CALGARY (CP) - Up to 18,000 potential refining jobs could be sent south to the United States with oilsands crude if TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Keystone pipeline receives regulatory approval, an Alberta labor leader told the National Energy Board on Thursday.
Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, urged the federal regulator to delay the pipeline until a plan is developed which would see bitumen from the northern Alberta oilsands upgraded and refined in Canada.
''Every barrel of bitumen shipped down the Keystone pipeline or other proposed pipelines is another barrel of oil no longer available for value-added production and job creation here in Alberta,'' said McGowan, adding that the failure of Ottawa and the Alberta government to promote Canadian-based value-added production is ''a travesty.''
TransCanada's proposed 1,839 mile line would be capable of carrying 435,000 barrels per day of crude from the oil hub at Hardisty in central Alberta to U.S. Midwest markets near Chicago at Wood River and Patoka, Ill.
McGowan argued that as many as 18,000 jobs could be ''shipped down the pipeline'' if Keystone is allowed to proceed. His numbers come from a brief presented to the regulator last summer from the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, which said processing those 400,000 barrels of oil here would create 18,000 jobs.
TransCanada recently received approval to convert about 534 miles of natural gas pipeline to handle oilsands crude for its Keystone pipeline. Regulatory hearings into the $2.1 billion project resumed Monday before the energy board after several weeks last fall.
The Keystone project is only one of several pipeline proposals that would ship Canadian crude to the United States for refining and capitalize on the production forecasts which anticipate oilsands production tripling to three million barrels a day by 2010. Limited refining capacity in Canada has created a strong demand for increased pipeline capacity to move the crude south.
Enbridge Inc., which operates the world's largest pipeline system, has been in a race with TransCanada Corp. to ship crude to U.S. refiners on the Gulf of Mexico. Earlier this week, Enbridge and Exxon Mobile Pipelines Co. said they were looking to ship the crude from a hub in Illinois to refineries near Houston.
Houston-based ConocoPhillips has an option to buy a 50-per-cent stake in the Keystone project. Last fall, ConocoPhillips teamed up with Calgary's EnCana Corp. in a $15-billion deal to ship Alberta crude to U.S. refineries.
McGowan said that expansions and upgrading projects in Alberta ''may never see the light of day'' if potential feedstock is sent to refineries in places like Illinois and Texas.