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COMMENTARY · 22nd December 2011
Merv Ritchie
The plan is to build an oil pipeline to the harbour at Kitimat in Douglas Channel. Then the follow up plan is to navigate the largest tankers sailing the oceans today up Douglas Channel to take the oil produced in Alberta to Asia and other foreign locations.

This same proposal was made 35 years ago by the Kitimat Pipeline Company but it was to import fuel, not export. After much protesting by the fledgling Greenpeace movement and after the local political leaders and the proponents aboard a cruise ship rammed and sunk a Greenpeace zodiac, the proposal was cancelled.

Read about this incident here.

One must imagine this proposal wouldn’t be repeated without an alternative plan.

There are likely at least two different games being played here involving diversion and alternatives. No one should assume Enbridge and the oil producing companies have only one plan to export the product.

If one were to take a step backwards and imagine themselves as an executive of the Alberta Oil/Tar sands production considering how they might export the product we could address this topic properly. First the history of First Nations and British Columbian protesters would have to be high on the list of awareness. As executives we might consider finding a way to use this to our advantage. It would be very easy to stir up controversy and create a frenzied panic among British Columbians. And we could use this to our advantage.

Second we would need to find a couple routes where we wish to construct the pipeline along with a harbour to construct the terminal. An executive wishing to move this project forward would know exposing the best plan would be foolhardy.

The best terminal is one that has been looked at for many decades, the Bradfield Canal location in Alaska. At the eastern end is a location referred to as Tyee Lake and it is this location where the South East Alaskans are preparing to construct a major power transmission corridor to tie into the Bob Quinn station. Read details on this proposal here.

A few things make this an attractive location and the route has been studied and is almost completely prepared.

The Americans have also been planning to build a new highway out of SE Alaska and the Bradfield route is called the “Ultimate” with available deep water ports for ferry connections. From this Canal open water is a clear unobstructed path.

The Northwest Transmission line needs to have a further connection to the main BC transmission grid as the substation and currently planned size of the connections between Terrace and Bob Quinn is far too small to handle the increased capacity available from SE Alaska.

The BC Liberal party has recently engaged in discussions regarding the rail corridor to the Klappan region. Some have suggested this should be completed to facilitate the mining plans of Fortune Minerals. The rail line had been in use for many years and is almost a straight line from the nose of the Skeena River; where the Sustat River enters the Skeena, along the east side of Takla Lake to Prince George. From this point there is a trail already in use, across the Skeena River, running northwest directly to the Bell Irving River just south of Bob Quinn.

There has been much talk of creating an energy corridor. SE Alaska has an almost unlimited supply of clean green electricity without a high capacity grid connection to sell or fully utilize it. The Bradfield Canal is a deep water port. The mines proposed for the northwest need the power from Alaska to run their high demand electric shovels and drills. Without Alaska’s power and the full BC grid intertie there would be constant fluctuations in power with the associated brown outs when large equipment starts up. The mines also need the deep water port for shipping out their products. This would also be an ideal location for the Enbridge pipeline to be directed.

The First Nations territory then would be primarily Gitxsan and Tahltan, after exiting the Carrier Lands. Recently a Gitxsan Chief, purporting to represent all Gitxsan, signed a document supporting Enbridge. The Tahlan have also supported many large industrial projects such as the new Forest Kerr Hydro Electric project currently being built on the Iskut River part way in between the Bradfield Canal and the Bob Quinn substation at the terminus of the new Northwest Transmission Line.

With a rail bed already in place for most of the route a new transmission grid and the construction/installation of a pipeline would be an easy fit. The USA government would also not restrict tankers as they already sail these waters. A new highway might even be considered as this is already part of the Alaskans plans. Read more here. Update: This link no longer works try;

This links to a Google cached image of the page. Copy and paste the entire address. A capture of these details is attached below.

With this in mind one might wonder if the proposal for Kitimat and Douglas Channel wasn’t simple a tactic to exhaust protesters. After venting and protesting for years the Bradfield Canal might be seen as an acceptable alternative. And maybe this was the original plan all along. Just looking at the difficult passage out of Douglas Channel, the 90 degree turns required and the narrow passages, the operators of these, the largest tankers in the world, might even protest themselves.

But no one puts all their eggs in one basket, the Oil/Tar Sands product needs to be shipped. Therefore they also have the XL pipeline south to Texas in their back pocket however this is also facing opposition.

As a corporate executive, one must consider all options and there is another one and it may be the cleverest.

Build a pipeline to carry a different product thereby avoiding or creating hostile opposition.

One year ago the Haisla people accepted a pipeline to be built to carry Natural gas. They accepted a $50 million dollar payout to forego their interests in the pipeline. They no longer have a say in what happens and the pipeline is now being built.

There is nothing to stop the content of this pipeline from changing; it is done all the time. Encana is now a partner with the owner of the pipe, Apache. Encana’s former corporate makeup included owning portions of the Northern Alberta Tar/Oil Sands.

Read a press release about Encana joining with Apache here.

Once the pipeline is constructed, if the natural Gas and Fracking systems are deemed unacceptable or the market collapses, this newly constructed pipeline can be switched to carry oil. It might be done regardless of the natural gas situation.

Read about a conversion from gas to crude oil this year here.

No one is out protesting the construction of the gas pipeline but it is no different than an oil pipeline.

As a political play, diversions and distractions, this play might be one of the best. The options are numerous. While the protesters focus on and demand this one project be stopped the real action is already in the works elsewhere. Is it a Shell game?

Northwest BC is where the real action is; a major power line, a new harbour, a new rail line, a new highway, pipelines, natural gas operations, coal, copper, moly and gold mines. Standing on the shores of Douglas Channel in Kitamaat Village protesting against one concept is the best diversion yet.
A longer route but a better plan?
A longer route but a better plan?
The Alaska Canada Energy Coalition has identified 3000 MW of potential power and are encouraging a larger line capacity for the NTL
The Alaska Canada Energy Coalition has identified 3000 MW of potential power and are encouraging a larger line capacity for the NTL
The Bradfield Canal port along with the highways and powerline plans detailed
The Bradfield Canal port along with the highways and powerline plans detailed
reply to "reply to reply"
Comment by CB on 30th December 2011
There was a proposal years back for the route you are reporting on. The route would start on the existing Eskay Ck. mine road and continue down the Iskut river where it would then head south tunneling through a very rugged section of rock and ice to join the Bradfield watershed. The original intent was so that the americans could construct a deep water port for both acces to Wrangell and an Ore exporting facility. The original plan was not favoured by our government or the people of the northwest. The construction would adversely affect the use and potential use of the Stewart facility. As for the power production, I find it very hard to believe that we cannot produce enough required power within our own borders in the northwest.
Anything is possible
Comment by Chris Gee on 28th December 2011
1) Merv's mention of the pipeline companies' ability to change the product carried in their pipes is unnerving. When we consider the projected value of fresh water in 25 years the long term planning of pipeline companies takes shape. Certainly, strategists for pipeline companies project far into the future and all rational projections reveal a diminishing production and utilization of oil in a 50 year projection. We can live without oil but not without water.
2) Karen's suspicions around Shell's purchase of Methanex may prove well founded given the moratorium on CBM drilling in the Sacred Headwaters ends in 2012.
3) I wish I could believe that the "apparent" bungling seen with the Enbridge/Derrick pay off was representative of the level of strategics these multinationals are capable of but sadly I know better.
Reply to reply
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 26th December 2011
I completely understand you have not heard a whisper. After a previous article, (the one linked in this article from Dec 2010 on the power connection to Alaska study) I rec'd a call from a senior Regional District Kitimat Stikine Director asking me for the sources. Most people, even those who should know, are not told ahead of time. Though if you take the time to look you will find everything.

As for the power, you just have to follow the links we have provided.

Go to to read more about the 3000MW of Alaskan power available.

As for logistics? Are you suggesting we cannot build a pipeline and a power line anywhere we want?
Reply to Really.
Comment by CB on 26th December 2011
I agree. Do you even know what the magnitude and logistics of what you are stating? The power statement is also completely bogus. I've worked on many projects in the area mentioned over the years including the ones you have mentioned and currently work in the area often. I have never even heard so much as a whisper of what you are stating.
Is Shell pulling the wool over our eyes?
Comment by Karen Dedosenco on 24th December 2011
When I heard Royal Dutch Shell bought the Methanex Port, I was immediately suspicious. There is already an approved LNG line ready to start construction, so why would Shell put out billions for another line when they could pay Apache/ EOG to transport natural gas?

These guys are in the business of making money by preying on our addiction for these resources. They are not in business to please us, to ensure our homes stay warm or to make sure we get to work.

The oil and gas industry, IMO, will do whatever it takes to please their shareholders - including pulling the wool over our eyes. After all, B.C. is one place where you can screw the people and end up with a lucrative and prestigious government position - when you really should be in prison.

Royal Dutch Shell could get approval for an LNG line much easier than for an oil pipeline. If, in the future, they showed that natural gas markets dwindled or that there was an excess of natural gas leaving this port some sympathetic government would allow them to transport bitumen instead. Can you imagine their profits if the Northern Gateway didn't get built?! We have got to stop being so gullible people!
I would hope
Comment by Lloyd on 23rd December 2011
I would hope that the environmental studies and safety would be assessed differently with changing commodites.
thank you for your insight
Comment by ernie wilson on 23rd December 2011
I am amazed by the well researched in-depth reporting done time after time, in my region the reporters just regurgitate corporate & government press releases, well done. I applaud your work my friend please keep it up. There's a lot of folks hungry for something other than the corporate spin.
The evidence is there to find if you look.
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 22nd December 2011
What part of this requires more elucidation? Did you follow the links?

Shipping oil in a gas pipeline? This is done all the time, change of product and direction.

In Political Science they call diversionary tactics, Political Theory. The politicians are taught how to set up a scenario which will get the general public to demand they do exactly what the politicians wanted to do all along.

First they need to assess how the public will react. In the case of Douglas Channel and oil, this was a well known outcome. Nothing much happens that isn't predetermined. It is all in how the game is played. We cannot be certain of the result, no one can be, but this article addresses some possible outcomes.

Personally I put money on the gas pipeline running oil. According to one source there is not nearly enough power capacity in Kitimat to run the compressors to liquefy the natural gas for shipping. The whole LNG plan could be a farce. The complete grid would need to be changed and massively upgraded. One writer suggest they require 1600MW, 1.5 times the site C project. Where is this power going to come from?

As for the stuff we can think of . . . you should see what we don't write!
Comment by Larry Thompson on 22nd December 2011
Oh my god! I can't believe the stuff you can think of. Give your head a shake.