The Real Reason Alberta Lacks Pipeline Capacity

The wine embargo is on. The rhetoric flies. Fingers point to the provincial NDP and the federal Liberals. Fair enough. That is what they agreed to when the formed a government. Interestingly, though, the lack of pipeline capacity can clearly be traced to the Provincial Conservatives under Ralph Klein’s leadership.

Let’s go back in time. I first started working in the McMurray area and on it’s Geology in about 1998. At that time, industry in the area was comparably modest. Suncor and Syncrude were the only big players in the area, with normally producing approximately 180,000 bbl/day of crude oil. At that time, licenses were already approved to double the output of both operations (Syncrude North Mine and Suncor Millenium projects). Also approved in the late nineties was CNRL Horizon, Suncor Aurora, Shell Muskeg and early in the 2000s what would become Esso Fort Hills. By the year 2000, approvals were in place to increase the area’s production by 10 fold!

Anyone involved back then will remember that McMurray heavy oil was below the radar of most environmental groups. There was very little controversy regarding the heavy oil, in fact, until the initiation of all of these projects (practically simultaneously) led to a hyperactive period of large-scale development throughout the McMurray area. One has to wonder why the Klein Tories failed to identify the need for a pipeline when they were approving these projects? And, it is my opinion that a pipeline project in 2003 would have passed without any of the controversy that has occurred today.

The long and short? The government has an important role to play in predicting infrastructure needs. And the Tories were simply too blinded by the money of the super projects to simply recognize what was right in front of them. What fools.