Friday, August 22, 2014

Pipeline Giant Sidesteps KXL-Style Permitting Fight

Enbridge plans to increase pipeline shipments of oil from Canada by reversing flow on one of its lines temporarily. File photo of an Enbridge storage facility in North Dakota. (Credit: Matthew Staver, Bloomberg) Click to enlarge.
Enbridge Inc. is poised to carry out a novel new strategy for avoiding the presidential permitting process that Keystone XL has been mired in for years, shifting extra volumes of Canadian oil between pipelines on its sprawling continental network with the State Department's blessing.

The pipeline titan's plan involves building four interconnections between its Alberta Clipper and Line 3 projects, both of which run from the oil sands region of Alberta to Wisconsin. That would allow 75,000 extra barrels per day (bpd) of heavy Canadian crude to cross the U.S.-Canada border before the State Department finishes its KXL-style review of a plan to nearly double the Clipper's capacity.

While the added volume of oil sands crude might pale in comparison to the 730,000-plus bpd that KXL would carry, State's approval of the Enbridge plan is raising alarms among greens who could see their campaign to curtail fossil-fuel infrastructure imperiled by the move.

"On top of being sneaky, I think it's also clearly illegal," National Wildlife Foundation senior counsel Jim Murphy said in an interview.  "The permitting process becomes kind of meaningless if the State Department says this scheme is OK."

Enbridge's strategy rests on the transfer of light crude and heavy crude barrels between the Clipper and Line 3 using its four interconnections, two on each side of the border, which are slated for completion sometime this year.  While the pipeline company has secured the necessary state-level permits to increase the Clipper's oil sands crude capacity to 570,000 bpd from its current 450,000 bpd -- and is close to securing the same approval to run as much as 800,000 bpd of heavy crude on the line -- the Obama administration's delay in approving an amended permit leaves Enbridge stalled at the border.

Line 3, however, sits close to the Clipper and can ship more oil sands crude across the border without requiring a new or amended permit.  By transferring the heavy fuel between its two pipelines on either side of the Clipper's border-crossing segment, then, Enbridge proposes immediately increasing its oil sands crude capacity without participating in the process that so famously snagged KXL.

Pipeline Giant Sidesteps KXL-Style Permitting Fight

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