Crude oil flowing into B.C. through Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Oil is now flowing through the $34-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project into British Columbia.

Wednesday marks the first official operational day for the expansion.

Crown corporation Trans Mountain Corp. said the pipeline, which spans from Alberta to B.C., is transporting crude oil.

The project involved twinning an existing pipeline that runs from Alberta to the B.C. coast. The final applications for the twin pipeline have now been approved by Canada’s energy regulator.

It took more than four years to construct and was one of the most costly infrastructure projects in Canadian history.

A B.C. wilderness society said it’s a sombre day for those who have been fighting against the pipeline for years.

It’s a really sad day for the thousands of people who have been working for (more than) a decade to protect this coast from an oil spill,” Peter McCartney, Wilderness Committee’s climate campaigner, said.

We’re heartbroken to see that oil is going to be flowing through the pipeline, and furious that this was put through over the wishes of the host nations on this territory.”

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The pipeline project has been the subject of several legal challenges and dozens of protests where people were arrested. Some protesters blocked bulldozers and lived in trees for months at a time to prevent construction.

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“Oil pipelines spill (and) if one of these tankers has a ‘bad day,’ the consequences will be catastrophic … I hope they know what they’re doing,” McCartney said.

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The expansion increases the Trans Mountain system’s shipping capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day, and will help open up global export markets for Canadian oil.

“It’s one of these big national infrastructure projects. It’s hard to build big pipelines. Getting this done, while it’s been expensive and delayed, is finally something that will give market access to Canada, which is one of the bigger oil producers in the world,” Richard Masson, with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, said.

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The increased capacity is expected to help improve the price Canadian oil companies receive for their product.

But even though the project is now complete, question marks linger as the federal government has said it intends to sell the pipeline.

The government purchased the pipeline for $4.5 billion in 2018 in an effort to get the project over the finish line, and has stated it does not wish to be its long-term owner.

Experts say because the project’s price tag ballooned over the course of construction, the government will likely take a significant write-down if it sells.

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Companies that ship oil on Trans Mountain are now subject to the new expanded system’s tariffs and tolls. But Trans Mountain is currently locked in a dispute with its oil company customers about these rising fees.

The Crown corporation has said the higher fees are necessary to help to cover the budget overruns, which it has said were caused by things like the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather, and the need to deal with archeologically significant sites along the pipeline’s route.

While the oil is coming in and arriving in Burnaby, officials said oil will not be ready to load onto ships until the middle of May.

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Skyrocketing cost of Trans Mountain pipeline

— With files from Canadian Press

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