Wednesday, January 2, 2013

At the moment just a red line on a map, but in the future...

While the Enbridge hearings prepare to ramp things up again in February for their 2013 calendar of hearings, the province of Alberta is apparently starting to formulate a plan B to move it's bitumen to world markets and for the most part it would seem that the province of British Columbia will be but a bit player in that alternative option.

As we mentioned back in November, Alberta is looking a little harder into an option proposed by a First Nations based group known as G7G (Generating for Seven Generations) which has been working on a transit route that would see Alberta's resources move from the Fort McMurray oil sands to a shipment point in Alaska.

A route which would make any further discussion on the Enbridge pipeline rather moot.

(A full review of our Enbridge hearings file can be found here)

The rail link to Alaska project received another review this weekend, this time from the Edmonton Journal which offered up this examination of the proposal and the reception it is receiving from the Alberta government.

Sometime in January, the cabinet of Premier Alison Redford will decide whether to invest  some 10 million dollars into a study on the project, the Alberta portion of a 40 million dollar feasibility study on the proposed 2,400 rail line which would move bitumen by rail to Delta Junction, Alaska where it would them flow through the Trans Alaska pipeline on to Valez, Alaska.

A single track line line from For McMurray to Alaska would cost some 8.4 billion to build and would carry 1.5 million barrels a day, a double track line ups the cost to 10.4 billion but would carry five million barrels a day.

The key to the project moving forward is the fact that G7G suggests that they have received First Nations approval along the transit corridor to Alaska, something that the Enbridge proceedings have shown isn't likely at the moment (or any time soon) across the route to Kitimat.

In a National Post Article from November, Diane Francis outlined how the movement of bitumen from Alberta to Alaska, could in the end grow to be much more than just a way to move oil based resources.

Some of the key logistical points from the article are:

The rail line could return from Valdez bringing equipment, supplies and water from the coast to the oil patch, at lower costs compared with current modes and distances.

Shipping oil to Asia is cheaper, and would be two to four days shorter, from Valdez. “People are surprised at that, but if you look at the map, the mileage is dramatically less across the Pacific Ocean from Valdez compared to Kitimat. 

If the railway was double-tracked Canadian potash, grains, lumber, metals, minerals and other exports could be taken to port for shipment around the world.

At the moment, the project is as they say in the article, just a red line on a map.

However considering the atmosphere over the Enbridge discussions of late and the less than welcoming approach of the BC Government on the transit of Alberta resources file, moving the shipment point north is starting to look more and more like a realistic prospect.

One which clearly change the dynamic of development not only in Northern British Columbia but along the Pacific Gateway, whether the terminus is Kitimat or Prince Rupert.

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