Enbridge says Line 3 pipeline project operational date uncertain

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The start date for Enbridge Inc’s C$8.2 billion ($6.52 billion) Line 3 pipeline replacement project is uncertain and could be as late as November 2019, the company said on Tuesday.

The Alberta-Wisconsin Line 3 and other North American energy infrastructure projects are facing increasing opposition from environmentalists, aboriginal groups and local governments.

The company has said the new Line 3, which replaces an aging one, would start shipping oil in the second half of 2019.

“Until we get to the point where the construction plan can be fully optimized, it is very difficult to be precise about exactly when the project can come into service,” Enbridge Executive Vice President Guy Jarvis told investors in New York on Tuesday.

“Our goal is to be in service as early as possible in Q3, with an outer range for the window of expectation of Nov. 1, 2019.”

The Line 3 replacement project, Enbridge’s largest project to date, doubles the capacity of the existing line to 760,000 barrels per day.

Producers in Canada’s oil heartland of Alberta, whose landlocked crude trades at a discount to the West Texas Intermediate benchmark, say they need additional export capacity to attain higher prices.

But efforts to build new pipelines have faced challenges. TransCanada’s Keystone XL project, has been in development for nearly a decade, while Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd said last month its Trans Mountain expansion would be delayed for nine months.

Reporting by Ethan Lou; Editing by David Gregorio and Susan Thomas