Strong interest from shippers has convinced Kinder Morgan Canada to embark on an even bigger expansion of its Trans Mountain Pipeline through B.C. than previously suggested.
The line that crosses the Lower Mainland and sends oil for export on tankers through Burrard Inlet will be nearly tripled from 300,000 barrels per day now to 850,000, pending regulatory approval.
Kinder Morgan had previously said it was considering an increase to between 600,000 and 700,000 barrels per day.
Spokesman Andrew Galarnyk confirmed the $5-billion project to increase pipeline capacity would mean more outbound tankers filling up at Burnaby's Westridge Marine Terminal.
"We're thinking it will be somewhere between 25 and 30 per month," he said.
Galarnyk said that estimate – up to 360 tankers per year visiting Burrard Inlet – is based on continued use of the current Aframax size tankers, not much larger Suezmax tankers, which would require dredging of the Second Narrows.
Just 32 tankers loaded at Westridge last year and the highest number ever was 69 in 2010.
The terminal itself is to be expanded to two berths under the project, and Galarnyk said the export capacity there will be revised upward, from a previously suggested 450,000 barrels per day to probably 500,000 to 550,000.
Currently, around 80,0000 barrels per day are loaded.
"This strong commercial support shows the market's enthusiasm for expanding market access for Canadian crude by expanding an existing system," Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said in a statement.
The company plans 18 to 24 months of extensive public and community consultations ahead of a formal project application to the National Energy Board in 2014.
"We are still early in the engagement process of the project," Anderson said.
"We will also consider providing financial support to local communities for environmental initiatives," he said.
"We have been planning for this day for many years and we are keen to start in-depth engagement this summer."
Kinder Morgan aims to begin construction in 2016 and open the new line in 2017.
The company also promises traditional land use and environmental and socio-economic studies as part of the project review.
For more on the issues surrounding the plans to increase exports of oil via tanker, see the Black Press series Oil & Water.