June 11 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said he’s confident the country’s oil industry will have access to new pipeline capacity by the end of this decade.
A period of four to six years is consistent with a “medium-term” timeframe for other major energy projects in North America, Rickford said in an interview in New York, where he was attending the Goldman Sachs North American Energy Summit. Proposed projects include TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL and Energy East conduits, Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway and the expansion of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP’s Trans Mountain line.
There are “some fairly safe bets that some of these projects will come to fruition” between 2018 and 2020, Rickford said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has made building new energy infrastructure a national priority as the country’s oil industry seeks to overcome bottlenecks while boosting production from Alberta’s oil sands.
Those efforts have run into opposition in both Canada and the U.S.
President Barack Obama said in April he was delaying a decision on the Keystone project, which would transport Canadian oil to Gulf Coast refineries, extending a review now in its sixth year.
Rickford said there’s a compelling case for Keystone on both environmental and economic grounds, and said public opinion in the U.S. backs the project. He cited the State Department’s final Environmental Impact Statement released in January that concluded the pipeline’s construction would have no significant impact on the environment.
“I think we can make very good representations that we have a responsible approach to resource development and that on pipelines it is a safe way to transport energy products,” Rickford said. “The proof is in the pudding by virtue of the state department reports that are there for all of us to consider.”
Enbridge also faces local opposition to its Northern Gateway pipeline to transport crude from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific Coast across British Columbia.
Harper’s cabinet must decide by June 17 whether to permit the pipeline. A regulatory panel in December recommended the Canadian government approve the line, subject to 209 conditions. Rickford declined to comment on the Gateway decision.
“We’ve taken a report that they have submitted that includes 209 conditions,” Rickford said, adding the government can approve, reject or add conditions to the proposal. “We’re making careful considerations of that.”
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