After four years and more than $34 billion in costs, the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion will go into commercial service on May 1. 

The Crown corporation behind the massive project provided the start date in an update posted to its website Wednesday.

"The commencement date for commercial operation of the expanded system will be May 1, 2024," Trans Mountain Corp. said in the update.

"Trans Mountain anticipates providing service for all contracted (oil) volumes in the month of May."

The company also confirmed in its statement that it has resolved the construction-related difficulties that had slowed the project's progress in recent months. Trans Mountain Corp. had encountered an "obstruction" when trying to pull the pipe into the horizontal hole that had been drilled for it in an area of the Fraser Valley between Hope and Chilliwack, B.C. 

The setback forced the company to remove the pipe temporarily to address the issue, but on Wednesday Trans Mountain Corp. said it has resolved the challenge and the section of pipe has been successfully installed.

To complete the expansion project, "there are several remaining steps including obtaining outstanding approvals from the Canada Energy Regulator," the company said. 

"With the appropriate approvals and completion of remaining construction activity, Trans Mountain will commence transporting crude oil on the expanded system."

The Trans Mountain pipeline, which was bought by the federal government in 2018, is Canada's only oil pipeline to the West Coast. Its expansion will increase the pipeline's capacity by 590,000 barrels per day to a total of 890,000 barrels per day, improving access to export markets for Canadian oil companies.

While its completion will be celebrated by Canada's energy sector, the project has faced major hurdles to get to this point. 

The project's $34-billion price tag has ballooned from a 2017 estimate of $7.4 billion, with Trans Mountain Corp. blaming the increase on "extraordinary" factors including evolving compliance requirements, Indigenous accommodations, stakeholder engagement, extreme weather and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline — Canada's only oil pipeline to the West Coast — in 2018 for $4.5 billion. The purchase was made to ensure the pipeline expansion was completed after previous owner Kinder Morgan Canada threatened to scrap the project in the face of regulatory hurdles and Indigenous and environmental opposition.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2024.