Kinder Morgan's proposal to twin its Trans Mountain oil sands pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby through Abbotsford just got a lot bigger.
The company announced Thursday that an increased demand from customers led to a 20 per cent increase in the proposed expansion capacity from 750,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 890,000 bpd.
The cost of the project also rose from $4.3 billion to $5.4 billion.
"We continue to grow and this is a very exciting day for us and we think an exciting day for the industry and Canadians," said Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson in a conference call Thursday.
The original expansion project announced early in 2012 called for a doubling of capacity of the 60-year-old, 1,150-kilometre pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby to 600,000 bpd.
This quickly rose to 850,000 bpd but was later downgraded to 750,000 bpd.
The pipeline is becoming an issue locally as the oil transport company wants to expand its capacity by doubling its existing pipeline that traverses the Fraser Valley, including Sumas Mountain, Auguston the Mckee Road area and rural lowlands and urban areas in Abbotsford.
The issue of oil transportation gained local awareness in January when a Kinder Morgan storage container at the company's Sumas Mountain 'tank farm' failed and spilled 110,000 litres of oil into a catchment area.
Strong odours lingered through the day forcing Auguston Elementary to keep its students indoors, while several residents complained of headaches and nausea.
Anderson didn't want to speculate if the project could expand even further, particularly if Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline proposal was withdrawn down the road.
"We don't have any plans currently for any change in project scope," he said.
The increase announced Thursday was the result of firm customer commitments increasing from 508,000 bpd to 708,000 bpd.
"We are very pleased with the response from our customers," Anderson said.
In a press release, the company took the somewhat unusual step of listing the 13 companies that have signed long-term contracts for the expanded pipeline.
They include: BP Canada Energy Trading Company, Canadian Natural Resources, Canadian Oil Sands Limited, Cenovus Energy Inc., Devon Canada Corporation, Husky Energy Marketing Inc., Imperial Oil Limited, Nexen Marketing Inc., Statoil Canada Ltd., Suncor Energy Marketing Inc., Suncor Energy Products Partnership, Tesoro Refining & Marketing Company and Total E&P Canada Ltd.
Trans Mountain expects to file a facilities application with the National Energy Board (NEB) in late 2013, for authorization to build and operate the necessary facilities for the proposed expansion.
That application will include the environmental, socio-economic, Aboriginal engagement, landowner and public consultation and engineering components and initiate a comprehensive regulatory and public review process.
If approved, the project would be operational by 2017.
Opponents say the project will increase the risk of a tar sands oil spill that could affect local aquifers, and increase the number of supertankers coming in and out of the Vancouver's Burrard Inlet, which could further risk ocean ecosystems and local businesses.
Sheila Muxlow with the Fraser Valley's anti-pipeline group PIPE UP said Thursday that the announcement spurred a renewed call out to those opposed to oil sands pipelines.
"This is all the more reason for us to be advancing our work and strategy to stop the building of this new tar sands pipeline," Muxlow said in an email.
- with files from Christina Toth.