Enbridge concedes pipeline expansion plans may face opposition

Wed May 8, 2013 12:43pm EDT
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By Scott Haggett and Bhaswati Mukhopadhyay

(Reuters) - Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO: Quote), Canada's largest pipeline company, said on Wednesday it is still hoping for speedy regulatory approval for a planned expansion of an oil pipeline to the United States despite the prolonged delays faced by the rival Keystone XL line.

The company, which said its first-quarter operating profit rose nearly a third, is seeking an amended presidential permit for its plan to double the size of its 400,000 barrel per day Alberta Clipper pipeline, which takes oil sands crude from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin.

Though the expansion scheduled to begin next year will be done through adding additional pumps and no new pipe is needed, Enbridge Chief Executive Al Monaco conceded the company's plan may soon face the same opposition from environmental groups that has delayed permitting of TransCanada Corp's (TRP.TO: Quote) Keystone XL line for more than four years.

"I won't deny that there will likely be some focus on it as well," Monaco said on a conference call.

"We'll obviously wait to see how it unfolds. We'll go through the process, as we normally do. We work closely with the (State Department) and we'll work through it as required."

Enbridge's pipelines carry the bulk of the 2.5 million barrels of oil Canada sends daily to the United States. The company is looking to expand its export system to accommodate a rapid rise in production from Alberta's tar sands and ease constraints that have lowered Canadian crude prices.

However the expansion of the oil sands is opposed by environmental groups concerned about rising greenhouse gas emissions in the northern Alberta region and who see blocking pipeline access as a way to discourage new projects.

While Keystone XL has been the focus of protests, Enbridge's plan could soon face opposition as well.   Continued...