The energy world has been turned upside down in 2020 by COVID-19, resulting in the cancellation, scaling back, or deferral of numerous pipeline projects in both the U.S. and Canada. One such deferral involved a planned NGL pipeline that would run through the heart of Alberta’s Montney and Duvernay plays. Originally slated to begin construction earlier this year, a one-year deferral was announced back in May by the joint venture of Canadian midstream players Keyera and Energy Transfer Canada, the latter of which is itself a JV of Energy Transfer and KKR. Since then, a stabilization in energy markets and signs of recovery in Alberta NGL production has provided the co-developers with the confidence to commit to a construction start in 2021. Today, we review the project and what has changed to get it back on track.
Up until the early months of 2020, Alberta had been experiencing strong growth in its production of NGLs such as propane, normal butane, pentanes-plus (natural gasoline), and condensate (field condensate). Powered by drilling that focused on liquids-rich gas in unconventional plays like the celebrated Montney and Duvernay, this growing supply of NGLs was quickly being lapped up by homegrown industries such as the oil sands (where shippers use condensate and pentanes-plus as diluent) or rising exports of LPG (propane and butane).
That all came to a screeching halt when the pandemic unsettled global energy markets earlier this year and helped to crater energy prices and demand. Alberta was not immune to COVID’s disruptive effects — there was a sharp pullback in pretty much all forms of energy production there, as well as a slowdown of drilling for NGL-rich gas. However, it was not just production and drilling that were affected, but related infrastructure projects meant to capitalize on transporting growing supplies, such as NGLs, that ended up being deferred or scaled back.
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