The Canadian government has given the green light to a proposed project for constructing a pipeline to a terminal at the Pacific Coast that would serve as a starting point for oil shipments to Asia, mostly to the huge Chinese market, media reports have revealed.

The move was expected, as Canada is desperately looking for new markets in light of the prolonged delay in the approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline by the United States. The country's oil sands production is rapidly growing and, as the decision on Enbridge's Keystone project is still pending, Canada needs to find a way to move its crude.

But the government's decision was not easy. Enbridge, which will build the 525,000 barrels-per-day Northern Gateway pipeline to the Pacific, would have to meet all 209 conditions listed by Canada's regulator. The pipeline will carry diluted bitumen for 1,177 kilometers from eastern Alberta to the Pacific port of Kitimat, British Columbia. The $6 billion project has faced criticism from environmental and aboriginal groups but approval was nevertheless granted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet.

Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said in a statement that Enbridge still had a lot of to do before it could meet its commitment to engage with local communities regarding the project but prime minister Harper pointed out that constructing the "essential" Northern Gateway was in accordance with the country's best interests.