Will Canada Buy Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline?

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The Canadian province of Alberta may be willing to buy the Trans Mountain Pipeline system from Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE: KMI) in order to ensure a pathway to the Pacific Ocean for the province’s vast deposits of oil sands.

On Sunday, Kinder Morgan announced that its Canadian subsidiary, Kinder Morgan Canada, would suspend “non-essential” spending on its planned expansion of the 300,000-barrel-a-day pipeline system to an enlarged capacity of 890,000 barrels a day. The total project cost was recently estimated at C$7.3 billion, and Kinder Morgan said it has already spent about $1.1 billion of that total.

In a comment on the decision, Kinder Morgan Canada CEO and Chair Steve Kean said:

While we are prepared to accept the many risks traditionally presented by large construction projects, extraordinary political risks that are completely outside of our control and that could prevent completion of the project are risks to which we simply cannot expose our shareholders. … If we cannot reach agreement by May 31st, it is difficult to conceive of any scenario in which we would proceed with the Project.

On Tuesday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said, “We are considering a number of financial options to ensure that the Trans Mountain expansion is built, up to and including purchasing the pipeline outright.”

The pipeline expansion project received federal government approval in December 2016 and approvals from the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta followed in short order. Before approval could be obtained from British Columbia an election intervened and pipeline opponents were elected. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government have steadfastly reiterated their support for the project.

In addition to the Trans Mountain system, two other pipeline projects currently are proposed to move crude oil from Alberta either to the Great Lakes or the Gulf Coast. Enbridge Inc. (NYSE: ENB) is proposing to replace its 50-year old Line 3 system to transport 760,000 barrels a day to Superior, Wisconsin. TransCanada Corp. (NYSE: TRP) has received approval from the Trump administration and would transport 830,000 barrels a day to Nebraska where existing pipelines will take over, sending the crude to U.S. refineries and Gulf Coast terminals.

Investors aren’t talking a lot of comfort from the Alberta government’s proposal to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline. Kinder Morgan shares traded down about 0.8% at $15.48 in the late morning Wednesday. The stock’s 52-week range is $14.69 to $21.85 and the 12-month consensus price target is $21.60.