Alberta System Gas Pipeline

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This article is part of the Global Fossil Infrastructure Tracker, a project of Global Energy Monitor and the Center for Media and Democracy.

Alberta System Gas Pipeline, also known as the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd.(NGTL), is a system of natural gas pipelines located in Alberta and north-eastern British Columbia.[1]


The pipeline system runs throughout Alberta, Canada.

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Project Details

  • Operator: TransCanada
  • Current capacity: 11000 Million cubic feet per day
  • Proposed capacity: Million cubic feet per day
  • Length: 23,500 km of pipeline
  • Status: Operating
  • Start Year:


The Alberta Gas Pipeline System, also known as the NGTL System, is operated by NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL), a subsidiary of TransCanada Pipelines Ltd.[2] The NGTL system connects to the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB), which holds some of the largest gas reserves on the North American continent.[3] The system is composed of more than 25,000 kilometers of natural gas pipeline throughout Alberta and British Columbia. The system contains over 1,100 receipt points and over 300 delivery points. The pipeline system has been significantly expanding over the last decade, adding $2 billion of investment in new facilities since 2010. The pipeline system has also begun integrating new supplies of gas from the Montney formation in the Northwestern portion of the system.[4]

In 2016, the Canadian Federal government approved of a C$1.3 billion project to expand the pipeline system's capacity, accommodating for the fast-growing, productive Montney and Duvernay shale areas of northern Alberta and north-eastern British Columbia. The NGTL expansion was approved under a set of interim regulatory principles as the regulatory apparatus for energy projects is currently under reform. "Engaging indigenous communities and developing a caribou habitat restoration plan," were some of the conditions mandated for the pipeline system expansion.[5] Since TransCanada's other major projects such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline to the United States was rejected by the U.S., while its Energy East crude pipeline to Canada’s Atlantic coast is facing fierce opposition from environmentalists, the NGTL expansion was seen as a positive step towards the company's C$25-billion near-term capital program. According to Dirk Lever, an analyst with AltaCorp Capital in Calgary, the approval was expected due to the lack of scrutiny gas pipelines receive compared to their oil counterparts.[6]

Expansion Project

The expansion project would include five new and separate pipeline section loops, totaling 230 kilometers, and the addition of two compression facilities.[7] Approximately 90% of the project would parallel existing linear disturbances, such as pipelines and roads. The project did contain 36 conditions, some of which included Caribou habitat restoration and jobs for affected indigenous communities.[8]

The Expansion project consists of as follows: -Northwest Mainline Loop - Boundary Lake Section (approx. 91 km) -Northwest Mainline Loop - Bear Canyon Section (approx. 27 km) -Grande Prairie Mainline Loop No. 2 - McLeod River Section (approx. 36 km) -Liege Lateral Loop No. 2 - Pelican Lake Section (approx. 56 km) -Kettle River Lateral Loop - Christina River Section (approx. 20 km) -Alces River Compressor Station Unit Addition -Otter lake Compressor Station Unit Addition[9]

Opposition to Expansion Project

Saulteau First Nations v. Canada (A-G), Nova Gas Transmission, and the NEB/Blueberry River First Nations v. Nova Gas Transmission, and Canada (A-G)

Both the Blueberry River and Saulteau First Nations sought to bring the National Energy Board's approval of NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd.'s pipeline expansion into north-eastern British Columbia under judicial review. Both of the First Nations claimed that they were warranted a judicial review request due to being inadequately consulted about the project while also stating that the National Energy Board lacked jurisdiction to approve of the pipeline project. However, the Federal Court refused their request and did not provide a reason for its decision.[10]

Bigstone Cree Nation v. Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. and Canada (A-G)

In 2015, the Bigstone Cree Nation, consisting of 7,752 members, filed an application to judicially review the National Energy Board's decision to approve Nova Gas Transmission Ltd.'s expansion of the NGTL pipeline system. The core of Bigstone's argument centered on the lack of proper consultation given to the First Nation regarding the project, thus violating their constitutionally protected and established treaty rights along with enshrined indigenous title and rights. Because Bigstone never had any direct consultation with Nova, there could be no possible mitigation of potential negative effects on the First Nation's intersts, nor could there be any serious accommodation of the indigenous group's needs. The band thus concluded that the National Energy Board should not approve of the project "because it cannot reasonably determine that the Project is not likely to cause significant adverse effects, or that any significant adverse effects can be justified in the circumstances."[11] Although a judicial review was granted, the National Energy Board has thus far kept up its approval of the NGTL pipeline system expansion and the project is currently under construction.[12]

In the hearings, Bigstone also indicated concerns regarding the potential contamination of traditional foods, medicine, and agricultural food crops resulting from pesticide and herbicide use and wanted to see the limitation or elimination of chemical applications. The First Nation also provided oral traditional evidence of the deleterious effects of extraction-based industry in its territory. Bigstone stated that it had witnessed the loss of whole herds of caribou, moose, deer, and other wildlife in the region and that it is becoming harder to gather the water and medicine in the area of development. Bigstone has focused on Caribou habitat and population restoration in recent years, which could be threatened by the NGTL project according to the group. Bigstone claimed that NGTL's mitigation measures were inadequate and did not address the First Nation's unique rights and interests. Bigstone also argued that the National Energy Board failed to comprehend the cumulative environmental effects of the project in its assessment.[9]

Alternative Resistance Strategy

In 2017, the Bigstone Cree Nation planned to install gates along with sentries at the edge of its territory to prevent the entry of Oil and Gas companies into their territory, along with other companies contracted to work with them. The reasoning for this plan was due to the failure and exhaustion of all other civil and legal means to "end the unjust enrichment of Multi-National Corporations." TransCanada was just one of the companies to be blocked from entering the First Nation's territory.[13] The First Nation gave the following reasons:

-The abandonment of the local economy and local companies -Disregarded Impact Benefits Agreements with Oil/Forest/Mineral Industries -Failed meaningful consultation between Oil/Gas and Mineral Industries and the ACO -Surface and Ground Water Protection - Wabasca Watershed including Aquifers -Delayed Transfer of Treaty Entitlement Lands to the Nation -Neglect of a referendum in the Transfer of Admin. And Control of Highways[13]

However, less than a month later, the Bigstone Cree Nation withdrew their plan to construct gates at the entry points to their territory. Instead of essentially creating a roadblock, Chief Auger of the Bigstone Cree Nation told reporters that they may construct tolls to generate revenue from the companies travelling through their territory. Despite the change of plans, companies like Exact were still pulling out of the area due to the unpredictable situation. Chief Auger was not worried about various companies pulling out, since the conditions were already so dire that he likened it to "living in a third-world situation." Auger also stated that "Nobody should have control of our land. It's our land."[14]

The Government responded through the Ministry of Indigenous Relations, declaring that they will "make every effort to prevent the establishment of toll gates." Auger said he was still standing firm on the idea of tolls and would further discuss the plan with the community. Auger also stated that "No government comes and tells us what to do — federally, provincially, municipally, or even for that matter, oil companies."[14]


The NGTL system suffered a rupture on its pipeline system 138 km (85.6 miles) west of Fort McMurray, Alberta on October 17, 2013. TransCanada's gas control center detected a drop in pressure on a section of its north-central corridor natural gas pipeline between its Wooden House and Buffalo compressor stations. The size and cause of the leak was unknown at the time of publication.[15]

Articles and resources


  1. Alberta System Gas Pipeline, A Barrel Full, accessed September 2017
  2. 2017 NGTL System Expansion Project, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, accessed November 22, 2017
  3. Transportation Services on the NGTL System, TransCanada, accessed November 22, 2017
  4. NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. - NGTL System, National Energy Board, accessed November 22, 2017
  5. Ottawa approves $1.3 billion western gas pipeline expansion, Financial Post, October 31, 2016
  6. Nia WIlliams, Canada approves C$1.3 billion western gas pipeline expansion, Reuters, October 31, 2016
  7. Trudeau government approves fracked gas pipeline expansion, The Council of Canadians, November 1, 2016
  8. 2017 NGTL System Expansion Project, National Energy Board, accessed November 2017
  9. 9.0 9.1 National Energy Board Report: NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. GH-002-2015, National Energy Board, June 2016
  10. Blueberry River First Nations v. Attorney General of Canada, Case No. 36676; Saulteau First Nations v. Attorney General of Canada, Case No. 3667; Supreme Court of Canada, 14 September 2017, CanLii Connects, accessed November 26, 2017
  11. Hearing Order GH-002-2015, National Energy Board, accessed November 2017
  12. 2017 NGTL System Expansion Project, National Energy Board, January 19, 2017
  13. 13.0 13.1 Chief Gordon T. AugerLetter to Minister of Indigenous Relations, Office of the Chief, February 20, 2017
  14. 14.0 14.1 Kyle Muzyka, Northern Alberta First Nation walks back on plan to block oil and gas companies, CBC News, March 11, 2017
  15. Christopher E. Smith, TransCanada's NGTL suffers pipeline rupture, Oil & Gas Journal, October 28, 2013

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