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Projected Northern Gateway figures err on the side of caution

A view of Douglas Channel near Kitimat, B.C. About 200 tankers a year would sail up the sound to access oil from the Northern Gateway pipeline.

JOHN LEHMANN/JOHN LEHMANN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Exactly how much will Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway pipeline benefit Canada? In a report submitted to the National Energy Board, Enbridge says $38-billion.

But in a federal review panel hearing on the proposed pipeline on Thursday in Edmonton, Leanne Chahley, a lawyer with the Alberta Federation of Labour, inquired about Enbridge's math skills. The actual net benefits, listed year by year between 2018 and 2035, add up to $45-billion (U.S.), she said.

Enbridge consultant Neil Earnest said he would have to pull up a spreadsheet to double-check – something he didn't have immediately handy.

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But according to the Globe's calculator, Ms. Chahley is correct. The numbers add up to $45-billion, or $44.2-billion (Canadian).

Still, Ms. Chahley points out, that's down some 10 per cent, on an annual basis, from a previous Enbridge estimate – although the numbers aren't exactly comparable, since the first estimate uses 2009 dollars, while the second uses 2012.

Why? Mr. Earnest says the assumptions are different, and the assumed benefit for Gateway has eased with the likelihood that both trains and other pipelines – including Keystone XL – will take away Canadian oil, lessening the need for Gateway.

Still, the fact that Enbridge was conservative with its numbers – accidentally listing $38-billion (Canadian) in benefits to Canada instead of $45-billion (U.S.) – is unlikely to be held against the company. It does, however, illustrate the striking complexity of attempting to pin down the impact of a major project like Gateway.

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About the Author
Asia Bureau Chief

Nathan VanderKlippe is the Asia correspondent for The Globe and Mail. He was previously a print and television correspondent in Western Canada based in Calgary, Vancouver and Yellowknife, where he covered the energy industry, aboriginal issues and Canada’s north.He is the recipient of a National Magazine Award and a Best in Business award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. More

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