Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Support for the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia is support for the economy, the premier of oil-rich Alberta said.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is touring the country in support of pipeline company Kinder Morgan's multibillion dollar expansion project, heading first to Toronto before taking her message to Vancouver.
Canada is the fourth largest producer of oil and natural gas liquid in the world, but export capacity is constricted because pipeline capacity hasn't kept pace with production. Nearly all of Canada's oil exports head to the United States.
The country's National Energy Board approved of Kinder Morgan's plans to triple the capacity of the network to around 890,000 barrels of oil per day in late 2016, though vetting is still under way for some aspects. The project is part of a national effort to tap into markets outside North America.
Notley's office said the expansion project would create more than 50,000 new construction and operational jobs each year, but continues to face stiff opposition, especially in western Canada.
"Pipelines are just as critical for jobs and economies across the country as they are for Alberta, and to stifle the oil and gas industry would be economically negligent," she said in a statement.
The regulatory National Energy Board in early September said it was satisfied with the environmental plans outlined by Kinder Morgan to expand a port in British Columbia to handle the new volumes from Trans Mountain.
The project, however, continues to face stiff opposition from western Canadian leaders and members of the aboriginal community. When Kinder Morgan cleared project hurdles in late 2016, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said it was a "big step backward" for the environment and the economy. Last month, he said Vancouver was on pace to become powered entirely by renewable energy by 2050.
Alberta's economy, meanwhile, bottomed out in the middle of 2016 after it was hammered by the dual strains from lower crude oil prices and wildfires that swept through the heart of the provincial oil sector. With markets improving, its government expects growth in terms of gross domestic product for 2017 at 3.1 percent, up from the budget forecast of 2.65 percent.
Notley was on hand for a September ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the start of a $1.6 billion (USD) expansion project led by Japan Canada Oil Sands Ltd. The project, one of the largest investments in Alberta in 40 years, is meant to improve oil production from the current rate of 1,000 barrels per day to 20,000 bpd by the middle of next year.