CALGARY – Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB) says the U.S. State Department is taking longer than expected to review an expansion to its Alberta Clipper pipeline between Alberta and Wisconsin.
But executives with the Calgary-based energy shipper say they’re confident a green light will come in time to expand the line to 800,000 barrels per day by the middle of next year.
Enbridge obtained a U.S. federal permit in 2009 before starting up the first phase of the line, which has 450,000 barrels per day of capacity, but the State Department says it needs to amend its environmental review before allowing the expansions to go ahead.
The planned two-phase expansion — 120,000 bpd this year, followed by another 230,000 bpd next year — requires no new pipe to be built, but will increase pumping power on the existing line.
In the meantime, Enbridge says it has the means to lessen the impact of the delay on the first expansion phase, which is not expected to affect its earnings.
Pipelines that cross the Canada-U.S. border require the blessing of the State Department.
Another Canadian pipeline firm, TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP), has been seeking U.S. approval to build its Keystone XL pipeline since 2008, but the debate over that pipeline has become highly politicized and the company has faced a litany of setbacks.
“Obviously, things take longer in this environment that we’re in. I don’t think we want to draw any conclusions about the political environment. It’s not something that we can control. What we control is the fullness of our application,” CEO Al Monaco told reporters and analysts on a conference call to discuss the company’s fourth-quarter results, which included a net loss.
“In this case, this is a fairly routine matter. The pipeline’s already in the ground, so we’re hoping that we move this along as quickly as possible.”
Earlier Friday, Enbridge posted a $267-million net loss in the fourth quarter as it took a hedging loss in its energy services division. A year earlier, Enbridge posted a $146 million profit worth 18 cents per share.
Stripped of one-time items, Enbridge’s adjusted earnings were $362 million, or 44 cents per share in the quarter, up from 42 cents per share in the comparable period of 2012 but short of analyst estimates of 46 cents per share.
“Although profitability declined in most of Energy Services’ lines of business, the fourth quarter loss primarily related to losses realized on financial contracts intended to hedge the value of committed physical transportation capacity, but which were not effective in doing so in the last three months of the year,” the company said.
In addition to the financial report, Enbridge announced its quarterly dividend will rise by 11 per cent.
The payout to Enbridge shareholders will rise to 35 cents per common share as of March 1.
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