Support grows to ship Alberta oil to Eastern Canada

HALIFAX – Some of Canada’s premiers are expressing support behind a proposal to ship Alberta oil to Eastern Canada as they meet Friday in Halifax to discuss the economy.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said the idea presents an opportunity to build national energy security, stimulate private investment in the East and expand market opportunities for petroleum producers in the West.

“I think it’s a good story for all of us if we do it properly,” Selinger said.

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said the project could also boost Atlantic Canada’s energy infrastructure, and while the most immediate benefits may be reaped by the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, N.B., he is open to discussing the idea further.

“It’s hard to know what the business case would be to bring it all the way here, but certainly if there was a proposal I would be more than willing to look at it,” Dexter said.

Their comments came after Alberta’s Alison Redford and Quebec’s Pauline Marois agreed Thursday to set up working groups to examine the possible benefits and environmental effects of the project.

Premier Robert Ghiz of Prince Edward Island has also expressed his interest discussing the proposed development.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said Friday the development did little to change her government’s opposition to a pipeline running through her province if it doesn’t secure greater economic benefits. She said her province has set five conditions in order to allow a pipeline to the Pacific and it isn’t budging from that position.

“The world’s best spill response on land and on the marine side,” she said. “Nothing less than that will meet the expectations of British Columbians.”

The latest plan would reverse the flow of an existing pipeline to bring Alberta oil to customers in the eastern half of Canada, and could result in slightly lower gasoline prices in that region. The project is being reviewed by the National Energy Board.

There are actually two proposals to ship western crude to the East, including one by Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB) and another by TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP).

The Enbridge proposal involves expanding capacity on some pipes in the Great Lakes region and reversing the flow of another between Montreal and Sarnia, Ont.

Rival TransCanada plans to convert some of its empty natural gas mainline to oil. The company behind the contentious Keystone XL pipeline is looking to sound out customer interest in the East in the new year.