TransCanada Corp's plan to build one of the world's longest oil pipelines has reverberations far beyond Canadian shores.
The planned 2,700 mile pipeline, which will bring crude from Canada's energy capital of Alberta to refineries and ports on the East Coast, has the potential to upturn the dynamics of the North Atlantic oil trade squeezing out some imported crude to North America and revitalizing once-ailing refineries.
The Energy East line could also reinforce North Sea Brent crude as the world's oil benchmark against which giants such as Saudi Arabia price their western-bound exports, analysts say, while opening up the option of more Canadian heavy crude flowing to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The scale of the $12 billion, 1.1-million barrel per day (bpd) pipeline, which will extend part of an old natural gas line, is hard to understate. Were it to start in London, it would stretch all the way to Tehran. In the United States, it could pump crude oil from Beverly Hills to New York City.
And its capacity is greater than the entire oil production of Azerbaijan, could provide 6 percent of daily U.S. oil consumption or, put another way, has the ability to carry 30 percent of Canada's total daily oil production.
"In the short and medium term, this isn't a project focused on exporting heavier Canadian oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast," said Mark Routt, a senior energy consultant at KBC in Houston, who has a number of clients interested in the project.
"The initial stage of this project will be primarily about sending light sweet crude to Canadian refineries."
That could effectively wipe out Canada's need to import crude for its eastern refineries. They now import around 700,000 bpd from North and West Africa and Latin America because Canada's own supplies lie across a vast wilderness in the far West.