The completion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion in Canada may be postponed as developers seek approval to modify a section of the project's route. The request to change the path of a nearly 1-mile stretch of the pipeline in British Columbia is set to be heard by the Commission of the Canada Energy Regulator on September 14 and 15.

Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC, in its application, stated that the change is necessary due to encountering significant technical challenges during micro-tunneling through a hard rock formation along the original route. The company has made multiple unsuccessful and costly attempts to address the issue. Consequently, they have concluded that the most viable solution is to combine horizontal directional drilling and conventional open trench techniques for the new path.

If an alternative construction methodology is not employed, Trans Mountain foresees a potential extension of the mechanical completion date for the expansion project. Moreover, despite their best efforts to mitigate, it could impede successful pipeline installation in that area, warned the application.

Both the original and new routes pass through the lands of the Stk'emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation, which opposes the change. The nation emphasized the profound spiritual and cultural significance of the land along the new route. It should be noted that their approval for the project hinged on builders committing to micro tunnel through the original route, as stated in their response to the change application.

Increased Pipeline Capacity Brings Hope for Canadian Oil Industry

The Canadian nation has raised concerns over the decision to change construction methods for the pipeline project, arguing that builders have failed to demonstrate the obsolescence of micro tunneling. They suspect that the shift in methods is driven more by financial considerations and the urgency to complete the project by January 2024.

Initially projected to be finished in the third quarter, the pipeline expansion aims to boost pipeline capacity from 300,000 b/d to 890,000 b/d. Furthermore, it will provide access to Pacific Coast shipping terminals in British Columbia, opening doors for Canadian oil to reach overseas buyers. The International Energy Agency has suggested that this expansion could potentially limit supplies of Canadian heavy sour crude to the U.S., as the project would require 50,000 b/d of heavy sour crude for line fill in the last months of 2023.

For years, Canadians have been frustrated by their limited access to international markets, which has significantly impacted the price of their oil in the U.S. In 2018, driven by the prospect of higher prices, the Canadian government intervened and purchased the pipeline after the original builder, Kinder Morgan, threatened to cancel the entire project.

It is evident that the success of this venture holds great importance for the Canadian oil industry. The new pipeline's capacity increase and access to the Pacific Ocean could potentially bring about a significant boost in oil prices and allow Canadian oil to reach a wider range of international buyers.

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