Enbridge CEO touts benefits of pipeline reversal project ahead of Quebec hearings

MONTREAL – Enbridge’s chief executive touted the benefits of his company’s pipeline reversal project Monday on the eve of public hearings on the issue by a Quebec legislative committee.

Al Monaco said that he was confident that project will win approval by the National Energy Board and support from the provincial committee.

“I would never say it’s a done deal. We have to go through the process (but) we’re confident that we’ll get approval,” he told reporters after speaking to the Canadian Club of Montreal.

It was Monaco’s second appeal to Montreal business leaders in about two months.

The Calgary-based company (TSX:ENB) will make a presentation and take committee questions for about two hours and be followed by about 40 interveners over seven days of hearings through Dec. 5.

Monaco said it is important for the public to speak up and vowed to listen to issues raised.

“We understand that Quebecers want reassurance that local interests are respected,” he said in his speech.

He described the provincial involvement as a “valuable complement” to the federal regulatory process that will ultimately decide early next year whether the project can proceed.

The company was forced to make its final submissions to the federal regulator in writing after the final day of hearings in Toronto were cancelled in October due to security concerns involving some protesters opposed to allowing Alberta crude to be sent through Ontario to refineries in Quebec.

In addition to carrying mostly light crude eastbound, Enbridge wants to increase the pipeline’s capacity to 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day, up from the current 240,000 barrels. The pipeline originally transported oil from Sarnia, Ont., to Montreal but was reversed in the late 1990s to pump imported crude westward.

A coalition of Quebec business, union and local municipal leaders is supporting the line reversal, saying it will preserve thousands of jobs and two Montreal refineries.

“People want to know if it can be done safety and can it be done in an environmentally correct way and we sincerely believe that it can be,” said Andre Brunelle, president of the Industrial Association for the East of Montreal.

Meanwhile, Monaco said Enbridge has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing wind opportunities in Quebec and has plans to further expand its presence in the renewable energy sector. He declined to say how much additional capital investment is expected to be made.

Growing global energy demand, particularly from developing countries, requires all forms of energy to be developed and exported, including liquefied natural gas (LNG), he said.