Despite intensifying competition from U.S. natural gas producers — or because of it — Western Canadian gas producers are ramping up their long-term commitments for intra-basin takeaway capacity from the Montney Shale, as well as for capacity at both intra-provincial and export delivery points. Not only has there been a slew of new project announcements in the region, but in some cases, commitments reportedly have exceeded proposed capacity during open seasons. Today, we provide an update of gas pipeline expansion projects in Western Canada.
We’ve talked quite a bit in recent months about the worsening gas supply congestion along U.S.-Canadian border regions, which is heating up the competition between U.S. and Canadian natural gas producers. Natural gas production growth on both sides of the border has been outpacing demand growth. And, as we noted in our Don’t Do Me Like That blog series, Western Canadian producers have been contending with gas transportation constraints right where production is growing the most, in northwestern Alberta and eastern British Columbia (BC). Last fall, the Alberta gas market experienced extreme bottlenecks that left production stranded and sent area gas prices spiraling to negative territory. The ramp-up of winter heating demand helped ease the constraints, but the negative pricing briefly returned this past spring.
Part of the problem is that production growth is increasingly concentrated in the eastern BC and northwestern Alberta areas of the Montney, and pipeline gathering and takeaway capacity has been playing catch-up, especially as plans for LNG exports from the region have faced continual delays or have gotten derailed entirely. The other factor is that while intra-provincial demand is also growing — from gas-fired power generation and oil sands projects — the connectivity between the supply and delivery areas has lagged as well. Over the past few years, regional pipeline operators have responded with expansion plans to debottleneck the supply areas and connect producers to downstream markets. These expansions will shape how Canadian producers navigate the increasingly competitive North American gas market over the next few years. So, next, we take a closer look at recently built and planned projects.