Canada's Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal has endorsed Imperial Oil Ltd.'s new 2007 start-up target for shipping natural gas out of the Mackenzie Delta.
"I think it's a realistic date," he said Sept. 12, a day after Imperial said it was now aiming to fast-track both regulatory approvals and the construction phase for the C$4 billion pipeline and field development.
Dhaliwal said he believed the regulatory requirements could be met within 24 to 30 months, while the pipeline "technical requirements" could be achieved in 24 months.
Earlier timelines had estimated that both the regulatory process and construction would each take three to four years.
Northwest Territories Resources Minister Jim Antoine, in Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. legislators on pipeline issues, said Imperial's fast-track timetable could be accomplished with the cooperation of the various interested parties in the territories.
He welcomed Imperial's new aggressive schedule as proof that the company is "more firmly committed now than ever to building a Mackenzie Valley stand-alone natural gas pipeline."
But one indication that Imperial could encounter some obstacles came from the Yellowknife-based Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, whose research director Kevin O'Reilly said starting deliveries within five years is an enormously optimistic goal.
He noted that there is a "plethora" of boards and agencies involved in reviewing the pipeline proposal, under "constitutionally entrenched" federal legislation or aboriginal land claims agreements.
O'Reilly said clearing those hurdles would take three to four years before construction could begin.