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Canadian Natural expects Trans Mountain expansion project to be delayed -letter

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A pipe yard servicing government-owned oil pipeline operator Trans Mountain is seen in Kamloops

By Nia Williams

(Reuters) - Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, a major shipper on the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion (TMX), expects the project will be delayed until at least the second quarter of 2024, the company said in a letter to Canadian regulators on Thursday.

Trans Mountain Corp (TMC), the Canadian government-owned corporation building the long-delayed project, has said the expanded pipeline will start shipping oil late in the first quarter of next year.

Canadian Natural said it expected the pipeline's start date to be delayed because TMC is asking regulators for a route deviation on a 1.3-km (0.8 mile) section just south of Kamloops, British Columbia.

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"Although Canadian Natural hopes for an earlier Commencement Date, unfortunately, it is probable that the Commencement Date will be delayed into Q2 or later in 2024," the letter to the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) said.

TMC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TMX will treble the flow of oil sands crude from Alberta to Canada's Pacific Coast to 890,000 barrels per day, but the expansion has been dogged by years of regulatory delays and environmental opposition.

It was bought by the Canadian government in 2018 to ensure it got built, but has seen costs quadruple to C$30.9 billion. TMC is currently locked in a dispute with oil shippers over higher-than-expected tolls.

Canadian Natural's submission to the CER was one of a number of letters from TMX shippers, including Cenovus Energy and Suncor Energy, filed on Thursday.

The companies argued TMX's proposed interim tolls are excessive and called for a review of why the cost of the pipeline escalated so much during construction.

(Reporting by Nia Williams; editing by Jonathan Oatis)