By Julie Gordon
VANCOUVER, March 6 Canadian regulators on
Thursday approved Enbridge Inc's Line 9 oil pipeline
reversal and expansion, conditional on the country's largest
pipeline company undertaking additional work on consultation and
Enbridge plans to reverse its Line 9B pipeline, which
extends from southern Ontario to Quebec, and boost capacity of
the entire Line 9 line by 25 percent to 300,000 barrels per day
(bpd), in order to ship western oil to refineries in Eastern
Canada. The oil would enter Ontario through Michigan on its
The approval by the National Energy Board (NEB) was widely
expected, as the plan uses existing infrastructure, requires no
new pipeline and much of the work will take place on Enbridge
property or right-of-ways.
"Repurposing pipeline is always what people want to do
first, versus building new pipeline," said Steven Paget, an
analyst with FirstEnergy Capital. "I think there's demonstrated
need and it really doesn't change what's already existing."
The project is one of several major pipeline investments
proposed for North America, fueled by the rapid growth of
Canada's oil industry. Efforts to boost pipeline capacity have
been met with fierce opposition from environmentalists who argue
that the tar sands are contributing to climate change.
"The board's decision enables Enbridge to react to market
forces and provide benefits to Canadians, while at the same time
implementing the project in a safe and environmentally sensitive
manner," the NEB said in its report.
The approval of the 639-km (400-mile) pipeline reversal and
expansion is contingent on the company meeting 30 conditions
related to emergency response, continued consultation and
The agency also turned down Enbridge's request for exemption
from "leave to open" requirements, meaning the company must ask
for permission to start up the line after all work is finished.
Enbridge, which has operated Line 9 since 1976, said it is
reviewing the requirements outlined in the agency's report and
will continue to work to meet its conditions.
"The approval of this project is not the end of the process
for us," said Chief Executive Officer Al Monaco in a statement.
"We look forward to continuing our efforts to build trust in
these communities and continue the discussion of how to make a
safe and well performing pipeline even safer."
REVERSING THE FLOW
Line 9 originally moved oil from Sarnia, Ontario, to
Montreal, but was reversed in the late 1990s to pump cheap
imported crude west. Enbridge applied in November 2012 to
reverse the flow again, to pump oil eastwards to Quebec.
That would benefit refineries in the eastern Canadian
province, including Suncor Energy Inc's 130,000-bpd
Montreal refinery and Valero Energy Corp's 265,000-bpd
Jean Gaulin refinery in Levis, Quebec.
Enbridge said the project will help protect thousands of
jobs and open new markets for Canadian oil producers, but
pipeline opponents were quick to condemn the approval, saying
the NEB had failed to respond to their concerns on safety and
"Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline project is a recipe for
disaster," said Adam Scott of Environmental Defence in a
statement. "The 39-year-old pipeline runs directly through the
most densely populated parts of Canada, threatening the health,
safety and environment of Canadians."
Line 9B runs underneath the Greater Toronto Area, which is
home to about 6 million people. A smaller portion of pipeline,
known as Line 9A, was previously approved for reversal.
Enbridge has a year to meet the NEB's conditions for the
Line 9 approval.