Enbridge Inc.is seeking a three-year extension of its permit to build the Northern Gateway pipelinelinking Canada's oil sands region with a deep-water port on the northern coast ofBritish Columbia.
The permit to build the system, issued by the National EnergyBoard in 2013, carried more than 200 conditionsand included a requirement for the Calgary, Alberta-based company to have the projectunderway by the end of 2016.
Enbridge said it has the support of 31 Aboriginal equity partnersin its quest to have the deadline stretched for the two-pipe conduit, which wouldcarry tar-like bitumen to the coast and return diluent used to thin the heavy oilto Alberta. On its website, Enbridge estimates the project will cost C$6.5 billion.
The company plans to boost Aboriginal ownership in the projectto 33% from the original 10% and double the benefit it pays to First Nations andMétis groups to C$2 billion. Under a proposed joint governance structure, the Aboriginalpartners would have an equal voice in the line's oversight, Enbridge said.
"Northern Gateway has changed," John Carruthers, presidentof Enbridge's Northern Gateway unit, said May 6. "We are making progress andremain open to further changes. We believe this is the right course of action forNorthern Gateway and the right thing to do as Canadians. We know this process requirestime and we are committed to getting it right."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while campaigning he did notfavor the Northern Gateway project and shortly after his election enacted a tankerban along British Columbia'snorthern coast that would prohibit loading and unloading at its proposed terminalin the town of Kitimat. Trudeau has since softened his stance on the pipeline, sayingit could be built if routes were changed and agreements were reached with FirstNations.
Enbridge CEO Al Monaco in February conceded that the company would likely have to ask the NEBfor an extension of the permit to build the twin-line project, which would carry525,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude and 193,000 bbl/d of diluent. In additionto regulatory hurdles, development of the oil sands has slowed since crude pricestumbled starting in late 2014 while demand in China, one of the main markets theline was designed to feed, has cooled.
Enbridge has grown the ranks of its Aboriginal equity partnersto 31 from 26 in the past two years, according to representatives of the nationscited in a statement.
"With our influence and guidance, Northern Gateway is changingand we are taking a leadership role," the partners said.
"The process of change based on First Nations and Métiscollaboration will continue."