September 30, 2010 / 10:19 PM / in 7 years

Mackenzie pipeline decision delayed: regulator

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - A final decision on whether the C$16.2 billion ($15.7 billion) Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline in Canada’s Far North can go ahead has been postponed for a month or more, the National Energy Board said on Thursday, another delay in a project already years behind schedule.

The board, which regulates interprovincial energy projects, had expected to release its decision on the project in September. However it is still waiting for the federal government to respond to a report from the Joint Review Panel that examined the line’s impact on the environment and the communities along the pipeline’s route.

The JRP’s report and the government’s response will be part of the regulator’s final report on the line, and it will take the energy board more time to finalize the decision once all the needed information is in hand.

“Once we get that final (information) it will take about a month more,” said Sarah Kiley, a spokeswoman for the board. She said it will now be at least November before a decision is released.

It’s just the latest delay for the project, which has been designed to carry about 1.1 billion cubic feet of gas per day from the Mackenzie Delta in Canada’s Arctic to southern markets.

When the Mackenzie partners, led by Imperial Oil Ltd, filed their applications with the board in 2004, project start-up was planned for 2009.

It was last estimated to be in service by 2018 at the earliest.

The other Mackenzie partners are Royal Dutch Shell Plc, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp and the Aboriginal Pipeline Group.

($1=$1.03 Canadian)

Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Peter Galloway

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