Canada has been taken for a ride by Kinder Morgan.
By Nick Cunningham, Oilprice.com
In a desperate bid to keep its last remaining proposed oil pipeline alive, Canada has decided to buy Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline system for an estimated C$4.5 billion.
Canada will pay Kinder Morgan for the money that the company has already spent on the expansion project as well as for the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, which has a capacity of about 300,000 bpd.
Trans Mountain runs from Alberta to British Columbia and the proposed expansion would be a twin line that would triple the system’s carrying capacity to 890,000 bpd. British Columbia has vowed to block the pipeline even though the federal government supports the project. BC’s opposition had nearly killed the project…and still might finish it off despite the gamble by the federal government to nationalize the pipeline system.
As Reuters discovered, it appears that Canada has been taken for a ride by Kinder Morgan. The Texas-based pipeline company structured deals in such a way that it couldn’t lose, even if the project stalled. “Kinder Morgan cut creative deals with lenders and oil producers to shield itself from massive write-downs like the ones taken recently by rivals TransCanada Corp and Enbridge Inc in canceling controversial pipeline projects,” Reuters wrote.
These deals included requiring oil producers to pay even if the project was blocked by regulatory holdups. Also, the 26 lenders that Kinder Morgan negotiated with agreed to exempt the pipeline company from penalties on loans if the project was delayed or obstructed because of political problems.
All of that made Kinder Morgan more than willing to walk away, putting intense pressure on the Canadian government to resolve the dispute. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first proposed to indemnify the project from risk, but ultimately decided to purchase it outright as the May 31 deadline neared.
“Kinder Morgan wins,” Brian Kessens, managing director investment firm Tortoise, which holds shares in Kinder Morgan Inc., told Reuters. “That’s a very fair price.”
Kinder Morgan agreed, hailing the payout from Canada. “This is a great day, not only for our company but for Canada,” CEO Steve Kean said. And as for who will manage the pipeline project while it’s under government ownership, Canada’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau said he hopes to hire people from…Kinder Morgan.
First Nations and environmental groups assailed Trudeau for buying out the project. “We are absolutely shocked and appalled that Canada is willingly investing taxpayers’ money in such a highly controversial fossil fuel expansion project,” Grand Chief Stewart Philip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, told the Toronto Star. “We will not stand down no matter who buys this ill-fated and exorbitantly priced pipeline.”
In a scathing article in The Guardian, environmentalist Bill McKibben called Justin Trudeau “the world’s newest oil executive,” and said that “the cutest, progressivest, boybandiest leader in the world” is going “fully in the tank for the oil industry.”
But it wasn’t just First Nations and environmentalists. Trudeau is coming under fire from all sides. Even the Conservatives criticized the government for leaving taxpayers on the hook for the project. Kinder Morgan only paid $550 million for the Trans Mountain pipeline back in 2007. Trudeau has decided to fork over $C3.4 billion for a system that is a now a decade older with no plan on how to get the expansion constructed. “Kinder Morgan wasn’t asking for the money. They were asking for certainty and a pathway to get the get the project built,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said. “The prime minister is forcing Canadian taxpayers to pay for his failure.”
Obviously, not everyone is against the project. The oil industry welcomed the news, although cautioned that it shouldn’t become the norm. “We think that today’s announcement is based on extraordinary circumstances,” Tim McMillan, CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said in a press conference Tuesday. “We don’t want to find ourselves in this situation again.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was desperate to push the project forward, arguing that the lack of pipeline capacity – Alberta’s pipelines are just about full – are costing Canadian oil producers C$15 billion annually.
He’s right on that account. The cost of pipeline bottlenecks continues to weigh on Canada’s oil industry. Western Canada Select (WCS), a benchmark that tracks heavy oil in Canada, has traded at a significant discount to WTI (which, in turn, has seen its discount widen relative to Brent).
WCS fell to the mid-$40s per barrel this week, more than $20 lower than WTI and nearly $30 lower than Brent. Although some of the discount is due to transportation costs and quality issues, the price differential has exploded over the past year as Alberta’s available takeaway capacity has all but vanished.
The problem for Trudeau, however, is that it isn’t at all clear that his takeover of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline will resolve outstanding issues. The plan consists of purchasing the pipeline system, clearing the political obstacles, and then selling off the project to a private company again.
But it remains to be seen if the federal government can bulldoze British Columbia into allowing the project to move forward. The government also does not have a buyer in mind to eventually take on the project.
In a less-than-optimistic sign, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that the government does not want to own the pipeline for a long period of time, but he conceded that it could remain the owner for the “medium term.” While he didn’t elaborate on what that actually means, his comment suggests the Trans Mountain Expansion is not moving forward anytime soon. By Nick Cunningham, Oilprice.com
As pulp fiction aficionados, we love a good hostage situation. Read… Another Nuclear Bailout?
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I’ll bet the K-M shareholders are happy but I expected nothing less from a pothead running the country. Canada’s got to be the laughing stock of the world. I’ll bet the others guys that’ve left the oil sands projects wish they’d stayed in to pull off a similar windfall.
Sadly, kml (tsx) owners and new owners on the morning the stock spiked became unhappy as the stock reversed and went down.
Still uncertainty on the project. No interests would even want to buy this at full federal price.
KML stock has not been a good investment as of late–it might’ve gone more than its current C$15.92. It peaked at about C$20 back in Feb. Shareholders might be glad to recover most of their initial investment from when KML went public (C$17) around this time last year.
One of the “features” of Canada is that any and all investment transactions that cross the border must go through one of our monopoly banks. That means they get a cut of the action and possibly exposed to NPLs.
This isn’t just vote buying for Albertan oil workers, it’s also a defacto giveaway to the Canadians banks underwriting this crap. And as always in Canada, Toronto comes first. No matter what. I bet that if we were to REALLY see what’s going behind the scenes, the positions of the Canadian banks were heavily exposed, hence the ferocity and speed of this bailout.
It’s worth remembering that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) protects any American firm from losses due to environmental considerations or legislative holdups.
Co-incidentally, Canada is trying to re-negotiate a new NAFTA agreement with America, and it’s shrouded in secrecy. We are giving away everything for a song: fresh water, clearcut logs, electricity, natural gas, and tar sand muck. We are also surrendering our egg, milk, and wheat marketing boards which stabilize prices and protect small farmers, and our public health services are being gutted. It is privatisation by stealth.
The entire planet is a colony of the Overclass, so why wouldn’t it assume Canada’s resources to be its own, there to enrich them further?
Silly Prolz, still thinking they count as anything other than revenue/debt mules for their Betters…
“We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office”.
I expect a massive budget hole in BC budget, and cutting subsidies to “local stakeholders” which will have to be filled by pipeline royalties, will clear regulatory obstacles. There’s got to be some reason Canadian oil sells 20 $ bellow market. Not a fan of Trudeau, though.
Asia’s population will increase by 1 billion over the next 25 years, a huge long term market for Canadian oil. There isn’t really a question of whether the money will be paid back, it’s a long term investment.
But wind power and solar power will be the cheapest energy source ever in just a few years. Canada will never recover the lost money.
They need a “Commerce Clause” in their Constitution.
Of course if it’s abused the way ours has been since FDR it might not be that much of a blessing.
That is a bit funny. Canada had no constitution for most of its history and the UK which created Canada, still doesn’t have one.
Neither is a system of checks and balances. Parliament is supreme.
For better or worse, there is no single entity with as much power in the US.
When Trudeau’s father Pierre Trudeau, invoked the War Measures Act we had a demonstration of Parliament’s Power.
Habeas Corpus, the linchpin of English Law (and American law) which derives from 13 th century Magna Carta and forbids detainment without trial, was suspended.
Hundreds of Quebec residences were raided without individual warrants
since the WMA included that power.
Justin Trudeau with a majority in Parliament has all the power he needed to settle this and then some. His predecessor Harper, would have done so. But Justin wanted to be seen, above all, as nice and is now finding out that is not his main job.
NB: BC’s chief legal adviser to Premier Horgan, told him that not only did the province not have a leg to stand on, it was technically illegal to attempt to do so.
At some point some people who derive immense benefits from inhabiting the rule of law are going to discover they can’t cherry pick the law for ones they like.
At some point the token arrest, where they are released within a hour and then party to celebrate their moral courage will evolve into a real showdown with Parliament, i.e., the law.
PS: How has the UK managed with no constitution? Well, it wasn’t illegal to have a beer for fourteen years.
This article is not entirely correct. I have been following the TM pipeline story for years, as well as the Northern Gateway project and various LNG proposals. (I’ll tell you why I am so interested as well).
First of all, almost 2/3 of Canada support this pipeline project as well as a majority of First Nations along the route. And, over 60% of BCers support the pipeline with just over 50% of Vancouver Islanders in support. The only 1st Nations groups in opposition are Lower mainland groups, who I suspect, are positioning themselves for a payoff (which is usual…they are pretty shrewd and employ many lawyers). To the east of Vancouver, many 1st nations groups are in support and have also asked to be investors. In the far north, a pipeline proposal exists funded solely by 1st nations but in this case was costed out at 17 billion+ and deemed far fetched. Surveys, polls etc are easily accesible online.
The purpose of the pipeline is China/Asia. Right now, with the surplus at Cushing OK, WCS is discounted (as the article references). The Seaway pipeline was reversed allowing more refining and export from the south Gulf Coast, but Canadian energy is stuck and landlocked, which is EXACTLY what US companies, Govt., and consumers LIKE…cheaper refinery feedstock from a complacent producer to the north. This expanded pipeline takes the US foot off the Canadian neck/industry for approx 1 million barrels/day and allows export expansion into China at World prices. China has peaked this past year in production and imports more oil than anyone else in the World. From the same folks at Oilprice (that wrote this article).
That is one reason why this is a good long-term investment, and why many in the oil industry, especially in the US, are pooh poohing it. I doubt the same reaction is occuring in China right now. It might cost Trudeau big time politically as it has opened up a vulnerability for criticism. (as an aside I dislike Trudeau immensely). The only real mistake made in this issue was the backing off by Trudeau Govt on the Energy East pipeline reversal/repurpose which would have also brought WCS to the Atlantic coast for European export. In this case, politics (Quebec politics) won. The rail disaster at Lac Magantic did not help at all in the Energy East pipeline proposal.
Why do I care? I am an anomaly in BC, someone who actually lives on a tidal/coast river who supports the pipeline. Why? As a long time energy nut I have concluded that our entire industrial civilization has been and is based on utilizing FF (fossil fuels). As someone who has turned a prep lifestyle into somthing that has turned out very well and secure for my family, I have crunched all numbers (for well over a decade now) that hype renewables and have concluded, that for folks like me who live in the temperate latitudes, except for Hydro and dam storage of potential energy, renewables can augment but will never replace fossil fuels. Instead, we have downsized our energy use and live very well on a fraction of what is considered normal per capita energy consumption in North America. There will be no BAU (business as usual) using energy lite. There will be upheaval and poverty…even here, in North America.
Plus, my son works in the energy industry as an industrial electrician. He earns 200K per year working 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off. I have friends who also work in Alberta, from all over Canada, and all of them earn very good salaries and take their money home, in many cases to have-not provinces. These folks are engineers, pipefitters, electricians, safety officers, ironworkers, welders/boilermakers; you get the idea. All of them earn a very good wage in this industry.
This purchase will undoubtly produce criticism and derision for Trudeau, short term. However, long term it solidifies the Alberta Energy Industry and I believe will be seen as prophetic, much like site C (which is also criticised and protested). This article drove the Greens nuts, even though site C is renewable: https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2018/03/28/Site-C-Dam-Is-Good-Decision/
Short term, this sends a message to Trump about NAFTA. We will work around your strong arm tactics. We can do it with our energy exports and we can do it with other markets. Chinese buyers seem pretty polite these days.
I wrote my comment about 1/2 hour before the US Govt. announced tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum industries. This on top of threatened Chinese tariffs a few days ago.
Kinder Morgan Pipeline purchase looks better and better every moment. How does one say, “Interesting times”, in Cantonese”? I think Canada will really start looking to the west for our continued prosperity as this unfolds.
I have a new Chinese Ham radio which is damn fine piece of electronics. I have also been researching a small Chinese jeep to replace my tired Toyota. To think I once drove a GM. :-)
Paulo….very fortuitous timing with the Liberal purchase of the pipeline not 24 hours ago! ;)
Though you may be correct that fossil fuels have an energy density that is not likely (yet, or perhaps ever) to be replaced by renewables, that’s still not an argument for pursuing tar sands development.
Petroleum from tar sands is a net energy loser, and the Energy Return On Investment (EROI) is ludicrously low, making fracking – another technology with very low EROI look like an early 20th- century Texas gusher.
Sorry, though denigrated it is far from a net energy loser. The return on Oil Sands production is generally accepted as a minimum of 6:1. (EROI)
Don’t believe me?
and from Scientific American: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/plugged-in/the-dirt-on-oil-sands/
“However, from an internal EROI perspective, oil sands are not so good. Even though you are using energy that was internally produced, you are still using energy. If you include this energy in the total, the EROI for oil sands is around 5. ”
Just above first quote: (From Stanford U)
“In addition, because oil sands tend to be in remote locations, the extraction process has become energy self-sufficient. Energy independent, if you will. In the process of extracting oil sands, you can use some of what you produce to fuel the production process. Therefore, you don’t need to use much external energy at all. You don’t need to pipe in natural gas, use electricity from a power plant, or even take diesel from a refinery to fuel your trucks. According to a recent study at Stanford University, from an external perspective, the EROI for oil sands is a whopping 30, almost twice as good as the current conventional average.”
Interesting that oil sands is cited as having an EREOI of 6:1. That’s the minimum cited in the reference below needed for a civilizations energy needs.
Twenty-First Century Snake Oil: Why the United States Should Reject Biofuels as Part of a Rational National Security Energy Strategy
Captain T. A. “Ike” Kiefer
WICI Occasional Paper No. 4
Tar sands aren’t the only source Canadian’s produce from. It is just the most advertised because it fits the dirty oil narrative. The fact is the Canadian dollar tanked at the same time oil prices tanked. Canada supplies resources so that nations don’t attack us and take them. If BC and Quebec had their way we would cut off supply chains and be invaded promptly afterward.
“The rail disaster at Lac Magantic did not help at all in the Energy East pipeline proposal.” 1. Pipelines are orders of magnitude safer than rail. 2. People using the Lac Megantic rail disaster as a rationale for stopping a pipeline are being disingenuous and likely oppose all forms of carbon-based energy.
Speaking as a resident of the east coast of Canada, the real reason why the pipeline failed is for two major reasons:
1) people were indifferent. They know full well any promises of “good jobs” is hooey. No one here except for the executive class and the politicians they own believe any of these announcements.
2) people knew some else was getting rich while saddling everyone else with the inevitable cleanup(s).
Those that were left were always viewed with suspicion because everyone here knew they either idiots for believing the promises, had a vested interest in actually believing the promise had a remote chance to materialize, or being paid handsomely to say what they said by industry groups.
The pipeline didn’t stand a chance. It’s representative of how broken Western capitalism is. Because so many people have been left out, they have even less reason to continue supporting it.
On this issue we agree Paulo. Nice to see BC didn’t completely brainwash you into towing the tree hugging line. Any chance that Premier gets punted in a vote of no confidence?
AANDC traditionally uses the purse strings to keep various First Nations in line. The entire ethic of AANDC (or whatever they call it today) is to do as little as possible before problems make it to the news. To make things go as smoothly as possible so the minister doesn’t get asked difficult questions.
Also, just because the chief and council supports the pipeline doesn’t mean the population itself does.
First Nation life is just an advanced taste of what the 416 area code has in store for the rest of the nation. Toronto is literally the funnel through which wealth is sucked out of Canada.
Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a way to ban gas sales to protesters?
A sane and rational response. Thank you.
There is another equally important reason that Trudeau did this — BC’s opposition was creating a serious Constitutional crisis in Canada. I don’t entirely understand the details of this (immigrant), but commentators who I respect considered it to be a critical issue. Not doing anything was not an option for Ottawa. Any legal route to forcing BC to accept the pipeline would have taken longer than investors or the market were prepared to wait; with the consequent effect that Canada’s reputation as a place to do business would suffer as well. I think it’s entirely possible that Kinder-Morgan will benefit from this, perhaps even hoped for this outcome, and that from a federal Canadian perspective, this is secondary.
You may be an American who can be excused for not understanding Canadian law. There is no ‘constitutional crisis.’
BC’s legal counsel to BC Premier Horgan have told him he has no case.
Actually they went a bit further and told him he may be acting illegally if he encourages defiance of the Federal Govt.
We are approaching the end game of the pussy footing around with protesters. There was a crack in the wall a few months ago when a ski hill development that had been held up for 25 years by aboriginal claims that it was sacred (where isn’t?) was finally allowed to go ahead.
Of course, the protesters may claim that their displeasure creates a legal question: it doesn’t. The Federal govt has jurisdiction.
BTW: it is fortunate that the basic infrastructure of the country was built before protests became a way of life (often supported by a monthly government check) The roads, bridges, electric grid, etc. etc. would all be targeted by people who think they are above the law.
Justin, the new CEO of Canada Oil, is betting on two things:
1. The willingness of “Canadian” government agents to follow “Justin’s” orders to kill whomever is preventing Canada Oil from doing whatever it wants to do.
2. Average Canadians NOT being willing to die to prevent Canada Oil from doing whatever Canada Oil wants to do.
I would be willing to bet very big money that Justin’s bet is going to be a great big winner!
Now, what form of currency did “Canada” “borrow” to pay KM? Was it CAD or USD? If Canadian taxpayers borrowed USD to make the purchase, are Canadian taxpayers going to have to pay back “their” debt in USD? If the latter, what happens if CAD “just happens” to drop dramatically in value against the USD?
Financially ignorant Justin and the rest of the financially ignorant newcomer MPs sitting in their offices on Parliament Hill in Ottawa have just committed a very grave error and they almost certainly don’t realize it.
Just like the populations of innumerable other countries whose governments have made similar serious errors in the past, the vast majority of Canadians will suffer increasing austerity as the usual bunch of currency and market manipulators remove the little remaining sovereignty of the “Canadian” government to act on behalf of Canadian citizens.
How well does the “Greek” government act on behalf of the vast majority of Greek citizens? That’s the question that Candians will soon be asking about “their own” government.
What the government of Canada SHOULD be doing is designing an alternative economic system to the present one which requires future Canadian taxpayers to go ever deeper into debt. The new design MUST be one in which NEITHER imports or exports are required — a “stand alone” system. That new system MUST be designed so that Canadians can “afford” to pay other Canadians to provide all the goods and services that Canadians need; while at the same time Canadians are afforded jobs for which other Canadians pay them, so that they too have enough money to pay other Canadians for what they need.
Any system, such as the present one, in which Canadians “can not afford” to pay other Canadians to provide the goods and services that they need — the one which requres “temporary foreign workers (slaves)” to do many things that must be done, and also requires ever increasing imports and exports that are paid for with more and more debt — IS A FATALLY FLAWED SYSTEM! Why can’t supposedly intelligent humans realize this and seriously endeavor to correct it?
What are you going on about? Canada has targeted over 300K immigrants per year going forward – proportionally, that’s twice as many as the neighbors to the south. Canada is also blessed with a bounty of natural resources. There is nothing ‘Greek’ about the Canadian economy.
An economy built on what? Canadians sell natural resources, from food to fuel and everything in between. The banking sector inflated the housing bubble to prop up a struggling economy and it is now starting to buckle because of it.
Are you wanting to see an economy built on real tangible products replaced with FAANG unicorns?
A new system with no imports or exports… What? We can’t stop trade with the world, so what would our trade revenues be for? The oligarchs? The peasants?
Remove head from Ganja plant and get some fresh air, then come back to this.
Hey Prairies…. I agree with you on this one. Sounds like the same gaffleblab we hear constantly from Donnie and that senile old muchkin Wilbur.
Gotta love the tariff pissing contest they started just because Dimwit couldn’t get a NAFTA deal when HE wanted it.
The legend that never dies is that Canada is a resorce economy. In fact many rich mines of the past have closed, or scaled down. The new mines, inverisbly in th north, require massive investment, and have to be huge to be profitable.
The stuff on your dinner plate doesn’t come from a mine.
Canadian federal debt denominated in C$ is one of the highest rated there is. It has never had to borrow in US$.
(Of course finance being as complex as it is, some govt entity may have chosen to dabble with bonds in yen or something when borrowing from Japan was almost free.)
The banking system is considerably more resilient than the US one, and did not have to be bailed out in 2008.
No one lost a dime in a Canadian bank during the Depression when almost ten thousand US banks went under often taking the deposits with them.
I dunno where these kinder morgan wizards are putting all these profits but I think I am losing seventy percent on the stock I bought after Cramer kept telling me what a great business it was.
CNBC makes a fool of itself with Cramer. He thinks he is an expert on everything.
Usually. a finance show has an oil guy for oil, an airline guy for airlines etc.
Today Cramer may advise on nuclear reactors, next day; botox.
I think he is lucky this gig came along. I wonder how much of his income is from the media and how much he makes on stocks.
It appears if KM was really prepared to walk, under the terms of their deal(s), the Canadian fed govt didn’t really have a choice, esp given the chronic bottleneck problems with exporting, and a potential CPRL rail strike. Also, I don’t understand how the provinces can block these deals. They have that much autonomy?
On the issue of importing (sales), how far reaching do Canadian oil contracts with the US extend? The US imports about half its oil imports from Canada, and if Canada were to offer its oil to the Chinese under more or less similar generous terms, I think the US would have something to say about it- per Monroe Doctrine, if not explicitly spelled out in the contracts.
“The Oil Giant that Outsmarted Trudeau ”
LOL at the title. That is not very hard to do when Trudeau is a real-life Derek Zoolander.
Paulo, re your Comment above:
I skimmed through the abstract from the Stanford U. authors. Their idea that tar sands energy from remote Canadian locations may have attractive EROIs seems to be substantially based on the prediction that the major tar sands districts will have in situ refineries (to produce the fuel for mine machinery), and power plants (to generate electricity for district use in the production of the marketable “oil”/other products, not to mention electricity for the company town, etc., etc.).
In the course of the research you do on the Canadian tar sands, have you looked at the extent to which on-site refineries and power plants have actually been constructed; are any in operation ? (specifics great if you have them). It does sound like big capex, but if the gov is behind it, the sky’s the limit (gentle sarcasm here).
Thx for sharing your research
When the Federal Government invokes NATIONAL INTEREST pursuant to s.91 Constitution Act 1867 then there is no room for any political economic etc. legal opposition. The same process was used for the Transprovincial Pipeline to override all provincial and other opposition. The pipeline has all legal rights to be built and BC government, natives etc can not legally stop the construction and operation thereof
I’m a Canadian and a BC resident. I think Trudeau is making a smart move politically because nationally he’s never going to be out-flanked by the left. His serious electoral competition is always going to come from the right. This crisis gives him a chance to get rough with obstructionist regional NIMBYs and look pro-business and pro-Canada. Its actually helpful if the buyout is seen as good for Kinder Morgan because Trudeau doesn’t want to be accused of discouraging foreign investment. The constitution is quite clear that an inter-provincial pipeline falls under federal jurisdiction, so the eventual outcome is not really in doubt. Opposition may even soften now that the evil multinational has been replaced with Canada.
The only complaint I have from the pro-oil side of the criticism is that he caused this mess over the past 2 years. He allowed his favourite province to kill the energy east project, so BC just pulled the same moves. If he didn’t get this line done he was going to to see exports to the east, the south(nafta) and then the west all closed off if this didn’t get done. He got the job based on who he knew, not what he knew. That is the problem.
I’d be willing to be there are contributions or other money flows to the politicians who just suddenly decided to bail out the company.
Justin is just repeating the same mistakes his father made. Senior bought PetroCanada so naturally not to be outdone junior has bought himself a pipeline!
Both paid way too much! Both know nothing about running anything! Both are incapable of learning from past mistakes! Both will cost taxpayers tens of billions! Political cronies will be appointed to run it!
This will turn out to be a big white elephant!
So why am I not surprised!