Enbridge blowing smoke on Gateway timeline

Enbridge is lying to someone…Or shall we say selectively omitting certain truths? After reading this you decide.

In any case the oil and gas giant is telling British Columbians one thing, and investors another about the completion date for their Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline and tanker project.

In their outreach to communities along the project route, Enbridge has been using an ‘anticipated timeline’ that shows construction beginning by 2012 (subject to regulatory approval – see below).

Yet when speaking to the financial community – for example in the presentation of their 2009 1st quarter results – Northern Gateway does not even make it onto Enbridge’s “major project update” timeline of  priorities through 2014.

When the topic of Gateway does come up, Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel says Gateway is “a little bit on the outer end” of their expansion outlook, placing the BC project at the bottom of the company’s list of priority projects after 2012.

Daniel explains that “there will not [actually] be a need for ex-Alberta capacity for ‘some time’ “.

There is an explanation for this (1), but the explanation is tangential to my point.

The point is that for many unemployed and underemployed British Columbians, the lure of Enbridge’s Gateway project is that as advertised in BC it could bring jobs in as little as three years.

Imagine those people’s surprise if, after going through the regulatory process, Enbridge puts the approval in their back pocket and starts talking ‘let’s wait-and-see’ about actual construction and the jobs that go with it, like Enbridge is saying now to their investors.

Enbridge is being disingenous with British Columbians

Enbridge is being disingenuous with British Columbians. Enbridge knows that waving an earlier, highly optimistic construction date will draw more public support for the project, and therefore they do so.

The truth, however, lies in a smoky realm of mystery and vagueness, where talk of ‘some time’ and ‘outer ends’ drifts seductively on the wind.

My advice for job-seekers: don’t pin your hopes on this one.

 

(1) This is widely known in the industry, and Enbridge has been saying thatwhat makes Gateway tick is the “pricing play”: the ability of Alberta producers to play the US against the new market (Asia) and ultimately make more money. Enbridge is suggesting that even if Alberta doesn’t have enough oil to actually fill the Gateway pipeline, producers might pay to get the project built AND pay annual tolls just for the OPTION of shipping to Asia. At 525,000 barrels per day (a little under half of current tar sands production), Gateway seems a little overkill to achieve this end. Perhaps this is why when talking to the financial community Enbridge doesn’t even bother anticipating completion dates, because they know it is way out there, if at all.

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