Grand Rapids Oil Pipeline
|This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor.|
The pipeline runs from near Fort McMurray, Alberta, to Edmonton, Alberta.
- Operator: TransCanada (50%), PetroChina (50%, as Phoenix Energy Holdings)
- Capacity: 900,000 barrels per day
- Cost: US$3 billion
- Length: 460 km
- Status: Operating
- Start Year: 2017
In 2012, TransCanada and China Petroleum National Corporation's (PetroChina) subsidiary Phoneix Energy Holdings, renamed Brion Energy Corporation, established a 50/50 joint-venture company, Grand Rapids Pipeline GP Limited (Grand Rapids GP). The project is part of a $3 billion project to further tap into the Athabasca oil sand reserves Northwest of Fort McMurray and marks the first time a Chinese company will be taking part in the construction of an oil pipeline in Canada. The pipeline's proposed capacity is 900,000 barrels per day and is scheduled to be completed in 2017.
The entire project will consist of 500 kilometers of pipeline, 8 pumping stations, four tank farms, and two loading/unloading terminals. In addition to the oil pipeline, a parallel pipeline will also be constructed for the transportation of diluent. Because the tar sands oil cannot be transported in its regular state, it is mixed with diluent which will be added at Fort McMurray and separated at the Edmonton terminal. It is then transported back north via pipeline to Fort McMurray to begin the process again.
In 2014, the Grand Rapids Pipeline project was approved by the by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER). The main issues brought up in the hearings on the pipeline were landowner impacts, safety, and routing. After consideration, the regulator approved of the project's application as submitted except for the construction of a storage facility at the Seleski terminal due to a lack of evidence of sufficient need.
The pipeline was commissioned in August 2017.
Opposition and Controversy
Canada's First Nations have declared the Grand Rapids pipeline "the mother of all pipelines" due to its crucial role in linking tar sands oil to the major pipeline system of Canada, stirring intense opposition from First Nations. First Nations have declared that other projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline and Energy East pipeline require the construction of the Grand Rapids line, although TransCanada says this untrue. Because the pipeline crosses 56 waterways, including major rivers such as the Athabasca and Saskatchewan rivers, a spill could lead to an environmental and social disaster for First Nations in the area and downstream.
In 2014, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation withdrew from the regulatory hearing on the Grand Rapids Pipeline, but conveyed that they would find other routes to oppose the pipeline's construction. The ACFN, as well as concerned landowners, claimed that the hearings held by the AER were being rushed and were significantly skewed in favor of the oil industry.
The hearing over the Grand Rapids Pipeline was the first one by the AER (Alberta Energy Regulator), which replaced the Energy Resources Conservation. Not only did the AER give very little preparation time to gather evidence of the pipeline project's potential negative impacts, it only gave the First Nation band a single day to review TransCanada's environmental assessment during the hearing. Additionally, ACFN requested an 18 month adjournment to properly and fairly review the evidence and the environmental assessment by TransCanada, but were ultimately denied. The ACFN subsequently felt the trial was too flawed and that TransCanada was not acting in good faith, forcing the First Nation band to withdraw.
In 2015, the ACFN sued the province of Alberta after its government declared that the affected First Nations in the area didn't have the right to be consulted even though construction of the pipeline was taking place on their land. The lawsuit stems from the failure of TransCanada and Brion Energy to consult with First Nations on the effects of the pipeline. The ACO (Aboriginal Consultation Office), which was created alongside the AER, told the companies that they were not lawfully obligated to consult with the First Nations despite the fact that the pipeline was to be constructed on traditional lands. The ACO decides whether or not companies must consult with First Nations if it is evident that construction will hinder indigenous traditional rights.
In late 2016, the ACFN moved ahead with its lawsuit against the state for allowing the construction of the pipeline without proper consultation of the First Nation band. Additionally, court documents filed during the case further demonstrated the Albertan province's flawed and rushed regulatory process. The court documents reflected the validity of the ACFN's claims that political and industrial pressure lead to the accelerated approval of the Grand Rapids Pipeline. Multiple email discussions from various staffers at the AER conveyed experiences of significant pressure from TransCanada, even "bullying" by the company, while others spoke of the pipeline's "particular interest to ministers and senior officials" of Alberta and the regulator.
Articles and resources
- Grand Rapids Pipeline System, TransCanada, accessed February 2019
- Grand Rapids Oil Pipeline, Alberta Govt, accessed September 2017
- Asset Data, IJGlobal, accessed Aug. 27, 2020
- Athabasca Oil Corporation Announces Receipt of $139 Million from Brion Energy Corporation, Market Wired, accessed September 2017
- TransCanada and Phoenix prepare Grand Rapids Pipeline execution, 2b 1st Consulting, accessed September 2017
- TransCanada’s 460-Km Grand Rapids Pipeline Project Approved, North American Oil & Gas Pipelines, accessed September 2017
- Grand Rapids Pipeline, TransCanada, accessed September 2017
- Grand Rapids Pipeline GP Ltd. Applications for the Grand Rapids Pipeline Project , Alberta Energy Regulator, October 9, 2014
- Grand Rapids pipeline approved by Alberta Energy Regulator, CBC News, October 10, 2014
- Andy Rowell, "Canada’s First Nations Oppose “Mother of All Pipelines”", July 16, 2014
- Lauren Krugel, First Nation Pulls Out of Hearings into Grand Rapids Oil Sands Pipeline, The Canadian Press, July 16, 2016
- Audrea Lim, Canada "First Nations fight 'broken' system for green lighting oil projects", Al Jazeera America,July 1, 2015
- First "Nation sues over input on pipeline", Chronicle Herald, January 15, 2015
- Alberta First Nation revives pipeline lawsuit, Global News, September 19,2016
- Bob Weber, First Nation Says Court Papers Show Political Pressure Rushed Pipeline Approval, Calgary Herald, September 28, 2016