Irving Oil signalled its plans to build the Canaport Energy East Marine Terminal at its refinery mere hours after TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) announced it would proceed with the Energy East Pipeline, an ambitious $12-billion project.
The private New Brunswick company, which has mused about the possibility of constructing such a facility in past months, said their decision to go ahead with the terminal was the result of the deep private sector interest in the west-to-east pipeline project.
"We believe the marine terminal is really just the first of many investments, not just for Irving Oil, but for many companies to take advantage of the fact that we're bringing a whole new industry into Saint John which is crude oil export," said Irving Oil president Paul Browning.
Browning said he expects engineering and design work would begin in 2015 to coincide with developments of the Energy East Pipeline, which still requires environmental approval, and the terminal would employ up to 50 people once it's running.
The announcement of a new terminal comes four years after Irving Oil and BP shelved plans for an $8-billion second refinery in Saint John, citing weakened demand for refined fuel products over the next few decades.
Browning wouldn't say how much oil Irving would purchase from the west-to-east pipeline for refining, adding that it was also too soon to say whether it could mean an expansion for the refinery, the country's largest. He also said it was too early to say if the pipeline could lead to lower gasoline prices for Eastern Canada.
Still, the news was welcomed from local, provincial and federal politicians alike.
"New Brunswick is poised to become the energy powerhouse of North America with Saint John as the anchor of that powerhouse," said Premier David Alward.
Saint John Mayor Mel Norton called the new export terminal "just the tip of the iceberg" for investment that he says will come to his city as a result.
Rob Moore, the federal minister for New Brunswick, said while Ottawa supports the pipeline proposal, it will ensure the environment is protected.
"We only allow projects to proceed that are safe for Canadians and safe for the environment," he said.
The Assembly of First Nations' Chiefs in New Brunswick struck a different tone, saying it would not support the west-to-east pipeline until environmental protection and aboriginal and treaty rights were guaranteed.
"Then the chiefs will want to discuss revenue-sharing and any benefits that come from the project in terms of employment," said Mike Girard, a spokesman for the group.
The pipeline is expected to carry up to 1.1 million barrels of oil each day — up from the 850,000 barrel estimate when TransCanada issued its call for interest earlier this year.
A 1,400-kilometre extension would be needed to get the oil flowing from Quebec to Saint John.
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