A target of Aug. 5 has been set for capacity expansion construction to begin at the Edmonton inlet and the Vancouver Harbor outlet of the Trans Mountain Pipeline across Western Canada.

The schedule, in a newly filed application at the National Energy Board (NEB), also calls for a Sept. 1 start on pipe additions needed for nearly tripling flows to 890,000 b/d in the 1,147-kilometer (688-mile) conduit.

Trans Mountain requests approval by July 19 to allow time for work preparations and avoid prolonging, into the 2020 construction season, the regulatory ordeal of the C$9 billion ($6.8 billion) project that has already lasted 67 months.

Delaying the work starts beyond August and September would postpone construction into next year by exposing the mammoth earth-moving chore to seasonal risks of heavy rain on the British Columbia (BC) coast and freezing ground in Alberta, said Trans Mountain.

“The entire project schedule may be jeopardized,” management warned. “The project has already been delayed by a year...Construction must commence as soon as possible to avoid further delays.”

Trans Mountain is seeking an NEB ruling that it does not have to repeat all the detailed route, construction permit and condition compliance procedures that it completed before an appellate court overturned the expansion’s first approval last August.

The resulting NEB “reconsideration” hearings and the second, revised approval that the federal cabinet granted in mid-June should enable the project to resume where it left off at the time of the court verdict, according to the pipeline operator.

Before the legal interruption Trans Mountain pointed out it worked for 20 months on accumulating more than 100 regulatory decisions and orders. Construction location and methods approvals were completed for 72% of the pipeline route.

“It would be absurd to require all of the original work to start ‘from scratch’,” said the NEB request for speedy acceptance of the brisk construction schedule.

“Such an outcome would result in tremendous amounts of duplicated efforts, spent resources and lost time, all of which would jeopardize Trans Mountain’s ability to execute the project in a timely and efficient manner.”

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) supports prompt construction, and the group in a filing to NEB said, “The need for this new pipeline capacity has been determined to be in the public interest. The need for new pipeline capacity to move crude oil supplies that outstrip available transportation capacity is urgent.”

The NEB has given all concerned until Friday (July 5) to file proposals on next steps for Trans Mountain. BC’s New Democratic Party government, along with native and environmental groups that participated in the 2018 protest lawsuit victory, remain committed to stopping the expansion project as a growth enabler for Canada’s top natural gas consumer, Alberta thermal oil sands production.