An unusual milestone was recorded earlier this month when the Canadian oil sands producer Cenovus Energy shipped oil from Kinder Morgan’s Westridge oil terminal via the Panama Canal to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, on Canada’s east coast. The Panamax tanker Cabo De Hornos (Cape Horn) was chartered by Irving Oil for the 6,400 nautical mile voyage.
- Built-in 2006
- Owned by Southern Cone Shipping (Miami)
- Operated by Humboldt Shipmanagement (an Ultranav company based in Valparaiso, Chile)
- LOA 229m
- Beam 33m
- GRT 42,096 tons
- DWT 74,543 MT
- Previous name: Antipolis
Irving Oil announced in May that it was aiming to increase the Canadian content of the crude oil it buys, which at that time was around 20%. The company’s stated objective is to reduce dependency on overseas sources of supply. Due to restrictions imposed by the Canadian Coastal Trading Act on foreign vessels trading between Canadian ports, Irving Oil sought and received the approval of the Canadian Transportation Agency to use foreign-flagged tankers to service the trade.
Houston based Kinder Morgan has been waging a long battle against political, environmental and First Nations opposition to expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline capacity serving the company’s Westshore Terminal in the Port of Vancouver from an export capacity of 300,000 barrels/day to 890,000 barrels/day. The project is coupled to expansion of terminal handling capacity from one to three loading berths. In the face of continuing BC Government opposition through the courts, even after Cabinet approval, in order to avoid cancellation, the project was purchased in 2018 by Canada’s federal government for C$4.5 billion.
Westridge Terminal expansion construction underway and the route via the Panama Canal
Irving Oil was previously a supporter of the $15-billion Energy East pipeline project, which Calgary based TC Energy Corp. had proposed to connect Alberta’s oil sands to ports in Quebec and Irving’s Saint John refinery. The project was cancelled in 2017 in the face of opposition from the governments of Ontario and Quebec along with environmental groups and First Nations. Irving had committed to invest in an expanded port facility connected to its Saint John refinery if the project had been approved.
A similar fate met the Northern Gateway pipeline project proposed by Enbridge Inc. which would have seen the construction of a pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to the port of Kitimat in Northern BC. Despite initial Cabinet approval, this project was squashed by a controversial decision to impose a moratorium on all but small shipments of oil in the waters of northern British Columbia.
While most Canadian export oil finds its way to the United States, China is also a price opportunistic buyer of Canadian crude oil shipped through the Westridge Terminal. In 2018 China bought 6.56 million barrels of crude (12 shipments), or almost one-third of Alberta crude oil shipped through British Columbia.
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