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Cost of Trans Mountain expansion jumps from $7.4B to at least $12.6B

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OTTAWA —
Expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline will now cost at least $12.6 billion — up from a three-year-old estimate of $7.4 billion on a project Finance Minister Bill Morneau insisted the Liberal government intends to sell back to the private sector and recoup taxpayers’ investment.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Morneau said the cost was “in the range of the considerations” the government looked at when it purchased the project two summers ago to ensure it would be built.

“The project will deliver $1.5 billion of available cash flow once it’s finished, which means it remains commercially viable and, I think, very interesting for the eventual commercial buyers that we’re going to be seeking, because we don’t intend on keeping this in government hands,” he said Friday.

Trans Mountain Corp., the federally owned company managing the project, has spent $2.5 billion, leaving an additional $8.4 billion needed to complete work, plus $1.7 billion of carrying costs.

Ottawa is also being told to set aside an extra $600 million in reserve to cover unforeseen expenses.

The company’s president said the increase was split between delays and design changes, such as adding thicker pipe in some areas and enhanced leak-detection provisions. Ian Anderson also said the project is expected to be in service by December 2022.

He said the project today is not what was originally unveiled in 2012, nor when the last cost estimate was released in 2017 by Houston-based Kinder Morgan, Inc. It is also different than what Ottawa envisioned in 2018 when it bought the pipeline for $4.5 billion.

At the time, the company said political risk that the project would never get built was too much to bear and was planning to halt the expansion when the Liberals came in to buy it, reduce the risk and make it attractive for another buyer.

Morneau also attributed the change in price to safety and design changes to reach a higher environmental standard, as well as higher labour costs and consultations with Indigenous communities, who he said Ottawa wants to benefit from the project, potentially as a buyer.

Should the federal government now be unable to sell the pipeline as planned, the total cost to federal taxpayers to buy and build the project would be $17.1 billion — a cost the Liberals defended as necessary to get Canadian oil to new markets beyond the United States, and use the revenues to fund a transition to a low-carbon economy.

Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon suggested a backstop of $2 billion promised by the previous provincial NDP government was not on the table.

“We see this as the federal government’s responsibility,” he said. “We’re in this situation because of their political failure and we expect them to get the job done that they’ve promised Albertans.”

Critics have attacked the project’s greenhouse-gas emission and oil-spill risks, and charged it will be a money-loser because of unproved markets in Asia — making Trans Mountain fail financially and leave the public holding the bag.

Opposition parties have blamed the Liberals for their handling of the energy file and the project itself for its current situation.

“This should get back in the hands of the private sector immediately so that not a single tax dollar is spent to build this pipeline,” Conservative natural resources critic Shannon Stubbs said.

Sven Biggs, climate and energy campaigner for Stand.earth, argued the total cost could make it impossible for Ottawa to sell it to a new owner, saying it was time to “hit the pause button and reconsider whether or not you’re still getting value for the taxpayer.”

The higher capital costs for construction mean a lower valuation of the pipeline when it comes time to sell it, which could result in a lower rate of return for taxpayers or a loss for Ottawa, said Richard Masson, senior fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

He said the cost increase will also mean higher shipping tolls for producers, and a lower payback for their oil.

“That means less taxable income and less royalties. Less cash flow means less jobs and investment. So it has that compounding effect” on the economy, he said.

Anderson said the pipeline will be a money-maker “every day through its contractual period of 20 years.” He pointed out 80 per cent of the space on the pipeline is contracted to 13 clients, including domestic oilsands producers like Suncor Energy Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., as well as international firms such as Total S.A. and a subsidiary of PetroChina.

Opponents of the pipeline expansion have vowed to do whatever it takes to stop the project despite losing a legal challenge before the Federal Court of Appeal this week. The four First Nations who lost the court challenge on Tuesday have 60 days to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The expansion project would 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 diluted bitumen, lighter crudes and refined products.

New Democrat MP Peter Julian, who represents a Burnaby-area riding, said the Liberals shouldn’t bankroll the expansion if they claim to be champions of the environment.

“There’s already a pipeline … that would be maintained, but the idea that we spend on top of that another $13 billion in construction when it is extremely controversial does not make sense,” he said.

In a statement, Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the project carried “substantial long-term benefits” and included “significant accommodations to Indigenous communities.”

Chris Bloomer, chief executive of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, said Trans Mountain’s long road to construction should help future projects better navigate the regulatory process.

“That’s going to lead to certainty, and timing of things is critically important to get these projects initiated and built.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2020.

With files from Lauren Krugel

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Oil Prices Rally As Traders Focus On Tight Supply Outlook – OilPrice.com

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Oil Prices Rally As Traders Focus On Tight Supply Outlook | OilPrice.com


Julianne Geiger

Julianne Geiger

Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.

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  • WTI crude rallied almost 3.5% on Thursday morning.
  • Tight supply and falling U.S. crude oil inventories support prices.
  • U.S. crude oil inventories are now 6% below the 5-year average.

Drilling rig

Crude oil prices resumed their climb on Thursday, reclaiming some of the ground lost over the last month.

At 1:30 p.m. ET, the WTI benchmark was trading at $91.09, a 3.38% gain on the day. WTI prices are still down from the $100+ barrel mark seen last month, as recession fears took hold of the market, threatening to subdue crude demand growth.

Crude oil prices are still nearly $20 over where they were at the start of the year, and roughly $28 per barrel gain over the last 12 months.

While recession fears—and the possible demand destruction that could come with such a recession—has pulled down prices over the last month, market fundamentals continue to be tight, with crude oil inventories in the United States continuing to slide. On Wednesday, the EIA estimated that crude oil inventories had fallen by 7.1 million barrels, on top of millions of barrels of crude oil making its way out of the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves. Gasoline inventories in the United States also fell by another 4.6 million barrels for the week ending August 12, the EIA reported on Wednesday.

U.S. crude oil inventories, excluding those in the SPR, are now just 425 million barrels,–6% below the five year average. Gasoline inventories are 8% below the five-year average, and distillates are 23% below the five-year average.

The EIA data also calmed fears that gasoline demand could be falling, after it showed the four-week average of implied gasoline demand rose to the highest level this year.

Also on Thursday, U.S. economic data saw a stronger labor market, further bolstering crude prices.

Disappointing economic data out of China this week—a predictor of lower crude demand from the world’s largest oil importer, has capped oil’s increase, as has a stronger dollar, which makes crude oil more expensive for foreign buyers.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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TD faces public scrutiny, support, of First Horizon takeover in public meeting – Business News – Castanet.net

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TD Bank Group’s proposed takeover of Memphis-based First Horizon Bank is the issue before a public meeting Thursday where community members are being given a forum to voice their opinions on the deal.

The virtual meeting is being convened jointly by the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S.Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which are reviewing the proposed US$13.4 billion deal.

The meeting comes as TD has faced renewed criticism in recent months for allegedly aggressive sales tactics in the U.S., including from Senator Elizabeth Warren who has called for the merger to be blocked until the bank is “held responsible for its abusive practices.”

TD agreed to a US$122 million settlement with U.S. regulators in 2021 stemming from illegal overdraft practices, while an investigative report released in May alleged that problematic practices continue at the bank, something the bank had strenuously denied.

The federal agencies also held a public meeting in mid-July for BMO’s proposed US$16.3 billion takeover of Bank of the West, where numerous community groups urged the deal be blocked until a strong community benefits agreement can be reached.

The bank also faced criticism for the proportionately low number of mortgages granted to Black and Latino borrowers, while numerous community groups that have received funding from BMO voiced their support of the deal.

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Judge sides with Enbridge Inc. in Michigan’s latest effort to halt Line 5 pipeline

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WASHINGTON — The international dispute over Line 5 belongs in federal court, a Michigan judge declared Thursday, dealing a critical blow to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s bid to shut down the controversial cross-border pipeline.

It’s the second time in nine months that District Court Judge Janet Neff ruled in favour of pipeline owner Enbridge Inc., which wanted the dispute elevated to the federal level.

That first decision prompted Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel — believing her only path to victory to be in state court — to abandon the original case, turning instead to a separate, dormant, nearly identical circuit court case to try again.

Neff’s disdain for that tactic was palpable throughout Thursday’s ruling.

“The court concludes that (the) plaintiff’s motion must fail, based on …(the) plaintiff’s attempt to gain an unfair advantage through the improper use of judicial machinery,” Neff wrote.

“The court’s decision … is undergirded by (the) plaintiff’s desire to engage in procedural fencing and forum manipulation.”

A spokesperson for Nessel did not immediately respond to media inquiries.

Whitmer is a Democrat and close ally of President Joe Biden whose political fortunes depending on the support of environmental groups in the state. She ordered the shutdown of Line 5 in November 2020.

She cited the risk of an ecological disaster in the Straits of Mackinac, the environmentally sensitive passage between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron where the pipeline runs underwater between the state’s upper and lower peninsulas.

They went to circuit court, where Enbridge pushed back hard, arguing that Whitmer and Nessel had overstepped their jurisdiction and that the case needed to be heard in federal court.

Late last year, Neff sided with Enbridge, prompting Whitmer and Nessel to abandon the complaint and try again, this time with a similar circuit court case that had been dormant since 2019.

Nessel had hoped to head off Enbridge’s jurisdictional argument on a technicality: that under federal law, cases can only be removed to federal jurisdiction within 30 days of a complaint being filed.

But Neff wasn’t buying it, citing the precedent she herself established in 2021 when she ruled for Enbridge the first time.

“It would be an absurd result for the court to remand the present case and sanction a forum battle,” Neff wrote.

“The 30-day rule in the removal statute is intended to assist in the equitable administration of justice and prevent gamesmanship over federal jurisdiction, but here, it is clear to the court that (the) plaintiff is the one engaging in gamesmanship.”

The Line 5 pipeline ferries upwards of 540,000 barrels per day of crude oil and natural gas liquids across the Canada-U. S. border and the Great Lakes by way of a twin line that runs along the lake bed.

Critics want the line shut down, arguing it’s only a matter of time before an anchor strike or technical failure triggers a catastrophe in one of the area’s most important watersheds.

Proponents of Line 5 call it a vital and indispensable source of energy, especially propane, for several Midwestern states, including Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It is also a key source of feedstock for refineries in Canada, including those that supply jet fuel to some of Canada’s busiest airports.

In a statement, Enbridge described Thursday’s decision as “consistent with the court’s November 2021 ruling that the state’s prior suit against Line 5 belonged in federal court.”

That, the company said, is the correct forum for “important federal questions” about interstate commerce, pipeline safety, energy security and foreign relations.

The statement goes on to say that shutting down Line 5 would “defy an international treaty with Canada that has been in place since 1977.”

Line 5 talks between the two countries under that treaty, which deals specifically with the question of cross-border pipelines, have been ongoing since late last year.

“Enbridge looks forward to a prompt resolution of this case in federal court.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2022.

 

James McCarten, The Canadian Press

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