October 18, 2013 10:14 pm

Kinder Morgan: Pipeline highlights cultural differences between B.C. and Alberta


When Global News reporter Jas Johal first sat down with Ian Anderson, we asked a simple question: Do energy firms believe there’s a cultural difference between B.C. and Alberta?

“There’s no doubt there is a cultural difference,” says Ian Anderson, CEO of Kinder Morgan. “We are well aware of that.”

Acknowledging that cultural difference means Kinder Morgan has been on a charm offensive.

The company has been meeting residents across the province to gauge public sentiment.

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The company  wants to triple the capacity of its 60 year old pipeline, a difficult task in a polarized province with a strong environmental movement that’s already hammered another Alberta pipeline company; Enbridge.

Enbridge wants to build a pipeline from Edmonton to Kitimat but has faced a wall of opposition province wide.

“It would be naive to say that we haven’t watched with interest what they’ve experienced and the issues that they have faced,” says Anderson. “We’ve tried to learn from that. But I’m not sure I would approach our project any differently.”

What Enbridge’s problems taught Anderson was that his company had to be involved in tanker and marine safety questions, even though Kinder Morgan’s liability ended once a vessel is loaded.

“Kinder Morgan would love nothing more than to see Enbridge fail,” says Ben West of Forest Ethics. “They are trying to frame themselves as the better alternative to Enbridge. But is there the potential for some sort of horse trading? ‘How about this pipeline instead of that pipeline?’ — I am sure politicians are having conversations like that right now.”

The decision on whether Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline moves forward comes in December.

At the same time, Kinder Morgan is expected to submit its proposal to the National Energy Board.

The pipeline debate isn’t about to end, although the window to enter the lucrative Asian market is slowly closing, according to Anderson.

“We’ve got four to five years to figure this out, because we are not the only ones chasing that Chinese market. The Russians, the North Africans, the Saudis, the Venezuelans; they’re all trying to get their oil production into that market. They see it just as much as we do.”

Asia’s demand for oil is expected to double in the next decade, meaning if we say no to all pipelines it doesn’t necessarily mean crude won’t come to B.C.

Companies like Chevron are already using railcars and trucks to transport crude oil to their Burnaby refinery.

Up to 10 railcars a day bring in conventional light crude to the city, and four trucks a day bring in another thousand barrels of oil.

Chevron is forced to do so because the Trans Mountain pipeline — owned by Kinder Morgan — is at capacity.

“I would have said two or three years ago that rail is just a blip, and it’s time would pass – but I don’t think that anymore. It’s part of the fabric now,” says Anderson.

Anderson says he’s willing to speak to supporters and critics of Kinder Morgan.  Pipeline proponents say the decision should come down to what’s in Canada’s national interest, not just local concerns.

“I’ll challenge the assertion that Vancouver is being parochial,” says Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “We’re looking after our economy today, which is extremely successful — almost 30,000 jobs in tourism and people who come to Vancouver because it’s a beautiful place.”

Anderson says so far, Robertson has refused to meet with him to discuss the proposal.

“We will continue to try to meet – I am not trying to change his mind or convince him otherwise but I want to make sure that the facts he’s relying on to come to his conclusions are true and fairly represented,” says Anderson.

B.C.’s debate isn’t just about pipelines but whether we should be extracting and selling fossil fuels. Anderson says to get to that green future we need to allow energy firms flexibility.

“What better way to develop the technologies of tomorrow than off the riches of today. We’ve got that at our disposal, so let’s be the leaders in responsible resource development, so my that my son’s generation are using less fossil fuels.”

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