Northern Gateway: Business hails pipeline potential

The multibillion-dollar Northern Gateway project is an opportunity to generate massive revenues, develop innovative technologies, create jobs, and forge economic partnerships with First Nations at a time when global energy markets are expanding, say industry officials.

Being able to get full value for Canada’s natural resources on the open market is “extremely important and helps to pay a lot of the bills that we hold near and dear, whether it is infrastructure or health care,” John Winter, B.C. Chamber of Commerce, said from Vancouver Tuesday.

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Millions of dollars would flow through federal coffers to B.C. in transfer payments and other funding, he said. Spinoffs would include new businesses and new secondary industries.

Federal approval comes with 209 conditions and B.C. has imposed five of its own. “There has never been a project that has gone through the extensive review that this has,” Winter said.

Business Council of B.C. president Greg D’Avignon said if Canada doesn’t send oil to fuel-hungry China, other countries, such as Kazakhstan or Iraq, will. Asia has three billion new middle-class consumers, he said.

“They are growing exponentially in Asia and South Asia. We’ve got the ability to apply Canadian innovation and sustainability practices and export those around the world in a way that really makes a difference.”

Russia recently concluded a long-term agreement to bring natural gas to China, now seeking more energy sources, D’Avignon said. “Canada has to be one of those countries to supply it.”

The Northern Gateway project approval comes as Canada’s only oil customer, the U.S., is talking about becoming self-sufficient in oil, he said.

This project would see Canada further invest in technology and energy solutions to mitigate and minimize climate change, he said.

Northern Gateway is a “unique opportunity to reconcile with First Nations and truly have them as partners in the Canadian economy going forward, both economically but also in terms of sustainability on the land base,” D’Avignon said.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers called the federal decision positive. “The decision is another important step for Canada to access global markets and world prices, and earn full value for our oil resource,” said association vice-president Greg Stringham.

“While more work needs to be done to achieve this goal, significant progress has been made, including work by the federal and B.C. governments and industry, to ensure world-class land and marine safety systems.”

Jonathan Whitworth, Seaspan Marine CEO, compared the potential 300 to 400 tankers that could come out of B.C. annually to the 8,000 tankers that call on Rotterdam in the Netherlands and the 22,000 tankers that arrive in Singapore every year. “I’m feeling comfortable that, with the right regulations and with the right foresight, that oil transportation in B.C. can be done safely.”

B.C. Construction Association president Manley McLachlan said, “We are always supportive and excited when major projects like this clear the pathways to get them started. … We have faith in the review process, and the conditions that are in place are rather stringent.”

Technologies are emerging daily in areas such as risk mitigation and spill clean up, he said.

Fraser Ramsay, vice-president of Sidney’s Ramsay Group, a metal fabricator, said it could bid on marine-steel construction related to the project. The family business has 50 employees and additional work could help keep tradespeople in the region, he said.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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