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Is Enbridge Building a Secret Keystone Pipeline?

While TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline gets scrutinized, Enbridge is quietly readying its own tar-sands carrying pipeline system

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Is Enbridge building its own version of the tar sands-carrying Keystone XL pipeline?

(Photo: Environmental Defence Canada/cc/flickr) InsideClimate News' Lisa Song reports on Monday that the Calgary-based energy giant is putting together plans for 5,000-mile pipeline network that would bring tar sands crude to the U.S., but, unlike TransCanada's Keystone XL, Enbridge's project has thus far escaped the same kind of debate.

The company's piecemeal approach—the expansion would include both new and existing pipelines—has allowed the project to move forward under the radar, Song reports.

Like TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, Enbridge's project would need State Department approval because it crosses the U.S./Canada border.

Al Monaco, Enbridge's CEO and president, laid out the company's expansion plans to shareholders at a meeting in Calgary last month.

In a press release from Enbridge dated May 8, 2013, the company wrote:

While reporting another year of strong corporate performance, Mr. Monaco said Enbridge is poised to connect growing energy supply with key North American markets by expanding its network of liquids pipelines infrastructure in the near future.

Existing pipeline bottlenecks, and the resulting Canadian crude oil discounts, "can be solved by a reconfiguration of the North American pipeline grid, where crude moves from inland markets to coastal markets - and Enbridge is right in the middle of this transformation," said Mr. Monaco.

Between now and 2016, Enbridge expects to roll out a series of major projects that will expand what is already the most complex crude oil pipeline system in the world - Enbridge's Eastern Access program to the U.S. Midwest and eastern Canada; the U.S. Gulf Coast Access program with 585,000 bpd of incremental capacity from the Chicago area; additional capacity to the U.S. Midwest and eastern Canada as part of the Light Oil Access initiative; and development of the Eastern Gulf project from the U.S. Midwest to the eastern Gulf Coast.

A key part of this secretive pipeline push is the company's Alberta Clipper pipeline, Song reports.  Enbridge describes the Alberta Clipper as a 1,000-mile crude oil pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta, and Superior, Wisconsin, and, while its current capacity is 450,000 barrels per day, it has an "ultimate capacity of up to 800,000 barrels per day."

This amount, Song points out, is "larger than the Keystone XL's proposed daily capacity of 830,000 barrels."

Enbridge was dealt a blow on Friday when the government of British Columbia formally rejected its proposed  Northern Gateway pipeline.  

The company is also still mired in its disastrous tar sands spill in Michigan's Kalamazoo River three years ago, a spill, the National Transportation Safety Board reported, that happened after the company ignored warning signs for five years.

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