by George “Mexico” Pantazopoulos
The Provincial government is being pressured by both the Bloc and Parti Quebecois after Enbridge Inc, a Calgary based oil company proposed a trailbreaker project that would cause the reversal of major pipelines that send crude oil to Portland through Montreals east-end refineries.
A reversal in the direction in which the pipelines run would mark a shift in the kind of crude oil that the Montreal refineries would carry as well as spell an end to a 70 year tradition of light Alberta crude oil passing through Montreal en route to Portland. The original pipelines were built in 1941 in order to provide Montreal industries with a steady stream of oil during World War Two when German U-boats occupied the Gulf of the St. Laurence river.
Within the twenty years of the first 12-inch pipeline installation came an 18-inch extension and finally a 24-inch pipe laid down totaling three pipelines heading toward Montreal’s six refineries. The six Montreal refineries received a great deal of use over the years and these major pipelines from Portland helped bolster Montreal’s economy and allow it to grow independently of Alberta.
However, with hard times falling on the economy, four of the six refineries have been forced to close and a fifth refinery, owned by Shell Canada, is planned to close down this summer.
With Enbridge’s trailbreaker project, Montreal would see a reversal of its 18-inch pipeline that would have bitumen crude oil sent from Alberta exported through Montreal to Portland as opposed to importing the light crude oil from Portland. The proposed plan has been met with significant criticism from both the Parti and Bloc Quebecois who are cautioning Montreal against becoming a middle point in the conveying of oil to Portland on environmental grounds.
The political parties are citing environmental concerns as a reason to put these plans on hold. Those in opposition of the pipelines reversal question whether or not the 60 year-old pipes have the capacity to effectively move the heavier bitumen crude without risk of leakage.
While those backing the project ensure the public that the pipeline has the capacity to handle the heavier crude, the truth is that the refineries themselves are too small and designed specifically for lighter crude to be able to process the heavier bitumen that would make its way to the city.
Andre Plourde, a University of Alberta professor stated that Montreal has been the loser in this deal because the cities refineries have been deemed too small and too outdated to warrant the refineries continued production.
It is for these reasons that the provincial government is lobbying for a change in the proposed traibreaker project as moving forward with the plan would effectively spell the end to an era of economic growth and evolution due to Montreal’s refineries.