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China wants Gateway pipeline built ‘ASAP’: AB minister

State-owned oil companies from China could triple their spending in Canada’s energy sector – assuming projects like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway go ahead, Alberta’s finance minister says.

“They said the critical part to them was having access to the product [oil and gas],” Lloyd Snelgrove told the Calgary Herald. “They believe we need the Gateway pipeline ASAP.”

The minister met recently with senior oil executives in China as part of a trade mission organized by Calgary Economic Development.

More than 70 business leaders and government representatives landed in Beijing last week, eager to lure Chinese investment to Alberta.

The financial stakes are huge. Chinese-owned oil firms have shoveled more than $13 billion into Western Canada’s energy sector over the past 18 months, much of that directed to oil sands projects.

New investment could potentially triple in coming years, Chinese executives assured the Alberta trade mission.

“It’s absolutely massive amounts of dollars when you look at it,” Snelgrove said.

But much of that spending, he added, is contingent on infrastructure that would enable Canadian oil and gas to flow to Chinese markets.

The current frontrunner is Enbridge’s $5.5 billion Northern Gateway proposal, a pipeline stretching west from Alberta’s oil sands to coastal Kitimat.

Sinopec – a major Chinese petroleum player – is among producers and refiners that have given to a $100 million early investment fund slated to help get the project approved.

Despite the financial momentum behind Northern Gateway, top energy experts think First Nations resistance could topple it.

“Native land claims scare the hell out of investors,” senior Eurasia Group manager Robert Johnson recently told an Alberta energy conference. “My level of confidence [in the project] has gone down quite a bit, unfortunately.”

(Click here to read a Tyee dispatch from Hartley Bay, ground zero for First Nations opposition).

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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