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PetroChina to build Northern Gateway pipeline?

China's largest state-controlled oil company, PetroChina, is reportedly interested in building Enbridge's $5.5 billion Northern Gateway project.

"They have made the point to us that they are very qualified in building pipelines, and we will take that into consideration when we are looking for contractors," outgoing Enbridge president and CEO Pat Daniel told the National Post. "It’s an open bid process. They are a very big organization, they build a lot of pipelines, and they would love to be involved from what they have told me."

The Chinese firm is considering purchasing an equity interest in Northern Gateway, Daniel said, making it a part-owner in the project.

It could be years before Enbridge actually selects a pipeline builder, but, as the National Post's Claudio Cattaneo notes, "with a workforce of almost two million and cheaper labour costs than its North American counterparts, the Chinese company stands a good chance of presenting a competitive bid."

A winning bid could make the project a harder sell in B.C., where a thin majority of citizens support it, suggests a recent poll, and opposition is growing.

The National Post also notes that PetroChina's labour force would likely be composed of non-unionized labour, a potentially contentious issue for B.C.'s strong, and vocal, labour unions.

Enbridge has long promised that Northern Gateway will create 1,150 long-term jobs across Canada, in addition to 62,700 person years of short-term construction employment. That includes about 104 permanent operating positions for the pipeline, reads its website, "and 113 positions with the associated marine services."

Those figures are contested by a recent study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which claims the project will spawn only a "handful of permanent new jobs" and about 1,850 construction positions.

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy and climate issues for The Tyee.

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