Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion (TMX) has reportedly reached “a major milestone” by passing its halfway mark to completion.

Trans Mountain Pipeline

The oil pipeline system reported that since August 2019, about 20,000 workers cleared 344 miles of right-of-way, laid 247 miles of pipe and made 32 trenchless river and stream crossings.

“The way we are constructing this project reflects a new approach to building major projects in Canada,” said acting President Rob Van Walleghem in a progress report.

The project is intended to roughly triple the pipeline’s capacity to 890,000 b/d on the 690-mile route across Alberta and British Columbia. Pipeline hurdles and increased costs have increasingly stretched the project’s price tag and timeline.

The original line was completed in 32 months, from incorporation with a federal government charter in 1951 to its first delivery in 1953 from Edmonton to the suburban Burnaby shoreline of Vancouver Harbor. The greenfield construction project cost C$93 million ($74.4 million). Adjusted for inflation, the original price tag works out to C$975 million ($780 million), according to the Bank of Canada.

In contrast, TMX started work 15 years ago with its first leg built between 2007-08 across the Rocky Mountains and the Alberta-British Columbia (BC) boundary, using a clause in the 1951 pipeline corporate charter that granted permission for a single capacity addition job.

The full expansion project stayed on hold for five years. Oil shippers largely waited until 2013 before inking transportation contracts that enabled TMX to proceed.

Contested regulatory approval hearings, conflict between the Alberta and BC governments, environmental and native opposition, and community resistance led the line’s last investor-owned proprietor, Kinder Morgan Inc., to drop TMX.

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The Canadian government bought Trans Mountain for C$4.5 billion ($3.6 billion) in 2018. It then helped steer TMX into construction through multiple protest lawsuits and a second contested regulatory and federal cabinet approval process.

When first approved in 2016, TMX costs were estimated at C$7.4 billion ($5.9 billion). In February, the latest reported estimate nearly tripled to C$21.4 billion ($17 billion). The completion target date has been delayed for a year until 2023.