speech by Notley in Ottawa on Nov. 21, 2017. Photo by Alex Tétreault

TransCanada thanks Trump

The long-stalled, $10-billion Keystone XL pipeline (KXL) — rejected by the Obama administration and revived by U.S. President Donald Trump — cleared its last regulatory hurdle in Nebraska in November last year. The project was approved subject to a potentially costly route change to avoid ecologically sensitive areas.

Construction is expected to begin in 2019, and upon completion, it would ship more than 500,000 barrels of oil per day from Hardisty, Alta. to Steele City, Neb.

The Calgary-based company announced Thursday that it has locked in adequate commercial support for the pipeline, closing its open season (a call for new shippers) with roughly 500,000 barrels of oil per day for firm, 20-year commitments.

TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha told National Observer via email that the company's focus is "is now on acquiring the necessary easements in Nebraska," but there is no timeline for a potential final investment. He indicated that the projects costs had not changed significantly as a result of the route change.

In a statement, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling thanked Trump, Notley and the Nebraskan government for their efforts in bringing the pipeline back to life.

"Over the past 12 months, the Keystone XL project has achieved several milestones that move us significantly closer to constructing this critical energy infrastructure for North America," he said. "We thank President Donald Trump and his administration for their continued support and appreciate the ongoing efforts of Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts...our customers and various stakeholders to advance this project.

"Furthermore, we appreciate Alberta Premier Rachel Notley for her government's commitment to the project which was instrumental to achieving the commercial support needed to proceed."

Responding to TransCanada's announcement, newly-minted leader of Alberta's United Conservative Party, tapped Notley's support for the project. In a tweet sent out Thursday morning, he wrote: "Glad to see that the Alberta Govt has finally come around to recognizing the importance of Keystone XL, after years opposing the project."

TransCanada Corp, Russ Girling, signing, MOU, unions, Energy East
TransCanada CEO Russ Girling signs an agreement in Ottawa with labour unions to promote the expansion of pipelines on July 14, 2016. Photo by Kate Cornick

Kinder Morgan facing delays

The news comes just as another oilsands project — Kinder Morgan's controversial Trans Mountain expansion — announced that permitting snags from the City of Burnaby, B.C. have resulted in an "unmitigated delay" that bumps up the in-service date to December 2020. That's three months later than the previously announced nine-month delay. The Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline, which aims to triple the capacity of an existing system to 890,000 barrels of oil per day, has faced fierce opposition from local governments, First Nations and environmental groups.

"We hear every day from our customers and other stakeholders about how critical this project is," said Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson in a Wednesday statement. "We look forward to seeing further progress on regulatory approvals and judicial reviews and remain committed to delivering the project in an environmentally responsible way that respects our extensive and meaningful consultations with Indigenous Peoples, communities and individuals."

The company, belonging to the Texas-based Kinder Morgan, said it expects Canada's federal pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board to establish a "fair, transparent and expedited backstop process" for resolving any future delays in the provincial or municipal permitting process.

Last month, the NEB gave permission for the company to bypass some of Burnaby's bylaws after determining that the municipality was unfairly delaying the project. The regulator, which has the powers of a federal court, released a 26-page explanation for its decision late on Thursday.

The Alberta government, which is relying on the Trans Mountain expansion to get its oil to tidewater, said it is confident that the project will proceed either way.

"Right now, I think we're on track for them all to go ahead — Trans Mountain is delayed at this point, but the decision has been taken and despite the delay, the project is going to go ahead, and then (Enbridge) Line 3 is under construction, so we're quite confident that all of them are going to go ahead," said Oates.

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. Eastern Time to include a tweet from Jason Kenney.

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Kinder Morgan . Alberta, Federal govt. gets the profits, B.C. takes the very real risks. What, Energy East had to pass a climate / green house gas emission test and Trans Mountain does not. I guess Trudeau has more to lose forcing a pipeline through Quebec than forcing one through B.C. Cynical disrespect for Canada's Paris climate commitments. The NEB regulator with the power pf a federal court ran rough shod over the permitting process for this pipeline. Evidence presented not subject to cross examination. Faulty estimates of job creation, no examination of the probable risk of a tanker spill of bitumen which can not be cleaned up. In Canada's interest....I think not. This pipeline will not be built.

There are so many reasons to NOT go ahead with the Trans Mountain pipeline -- not just the pipeline itself but the huge increase in use of fossil fuels and in shipping activity. The consequences of oil extraction and transport don't end at the pipeline mouth: they will be felt by marine fauna and flora as well as by communities along the coast. And the Vancouver Port Authority's authority does not extend to the shipping lanes (e.g. Haro Strait, Strait of Juan de Fuca) over which oil tankers will travel, and it is those shipping lanes that are migration corridors for many species of fishes as well as for cetaceans.

On another fossil fuel issue--I understand that the major component of LNG is methane, which is an extremely potent GHG -- more so than carbon dioxide.

You are right about the methane. At one time I consoled myself that at least methane wasn't as long lived as CO2, but then got an ugly jolt when I learned that when methane disintegrates, it turns into CO2! So short term, methane is more potent, but long term, it hangs around a very long time as CO2.

There's so much short term, money hungry oil pumping minds don't understand about climate change. Just one example, is that most of us resist the ugly news about how hard it is to get rid of CO2, once its in the atmosphere. I'm not a scientist, or good at retaining little details, but I can tell you....its thousands of years.

CO2's long shelf life...combined with the sad fact its effects are delayed by about a decade...makes it the perfect killer for a species as short term, and self centred as ours. The storms we are witnessing today are likely the result of carbon spewed decades ago............we drilled baby drilled, we shipped junk in boats run on bunker fuel (the dirtiest fossil fuel around, besides pet coke...the by product of bitumen refining), glutting the planet with cheap clothing and trinket junk for our landfills....and had a generally good old time...during the nineties, and first decade of this century.

That party is being paid for now with snowstorms in Floriday, wild fires and mudslides in California, January floods in eastern Canada....and I could go on and on and on. The greenhouse gasses all these 'absolutely necessary pipelines will spew into our atmosphere, will be experienced by our grandchildren.
But that's okay I guess..........because you and I may well be dead by then.

And politicians on the left and on the right have to do what they have to do....to get elected for four more years, yes? So let's keep our fingers crossed that not too many of our students learn their chemistry.