* Northeast Asia could take 1.75 mln bpd of oil sands crude
* China largest potential market
CALGARY, Alberta, May 31 (Reuters) - The planned C$5.5 billion ($5.3 billion) Northern Gateway pipeline will not be big enough to satisfy demand for Canadian oil sands crude from Pacific Rim nations, Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO), the line’s backer, said in regulatory filings.
The company, which filed for regulatory approvals for the 525,000 barrel per day oil line last week, said in the filing that the potential market for Canadian crude in China, Japan, and South Korea could be as high as 1.75 million barrels a day, more than three times the capacity of the proposed line.
The estimate excludes the possibility of further demand from refiners on the U.S. West Coast, which will need to replace declining production from Alaska’s North Slope, Enbridge said.
Enbridge’s assessment of new markets for Canadian crude, prepared by consultants Muse Stancil, said the Chinese market is the largest potential destination for oil sands crude.
“The current potential market size for Canadian crude producers in China is estimated to be approximately (630,000 bpd) and this market is estimated to be growing at a rate of about 5 percent per year,” the filing said.
The United States currently takes almost all of Canada’s oil exports and some producers are backing the Northern Gateway project to add new customers for growing output from the oil sands.
The project would move oil sands crude from northern Alberta to the Pacific Coast port of Kitimat, British Columbia, giving Asia direct access to Canada’s vast oil sands via tankers.
Enbridge has said it wants the Northern Gateway line in operation by 2016, but the project faces fierce opposition from environmental groups and aboriginal communities in British Columbia.
Enbridge shares rose 36 Canadian cents to C$47.62 on Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
$1=$1.04 Canadian Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Peter Galloway