CALGARY, A.B. – Enbridge Inc. is proposing a fundamental change in how it assigns space on its Mainline pipeline system that will allow up to 90 percent of its capacity to be reserved for priority customers.
The 2.85-million-barrel-per-day network of pipelines, the largest export option for Western Canadian producers, operates as a common carrier, where customers nominate the volume of crude they would like to ship each month.
Those nominations have exceeded the volume available for much of 2018, leading to “apportioning” or cutbacks in all shipments, which have angered many producers.
Oilsands giant Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has charged the system is a leading cause of the current “dysfunctional” oil market in Western Canada, where a lack of pipeline export space as production rises is blamed for recent steep discounts in oil prices.
“We’re seeing pretty good interest in this concept around priority access,” said Enbridge CEO Al Monaco on a webcast from the company’s investor day in New York on Tuesday, adding negotiations with shippers have started in advance of a July 2021 expiry of the current agreement.
He said shippers and Enbridge will both get toll and volume certainty if the new system is adopted.
“And that’s part of this discussion. That the shippers will have an interest, we will have some interest, and it’s up to us to line those up,” he said.
Enbridge plans to hold an open season to gauge shipper interest early next year and file an application with the National Energy Board to make the change, Guy Jarvis, president of liquids pipelines, said.
He added he doesn’t think the regulator will deny permission because it allowed the Trans Mountain system, now owned by the federal government, to make the same switch from common carriage to a hybrid contract-spot shipper system.
Enbridge reported moving a record volume of 2.785 million bpd from Canada to U.S. in November and said it remains focused on finding incremental ways to increase capacity.
Its Line 3 expansion project is expected to add 370,000 bpd to take the Mainline system to 3.225 million bpd capacity when it starts up in late 2019.
The company estimates that oilsands production is about 450,000 bpd above local refining and pipeline capacity and forecasts that as much as 600,000 bpd in new output could be added by 2025.
Enbridge announced $1.8 billion in new investments on Tuesday, including the $265-million purchase of pipeline and terminal assets in northern Alberta from oilsands producer Athabasca Oil Corp.
The Calgary-based pipeline, utility and power company said it will also spend US$600 million to buy a 22.75 percent interest in the Gray Oak Liquids Pipeline, which is under construction and expected to deliver light crude oil to Corpus Christi, Texas, starting in late 2019.
That project is expected to help supply an offshore shipping port in the Gulf of Mexico proposed by Enbridge with partners Kinder Morgan Inc. and Germany-based Oiltanking GmbH, the company revealed.
Enbridge also committed about $800 million in spending on four natural gas transmission expansion projects in the United States that are to come into service in the 2020-23 time frame.
The company said it will raise its dividend by 10 percent for next year and anticipates another 10 percent increase in its dividend for 2020.
(THE CANADIAN PRESS)