By The Canadian Press on January 30, 2024.
CALGARY – The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is facing delay yet again, as the company responsible for building the project reported Monday it has run into a fresh construction-related challenge in B.C.
Here’s a look back at the history of the project, and the milestones and setbacks it has experienced up to now:
March 21, 1951: The Trans Mountain Pipeline Company is established via a charter granted by the Parliament of Canada, with the intent of building a pipeline to carry oil from Alberta to the West Coast.
Oct. 17, 1953: The first shipment of oil reaches the Trans Mountain Burnaby Terminal, following a feat of engineering that saw the construction and completion of the pipeline in just 30 months.
Feb. 21, 2012: The Canadian division of U.S. pipeline giant Kinder Morgan Inc., which bought the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2005, announces it intends to expand the pipeline after receiving support from Canadian oil shippers.
Dec. 16, 2013: Kinder Morgan Canada formally files to the then-National Energy Board for regulatory approval for the project, which will nearly triple the pipeline’s capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. The company pegs the capital cost of the project at $5.4 billion.
November 2014: Hundreds of Indigenous and environmental protesters who oppose the proposed pipeline expansion are arrested for interfering with preliminary drilling and survey work taking place on Burnaby Mountain in B.C. Most of the charges are later dropped.
May 29, 2016: The NEB recommends approval of the pipeline, subject to 157 conditions, concluding that it is in the public interest.
Nov. 29, 2016: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces his cabinet has approved the Trans Mountain project, subject to 157 conditions aimed at addressing potential Indigenous, socio-economic and environmental impacts. The Trudeau government also approves Enbridge’s Line 3 project, but rejects the Enbridge-backed Northern Gateway project.
May 25, 2017: Kinder Morgan announces its final investment decision, saying it will proceed with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion as long as it secures satisfactory financing for the project through its initial public offering.
Jan. 17, 2018: Kinder Morgan Canada warns the Trans Mountain expansion project could be a year behind schedule. The company says the project, which is now estimated to cost $7.4 billion, is looking at a December 2020 in-service date. The company also warns that if the project continues to face unreasonable regulatory risk, including opposition from the B.C. NDP government, it may not proceed at all.
Jan. 30, 2018: B.C. government moves to restrict any increase in diluted bitumen shipments until it conducts more spill response studies, a move that increases the uncertainty for Trans Mountain.
April 8, 2018: Kinder Morgan Canada suspends non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain expansion project and sets a May 31 deadline to reach agreements with stakeholders.
May 29, 2018: The federal government announces a deal to buy the pipeline and expansion project from Kinder Morgan Canada for $4.5 billion.
November 2019: Construction begins in the Edmonton area.
Feb. 7, 2020: Trans Mountain CEO Ian Anderson announces that the cost of building the pipeline expansion has soared from an initial estimate of $7.4 billion to $12.6 billion, due to increased material and labour costs, legal costs and increased Indigenous consultations.
Feb. 18, 2022: Trans Mountain Corp. hikes the estimated cost of the project to $21.4 billion, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and flooding in B.C. as well as other factors, and pushes back the projected completion date to the third quarter of 2023. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland vows the federal government will put no more public money toward the project.
June 2022: A report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer concludes the federal government stands to lose money from its investment in the pipeline, and suggests that if the project were cancelled now, the government would need to write off more than $14 billion in assets.
March 10, 2023: Trans Mountain Corp., now headed by CEO Dawn Farrell following the retirement of Ian Anderson, pegs the new cost of the project at $30.9 billion. Construction is now 80 per cent complete, and the company says the pipeline will be in service in the first quarter of 2024.
August 2023: Trans Mountain Corp.applies to the Canada Energy Regulator for permission to alter the route and construction method for a 1.3-kilometre stretch of pipeline in B.C., saying it has run into engineering difficulties related to the drilling of a tunnel. The application is opposed by the Stk’emlÃºpsemc te Secwépemc Nation, whose traditional territory the pipeline crosses and who had only agreed to the originally proposed route and construction method.
Sept. 25, 2023: The Canada Energy Regulator approves Trans Mountain Corp.’s application to modify the pipeline’s route, sparing the project from what the pipeline company had warned could be a nine-month delay if its request was not granted.
Oct. 31, 2023: Trans Mountain Corp. applies to the Canada Energy Regulator for a pipeline variance, saying it wants permission to change the diameter, wall thickness and coating of a 2.3-kilometre segment of the pipeline due to difficulties drilling into hard rock in B.C.
Dec. 5, 2023: The Canada Regulator denies that request over concerns about pipeline quality and integrity.
Dec. 14, 2023: Trans Mountain asks the regulator to reconsider and warns of a potentially “catastrophic” two-year delay for the project if a variance is not granted and it is forced to proceed with its original construction plans.
Jan. 12, 2024: After an oral hearing in Calgary, the Canada Energy Regulator agrees to grant Trans Mountain a pipeline variance. It imposes a number of conditions related to pipeline testing and documentation requirements.
Jan. 29, 2024: Trans Mountain Corp. issues a statement on its website that it has run into “technical issues” during construction work in the Fraser Valley between Hope and Chilliwack, B.C. and needs additional time to determine the “safest and most prudent actions for minimizing further delay.” The company says it is now aiming for an in-service date in the second quarter of 2024.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2024.