Enbridge warns Ottawa councillors that Energy East pipeline could lead to winter gas shortages

By Vito Pilieci, OTTAWA CITIZEN September 10, 2013 7:04 AM

OTTAWA — Enbridge Gas Distribution is voicing concerns over TransCanada Corp.’s planned Energy East Pipeline project, warning the conversion of an existing natural gas line could send winter heating bills higher and leave many in the city without heat during the coldest months.

According to the City of Ottawa’s lobbying registry, on Aug. 22 Jamie LeBlanc, Enbridge Distribution’s director, energy supply and policy, and Michelle Wasylyshen, manager of government relations, met with three Ottawa city councillors and the City of Ottawa’s general manager of planning and growth management, John Moser, to express reservations about TransCanada’s proposal.

The Energy East project would retrofit the company’s 3,000-kilometre Canadian Mainline natural gas pipeline, which runs through rural areas in the south end of Ottawa and across the Rideau River, so it can carry more than 1.1 million barrels of crude oil a day to refineries and oil tankers on the east coast.

The line is currently underused, TransCanada has said, and altering it to carry crude oil alongside natural gas will the allow the company to more fully use its existing infrastructure.

However according to a copy of the presentation Enbridge delivered to Moser and councillors Marianne Wilkinson, Doug Thompson and Eli El-Chantiry, “As it stands now for example, post conversion, Enbridge would be as much as 25 per cent short of capacity needed to serve the Ottawa area on the coldest days of winter.

“TransCanada is creating the impression that most or all of the pipe they are considering for re-deployment is excess capacity — this is far from the case for the Eastern Triangle (east of North Bay).”

While the company wouldn’t elaborate on its concerns further, a spokeswoman for Enbridge, which provides natural gas to more than 2 million customers across Ontario, confirmed the meeting with city officials took place and said the company is in talks with TransCanada to try to ensure that the supply of natural gas coming into Ottawa remains uninterrupted. She also said the company is working to ensure that prices don’t rise as a result of constrained supply, should TransCanada’s plans be approved.

“We have a vested interest in and an obligation to ensuring that any potential natural gas supply constraints can be addressed in a way that is not at the expense of the natural gas market and ultimately our customers,” said Enbridge spokeswoman Chris Meyer in an emailed statement.

Meyer also said TransCanada may need to build a second pipeline along some parts of the Energy East route to handle transporting the natural gas that it plans to displace.

“While there is sufficient excess capacity on the mainline west of North Bay, a new line will have to be built to replace any capacity that is taken out from North Bay to Iroquois. Enbridge Gas wants to ensure that gas customers are not financially harmed by redeployment of utilized gas facilities to (carry) oil,” she said.

TransCanada denied any new construction would be necessary.

“We will not have to build a new pipeline. As we have previously said TransCanada will ensure that we continue to meet our firm natural gas contractual obligations,” said Philippe Cannon, a spokesman for TransCanada. “TransCanada will ensure that even after the conversion of a portion of its natural gas Mainline to oil service, its natural gas pipeline system will have sufficient capacity remaining to be able to transport the firm natural gas volumes that customers have contracted … to Eastern Canadian markets.”

Cannon said the Mainline is comprised of multiple natural gas pipelines running side-by-side and if excess demand were detected, TransCanada could simply re-route one of the existing lines to add more supply to homes in Ottawa.

The company claims the project will help reduce Eastern Canada’s dependence on imported oil, while offering Alberta oil companies better access to shipping ports where crude can be loaded onto oil tankers and sent overseas. TransCanada would like to see the crude oil flowing east as early as 2017. The company will release a study Tuesday morning that will explore the investment the firm is prepared to make and the economic impact that investment could have on provinces across the country.

Enbridge’s concerns raise more questions for TransCanada, which already faces opposition from environmental groups and questions from area politicians who want to know what role the company will play in the event of a possible pipe rupture and oil spill.

The City of Ottawa has said that since the pipelines TransCanada plans to use are already running on existing rights-of-way granted to the federal government years ago, there is little the municipality can do or say to oppose the proposed project.

Still, the pipeline retrofit still needs numerous approvals from various departments of the federal government, including the National Energy Board and Natural Resources Canada.

This fall, TransCanada plans to begin consulting Ottawa residents who live in or near areas through which the pipeline would pass.

[email protected]


© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen