Pipeline construction in the modern era, never an easy proposition, is especially fraught in a country like Canada, with challenging environmental and tribal considerations commanding attention. In this vein the expansion of Trans Mountain Pipeline, a government-owned oil pipeline no less from Alberta to the Pacific Coast could be delayed significantly if regulators do not approve a route alteration.
In a letter to the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) laying out the "worst-case" scenario, Trans Mountain Corporation (TMC) said being forced to continue with building a micro-tunnel on that part of the route could delay pipeline completion until December 2024 and add an extra C$86 million in cost.
The crown corporation said micro-tunneling construction is not feasible technically or economically.
TMC proposes instead to lay the pipeline through a different area nearby, using horizontal directional drilling and a conventional open trench. Yet this is opposed by the Stk'emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation (SSN) First Nation, an indigenous group whose territory the pipeline crosses. Indeed, the SSN First Nation said the lands TMC is proposing to disturb as part of the route deviation hold "profound spiritual and cultural significance."
Meanwhile the Canadian oil industry is eagerly anticipating the start-up of the pipeline, which will significantly increase Canada's ability to export crude to the west coast of the United States and Asia.