Committed shippers on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX) on Thursday wrote to the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) to express concerns about the project’s request for a variance on a section of the pipeline in British Columbia.
Trans Mountain has asked regulators to be allowed to install smaller diameter pipe in a 2,300-metre (7546-foot) section of the oil pipeline, after encountering “very challenging” construction conditions due to the hardness of the rock in a mountainous area between Hope and Chilliwack.
The variance request is the latest potential hurdle that the troubled project must overcome to stay on schedule and start operations by the end of the first quarter of 2024.
At an oral hearing on Monday, Trans Mountain told the CER that denying the variance request would likely add an extra 55-60 days to the construction schedule.
The CER is set to make a decision in coming days.
The companies acknowledged the importance of Trans Mountain’s schedule and urged the CER to ensure any actions taken would not contribute to the project being delayed.
“However, should the variance lead to any adverse effects or unforeseen impacts affecting the shippers, it is imperative that Trans Mountain bears all responsibility for rectifying these issues in a timely and reasonable manner and at its sole cost, risk and expense,” the letter said.
The C$30.9 billion expansion project will add 590,000 barrels per day (bpd) of capacity from Alberta’s oil sands to Canada’s Pacific coast, but has been beset by regulatory delays and cost over-runs and was purchased by the Canadian government in 2018 to ensure it got built.
The companies’ expression of concern comes the same day the CER approved preliminary interim shipping tolls on the expanded pipeline, which many shippers had opposed.
(Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Sandra Maler and Diane Craft)