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AIMCo expresses interest in buying a stake in expanded Trans Mountain pipeline

Workers lay pipe during construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on farmland in Abbotsford, B.C., in this 2023 file photo. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Workers lay pipe during construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion on farmland in Abbotsford, B.C., in this 2023 file photo. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit)

As the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline nears completion, the Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) has expressed interest in buying a stake in the project.

The project has faced consistent delays, and capital costs have ballooned to more than $30 billion due to construction-related challenges.

The news that AIMCo would consider purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline was first reported Thursday by BNN Bloomberg.

"The Trans Mountain pipeline is an example of the type of Canadian infrastructure asset that AIMCo, along with other investment managers, would consider if it were made available," a spokesperson for the firm confirmed in an email to CBC News.

The Trans Mountain pipeline is Canada's only pipeline system that brings oil from Alberta to the West Coast. It's owned by the federal government, which bought it from Kinder Morgan in 2018.

From the outset, Ottawa was clear it never intended to be the pipeline's long-term owner and would ultimately work with investors to transfer the project and related assets to a new owner or owners.

Rory Johnston, energy researcher and founder of the Commodity Context newsletter, said it isn't surprising for a firm like AIMCo to have broad interest in Canadian energy infrastructure.

Still, he said there are a lot of unanswered questions about the Trans Mountain pipeline that will affect how the eventual sale plays out — in particular, the price that Ottawa tries to command.

"I think that will be the ultimate thing that determines who buys it and for what reason," he said.

AIMCo is one of the country's largest institutional investment managers and invests on behalf of 17 pension, endowment, insurance and government funds in Alberta. It has more than $158 billion in assets under management, according to a December news release from the firm.

Now that the expansion project is getting close to completion, the federal government has launched the first phase of what is expected to be a two-part divestment process.

Other groups, including the Indigenous-led Project Reconciliation and a partnership between Western Indigenous Pipeline Group and the Pembina Pipeline Corp. have also signaled interest in buying a stake in the project.

The oil industry has been eagerly awaiting the pipeline's completion and has ramped up production as a result. In November, Alberta oil production hit an all-time high.