Enbridge still faces hurdles before Northern Gateway oil begins to flow

|About: Enbridge Inc. (ENB)|By:, SA News Editor

Enbridge (ENB) gained approval for its Northern Gateway pipeline, but now the real work begins, since it first must nail down oil shipping contracts that meet the 200-plus conditions attached to the project.

ENB needs firm transportation contracts covering at least 60% of the pipeline’s capacity prior to starting construction, and some analysts say the many competing export projects and the sharp growth of oil shipments by rail could make shoring up commercial support for the pipeline difficult, and even delay construction into next decade.

If built, Northern Gateway would serve as an important link between the Alberta oil sands deposits and energy-thirsty Asian markets, but If TransCanada’s (TRP) Keystone XL and Energy East projects are approved, “Gateway gets shelved for a very, very long time, because [ENB] won’t be able to fill it," says one industry analyst.

Suncor (SU), Cenovus (CVE), Cnooc (CEO), Total (TOT) and others have signed so-called precedent agreements to ship oil on the pipeline, but legal experts say those agreements aren’t binding, giving producers wiggle room to choose alternatives.