Incoming TC Energy CEO stresses importance of Keystone XL pipeline

Pipes intended for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline are shown in Gascoyne, N.D. on Wednesday April 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta

The incoming CEO of TC Energy Corp. says the pipeline, power and oil and gas storage company will adjust to pursue opportunities presented by the world’s energy transition but its conservative business strategy won’t change on his watch.

Chief operating officer Francois Poirier, who is also president for power and storage and Mexican operations, said investors shouldn’t expect big changes when he takes over as CEO from retiring longtime leader Russ Girling at the end of 2020.

“Some of you might be wondering whether TC Energy’s strategy will change going forward and my response is that our time-tested approach will continue,” he said at the company’s webcast annual investor day, committing to a formula that provides consistent shareholder returns.

“Looking forward, reliable, abundant, low-cost energy will be critical as people around the globe seek to enhance their standard of living. The real challenge will be to meet that need while prudently managing the associated environmental impacts including climate change.”

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TC Energy is pursuing $37 billion of commercially secured capital projects across North America, including $22 billion for handling natural gas in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, $13 billion in oil pipelines and $2 billion in power and storage.

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The list includes the under-construction Keystone XL expansion which faces the prospect of being shut down by Democratic president-elect Joe Biden if he carries through with an election campaign pledge.

Poirier said Keystone XL “continues to be a very important project for both Canada and the U.S.”

Earlier on Tuesday, TC Energy announced it has signed a deal to allow Natural Law Energy, which represents four First Nations in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan, to invest up to $1 billion in Keystone XL.

The investment is contingent on the group securing financing and is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021. The agreement also allows it to pursue interests in future projects.

The five First Nations include the Nekaneet First Nation in Saskatchewan and the Ermineskin Cree Nation, Montana First Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta.

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Premier Jason Kenney issued a statement after learning of the agreement between TC Energy and Natural Law Energy. He said it serves as a model of how to build “strong and trusted partnerships between industry and Indigenous groups for a safe, secure and prosperous energy future.”

“The partnership highlights the growing desire of Indigenous peoples to bring jobs and wealth into their communities through the responsible development of Canada’s energy resources,” Kenney said.

“These significant economic benefits will improve the lives and opportunities of many generations to come, while ensuring Indigenous people continue to have direct input into the continued care and respect of the land.”

In March, TC Energy approved spending US$8-billion to complete the Keystone XL project to transport up to 830,000 barrels per day of oil from Alberta to Nebraska.

The Alberta government has agreed to invest about US$1.1 billion (C$1.5 billion) as equity and guarantee a US$4.2-billion project loan.

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