Tuesday, December 10, 2013
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Asked about the potential for Energy East to feed the Portland-Montreal line, a spokesman for TransCanada said there are no plans to do that.
"The Energy East pipeline will connect with the refiners in Quebec and New Brunswick, and therefore enable them to cut their dependence on foreign oil, as they currently import 86 percent of their needs," Philippe Cannon said.
He also said new marine terminals in Quebec and Saint John would handle exports.
Most notably, TransCanada has formed a partnership with Irving Oil to build a deepwater marine terminal near Irving's existing Canaport complex. Upgrades at Irving's refinery would allow it to refine western crude for export out of Saint John.
Pineau said it's his view that if either Energy East or the full Line 9 reversal becomes real, the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line will no longer be profitable.
"Oil will flow east to Montreal, and we won't need the Portland line anymore," he said.
PIPELINE'S UTILITY FADING
The Portland pipeline already has seen its utility fade in recent years. Cheaper crude from Canada and the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota has slowly displaced imports from the North Sea and other regions.
The Portland-Montreal Pipe Line actually has two parallel lines. An 18-inch diameter line built to handle 192,000 barrels a day is currently out of service, for lack of demand. A newer, 24-inch line has a capacity of 410,000 barrels a day. Wilson declined to say how much oil currently is being pumped to Montreal. In public material released earlier this year, the company said it's moving an average of 150,000 barrels of crude per day.
Last month, the owner of the Montreal refinery made an announcement that was more bad news for Portland.
Suncor Energy plans to begin sending crude by rail to its Montreal refinery later this year. The company will supply roughly 10 percent of its refinery needs by rail, to start. Most of the crude that now feeds the refinery is pumped from South Portland, so the pipeline would lose that business.
Suncor owns a 23 percent interest in the Portland pipeline, but it's also a major developer in the Alberta oil-sands. Suncor supports both Energy East and Line 9, according to Sneh Seetal, a spokeswoman for Suncor in Calgary, but it can't wait any longer to get western oil to Montreal.
"Rail provides an opportunity for integration between our Montreal refinery and our western operations," she said.
One hope for the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line lies with uncertainty about the ability to build a new pipeline across Quebec.
On one hand, business interests see western crude as essential to the survival of the province's two remaining refineries. There's also a realization within the separatist Parti Quebecois government of Premier Pauline Marois that the province needs these oil refineries to become energy self-sufficient.
On the other hand, the massive explosion in Lac-Megantic this summer of a train carrying oil cars has set off a general public backlash against petroleum transport.
That unease is being exploited by provincial environmental groups such as Equiterre. It has begun informational tours and town hall meetings aimed at building opposition for the Energy East line, underscoring that much of the oil will pass through Quebec, just like the train through Lac-Megantic.
"People are saying, 'What's in it for us?"' said Steven Guilbeault, Equiterre's senior director.
National environmental groups, such as Environmental Defence-Canada, also are fighting both Energy East and Line 9. Adam Scott, the group's climate and energy program manager, said promoting these projects as a national imperative for Canada's economic destiny is just "propaganda" coming from the oil industry and big banks.
"Opposition to both these projects in Canada is quite large," he said.
Scott said he feels confident that both projects are being watched closely by the owners of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, and despite denials from the industry, he expects the line to seek permits to reverse its flow to move oil west to east.
"One thing's for sure," Scott said. "The Portland pipeline won't be profitable in its curent configuration. So either shut it down or reverse it. That's the only two choices."
Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or