Canadian Manufacturing

TC Energy exec says Keystone XL fits Biden agenda with union jobs, Indigenous support

TC Energy is forging ahead with construction of the pipeline designed to transport up to 830,000 barrels per day of oil from Alberta to Nebraska

November 17, 2020  The Canadian Press

CALGARY — The creation of union jobs and support by Indigenous investors will help convince U.S. president-elect Joe Biden that the Keystone XL pipeline fits into his “Build Back Better” agenda, an executive with proponent TC Energy Corp. said on Nov. 17.

The Calgary-based company said it is forging ahead with construction of the pipeline designed to transport up to 830,000 barrels per day of oil from Alberta to Nebraska despite Biden’s election campaign vow to rip up the presidential permit that allows it to move oil across the border.

“We’ve looked at the incoming Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan and the steps that we’ve already taken with Keystone XL, we believe, have positioned it very favourably, particularly as we bring jobs to the economy next year, a key platform for the U.S. government as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic” said Bevin Wirzba, president of liquids pipelines, on a webcast from the Calgary-based company’s investor day.

In October, TC Energy announced the awarding of more than US$1.6 billion worth of contracts to six American unionized contractors to execute pipeline construction across three states, supporting more than 7,000 union jobs in 2021.

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It also said it would create a US$10-million clean energy training fund.

On Nov. 17, it announced a deal to allow Natural Law Energy, which represents four First Nations in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan, to invest up to $1 billion in Keystone XL, an agreement that is similar to potential deals being negotiated with American Indigenous groups, Wirzba said.

The company has constructed about 200 kilometres of pipeline since the project was approved last March, including the border crossing, and has begun construction of 17 pump stations in the states it traverses and Alberta, he reported.

The Natural Law Energy investment is contingent on the group securing financing and is expected to close in the third quarter of 2021, TC Energy said. The agreement also allows the group to pursue interests in future projects related to the pipeline.

The five First Nations include the Nekaneet First Nation in Saskatchewan and the Ermineskin Cree Nation, Montana First Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta.

In March, TC Energy approved spending US$8-billion to complete Keystone XL after the Alberta government agreed to invest about US$1.1 billion (C$1.5 billion) as equity and guarantee a US$4.2-billion project loan.

Meanwhile, the incoming CEO of TC Energy says the pipeline, power and oil and gas storage company will adjust to pursue opportunities presented by the world’s energy transition but its conservative business strategy won’t change on his watch.

Chief operating officer Francois Poirier, who is also president for power and storage and Mexican operations, said investors shouldn’t expect big changes when he takes over as CEO from retiring longtime leader Russ Girling at the end of 2020.

“Looking forward, reliable, abundant, low-cost energy will be critical as people around the globe seek to enhance their standard of living. The real challenge will be to meet that need while prudently managing the associated environmental impacts including climate change,” he said on the webcast.

TC Energy is pursuing $37 billion of commercially secured capital projects across North America, including $22 billion for handling natural gas in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, $13 billion in oil pipelines including Keystone XL and $2 billion in power and storage.