Plan suggests connecting Alberta to Alaska by rail

by Array

FROM THE MM&D JULY/AUGUST 2011 PRINT EDITION: Vancouver-based Generating for Seven Generations Ltd (G7G) is proposing a new railway to carry oil from the oil sands in Fort McMurray, Alberta to the marine oil terminal at Valdez, Alaska. The company revealed its proposal this summer.

“Studies have already demonstrated that a rail link to Alaska is a viable alternative to the oil pipelines currently being planned through British Columbia,” said G7G director Matt Vickers. “This approach is timely because it promises significant economic benefits while avoiding many of the environmental risks associated with current pipeline proposals.”

An option for the proposed 2,000-kilometre railway would run northwest from Fort McMurray, Alberta to join the Alyeska pipeline (part of the trans-Alaska pipeline system carrying oil to the Valdez terminal) at Delta Junction, Alaska. The first of three proposed phases is estimated to cost at least $12 billion. That initial phase would take about six years to complete, Vickers said, noting it’s too early to guess how much time the next two phases would take.

“If we do all three [phases], and if they ramp up to be able to export enough oil barrels per day we’d probably use all three, at the end it’s upwards of $20 billion we’re talking about,” Vickers said. “The other two phases haven’t had feasibility studies done on them yet—that needs to be done and brought to the business plan stage.”

The Alberta-Alaska rail link has received leadership support from First Nations in the Yukon and BC, as well as leadership support from the Alaska tribes along the proposed railway route, Vickers said. G7G will work to complete the project’s feasibility study, business plan, and First Nations consultation, Vickers said.