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Enbridge to expand Gray Oak pipeline, grow export terminal in Texas

Enbridge Inc., a major player in the Canadian energy sector, is optimistic about the future of its Mainline pipeline system amid projections that Canadian oil production could outpace the country's pipeline export capacity by 2026. The company's CEO, Greg Ebel, revealed during an investor day in New York that Canadian oil production is expected to grow by over half a million barrels per day before 2030, with a potential increase of 500,000 barrels in the next three to four years.

Ebel emphasized that the belief in excess pipeline capacity is often countered by increased production and the growing demand for efficient transportation of oil. Contrary to previous concerns about the impact of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on Enbridge's Mainline network, Ebel dismissed it as a "stale concept." The Trans Mountain expansion, designed to alleviate export capacity challenges, faced delays during its construction, and its completion is now imminent in the second quarter of this year.

Despite the anticipation of Trans Mountain's operationalization, Canadian oil production has surged, breaking records in the fourth quarter of 2023. Alberta, a key oil-producing province, reached its highest-ever crude oil production in 2023 and continued the momentum into January 2024 with an output of 3.81 million barrels per day.

Analysts, including Phil Skolnick from Eight Capital, have raised concerns about potential pipeline shortages resurfacing sooner than expected. Skolnick suggested that exportable supply could surpass pipeline capacity as early as late 2026, questioning the feasibility of constructing another major export pipeline given the prolonged timeline of the Trans Mountain project.

Enbridge, in response to the increasing demand and potential capacity constraints, reaffirmed its 2024 forecast for three million barrels per day of oil shipments on its Mainline network. CEO Ebel acknowledged the possibility of small expansions within the next few years but emphasized that these would primarily involve optimizing the existing network rather than significant capital projects.

In a move to bolster its position, Enbridge recently secured approval from the Canada Energy Regulator for a new tolling deal for the Mainline system. Tolls, the fees paid by oil companies for pipeline usage, will be subject to the new framework until 2028. Ebel indicated that the Mainline's competitive rates would attract barrels not contracted to the Trans Mountain pipeline, which faces the challenge of finalizing its tolling structure amid rising construction costs.

Enbridge also announced a significant investment of US$500 million in new projects to expand its business in the U.S. This includes a US$100 million expansion of its Gray Oak pipeline and the addition of 2.5 million barrels of crude oil storage at the Enbridge Ingleside Energy Center terminal near Corpus Christi, Texas. This strategic move reflects Enbridge's commitment to meeting the evolving needs of the energy market and ensuring a reliable and efficient transportation network for Canadian oil producers.