‘Moving Canadian oil to market’: The experts weigh in

Some respected minds in the energy world got together last week to discuss issues around moving Canadian oil to market. A panel of experts from academia and industry gave presentations during a University of Calgary event on a broad range of market-access topics including safety, the Canadian economy and improving the social license of the pipeline industry.

If you couldn’t make the U of C event, this post provides some key takeaways from some of the experts (as well as links to their full presentations).

Backgrounder: Here’s a refresher on the market-access issue. This explains why we need to expand Canada’s pipeline infrastructure in order to reach new markets for our oil and gas products.


The topic: “How safe are pipelines?”

The expert: Diana Furchtgott-Ruth, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute (Washington, D.C.)

Post-event quotation:  A few days after the panel presentation, Furchtgott-Ruth wrote an editorial about the event on The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch website. Here’s a quotation from that article:

“To block Keystone, environmentalists assert that pipelines are unsafe. All production carries an element of risk. But the (U.S.) State Department’s latest report on Keystone, issued in January, concludes that pipeline is safer than rail. The report says that shipping an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day by rail instead of by pipeline would cause ‘a potential additional 49 injuries and six fatalities for rail alternative compared to one additional injury and no additional fatality for [Keystone] on a yearly basis.’ ”

View Furchtgott-Ruth’s presentation


The topic: “The economic dimension”

The expert: Robert Mansell, academic director at the School of Public Policy, University of Calgary 

Key points: Here is how Mansell summarized his argument on the need for improved market access for Canadian oil:

Mansell, Key points

Look at Mansell’s presentation


The topic: The challenges and benefits

Our expert: Jim Donihee, CEPA’s chief operating officer

Our message: Donihee’s presentation addressed the challenges Canada’s pipeline industry faces in trying to expand the country’s energy infrastructure in order to reach new and critical markets. Those challenges include a lack of public trust, constructive dialogue and public energy literacy. Here’s how he proposed the industry confront those challenges:

Social License

“CEPA is firmly committed to continued performance,” said Donihee after the event. “That performance already gives cause for Canadians to be proud, and we are constantly striving to make it even better yet.”

View Donihee’s full presentation


The topic: Northern Gateway Pipeline

The expert: John Carruthers, president, Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline

His message: Carruthers gave an overview of the Northern Gateway Pipeline project (which could improve access to market such as Asia) and explained how the Joint Review Panel decided to recommend the project for approval. A section of his presentation we found interesting was on the steps the company would be taking to protect the environment from a spill (the points below are taken from one of Carruthers’ slides):

 How would the environment be protected from a pipeline spill?

  • Thick-walled pipe, shorter intervals between isolation valves, 50 per cent more in-line inspection and complementary leak detection systems
  • Tunnels through two mountains to avoid potential geohazards
  • Pumping stations staffed continuously “24/7”
  • Required to provide financial assurances totaling $950 million
  • Trenchless crossings (drilling) under many fish-bearing rivers

Check out Carruthers’ whole presentation

Why does market access matter?

Without better market access for our energy products, Canadians could lose more than $1 trillion in GDP over the next 25 years, and that has very real implications on our every day lives. The safe operations of pipelines also impacts our every day lives, and we all need to care about that too.

“Market access is critical to the continued development and prosperity of Canada,” said Donihee this week. “There are tremendous stakes in play for Canadians and given clear attention to the critical considerations of responsible development, we need to find a way to transport our energy to alternate markets.”

Note: Jarrett Zielinski, president and CEO of TORQ Energy Logistics Ltd., gave a presentation comparing oil transportation by train and by pipeline. Take a look at his presentation here.


The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.