Canada's Northwest Territories Pushing for Mackenzie Pipeline

The natural gas is waiting, the communities are willing and the authorities are prepared to co-operate any time producers and pipelines want to revive development in the Canadian north, the industry is being told.

Northwest Territories Premier Stephen Kakfwi and Canada's National Energy Board are spreading the invitations. Kakfwi, a Dene Nation leader from the Mackenzie Valley community of Fort Good Hope, delivered his share of the word to the annual meeting of the Canadian Energy Pipelines Association. The NEB is delivering the regulatory and geological message in a paper prepared for the 16th World Petroleum Congress, which will be held in the Canadian gas capital of Calgary June 11-15.

Kakfwi's message was that if the largely native northern population is allowed a fair share in the benefits of development and they will do better than tolerate it - they will push it along. The territorial premier said, "Today, in contrast to the 1970s, northern Aboriginal leaders favor nonrenewable resource development. On Jan. 19, the Dene, Metis and Inuvialuit leaders announced their unanimous support for the construction of a Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline, provided that Aboriginal equity in and management of the pipeline can be worked out. Their position is fully supported by the government of the Northwest Territories. We support development of our northern resources that brings lasting benefits to northerners and is carried out in ways that protect the northern environment."

Kakfwi pledged the territorial government's backing for any pipeline project that emerges to compete with the early leader in development proposals, a resurrection of the dormant Alaska Natural Gas Transportation System. He acknowledged that the Alaskan and Yukon governments support ANGTS and its route along the Alaska Highway. He insisted "we think the Mackenzie Valley is the superior route, not only for our economy and residents but for Canada too, both strategically and economically."

While ANGTS is supported by a 1978 treaty between Canada and the United States, Kakfwi recalled that endorsements for the Mackenzie route go back still farther to a 1970 Canadian federal pipeline policy. Even the northern inquiry by Justice Thomas Berger preferred a Mackenzie project over ANGTS, despite his report's main recommendation of a 10-year moratorium on development to give the northern population time to settle land claims and prepare to participate in industry. Kakfwi pointed to Berger's finding on where to locate a northern pipeline if one eventually is built. The report said, "The Mackenzie Valley is a natural transportation route that has already seen several decades of industrial development . . . it is feasible, from an environmental point of view, to build a pipeline and to establish an energy corridor along the Mackenzie Valley." Kakfwi pointed out a successful start has already been made on the corridor, with the 16-year-old Enbridge oil pipeline running south from Imperial Oil Ltd.'s field at Norman Wells.

Gas will be available in the north in spades to fill a new pipeline, suggests a paper being submitted to the WPC by Laura Richards of the NEB. An "abstract" or advance summary of the document says the board recognizes that "growing concern about North American conventional natural gas supply and the increasing demand for environmental reasons is giving rise to renewed interest."

The NEB paper reveals that the latest estimate of northern Canadian energy-resource potential is 169 Tcf and 12 billion barrels of liquids, "along with vast quantities of non-conventional gas hydrates." The NEB's staff researchers are also thinking about a double-barreled northern pipeline which has often been discussed in industry circles. The idea is to make a northern energy corridor work by adding deliveries of liquids, especially including by-products of gas such as "condensates" or natural gasoline. The NEB's staff, which often does advance work on potential major projects to make sure the board is ready when the filings arrive, says it is also reviewing factors that add up to "encouragement for a natural gas and liquid pipeline infrastructure reaching the Mackenzie Delta."

Gordon Jaremko, Calgary

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