Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on schedule, budget after one year, says CEO

CALGARY — A year after construction was allowed to restart on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, it's chief executive says it is on budget and on schedule for completion by the end of 2022.

In an interview, CEO Ian Anderson says the project is advancing as expected despite challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, a global slump in demand for fuel, a $5.2-billion rise in its estimated cost to $12.6 billion in February and ongoing protests by opponents.

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The expansion project is designed to triple the capacity of the existing pipeline between Edmonton and a shipping terminal in Burnaby, B.C., to about 890,000 barrels per day of products including diluted bitumen, lighter crudes and refined fuels such as gasoline.

Anderson says the existing pipeline ran completely full at the height of the pandemic's dampening impact on North American fuel demand, unlike competing export oil pipelines such as Enbridge Inc.'s Mainline system, a fact he attributed to its ability reach diverse markets in B.C., overseas and in the United States.

Calgary-based Cenovus Energy Inc. used Trans Mountain this summer to send oil from Alberta to fill an oil tanker at Burnaby and ship it through the Panama Canal to an Irving Oil refinery in Saint John.

Anderson says that feat hasn't been duplicated since but it illustrates the ability of the pipeline system, purchased by the federal government for $4.5 billion in 2018, to access numerous new markets for its 13 committed shippers when the expansion is completed.

"We've got some major elements of the project to still do but they're all on track and there's no critical path items I'm worried about at this point," he said. "We're making great progress."

He added the project is about 15 per cent complete now and is expected to be at 30 per cent by year-end.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:ENB, TSX:CVE)

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