By Nia Williams and Ruhi Soni
(Reuters) - Enbridge Inc on Monday named its Chairman Greg Ebel as the new chief executive, replacing Al Monaco who will retire after a decade at the helm of Canada's biggest pipeline operator during which it faced fierce opposition from environmentalists.
Ebel, 57, who has been board chair since 2017, will start his new role on Jan. 1, 2023. Prior to that, he was CEO of pipeline company Spectra Energy, which Enbridge acquired in a C$37 billion ($27.1 billion) deal.
Under Monaco, Enbridge has grown its renewables business through offshore wind investments in Europe and last week announced the acquisition of U.S. onshore wind developer Tri Global Energy even as it continued to expand its conventional energy infrastructure.
"Under Greg's leadership that's going to continue," Monaco, 62, told Reuters in an interview, referring to Enbridge's two-pronged strategy of investing in conventional and low-carbon energy infrastructure.
"I've always felt seven to 10 years is probably the right amount of time for a CEO of a large public company," Monaco, who spent 27 years at Calgary-based Enbridge, said.
Monaco will continue as an adviser to Enbridge until March 2023, but step down from the Enbridge board in January. A new board chair will be named before the end of this year.
BMO Capital Markets analyst Ben Pham said in a note Monaco's retirement is not a surprise and previously announced changes in executive roles suggested the succession process had been underway for some time.
"Mr. Ebel is well known to the investment community and brings extensive industry and leadership experience," Pham wrote.
Enbridge shares were last up 1.1% on the Toronto Stock Exchange at C$52.34, underperforming a 2.2% rise in the broader Canadian share index.
During Monaco's time as CEO, Enbridge was on the front line of protests against oil pipelines, which environmental activists pinpointed as one of the most effective ways to stymie growth in Canada's oil sands.
The federal government rejected Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the British Columbia coast in 2016. Enbridge faced fierce opposition to its Line 3 expansion project, and remains locked in a legal dispute with the state of Michigan over its Line 5 pipeline.
But the company, which ships the bulk of Canada's crude exports to the United States on its 3.1 million barrel per day Mainline system, also expanded its pipelines to the U.S. Gulf Coast and invested in liquefied natural gas export facilities.
"We have made some good strides along the way in what was a very tough environment for our industry," Monaco said, adding Enbridge's relationships with indigenous groups had really progressed. The company sold a C$1.12 billion stake in seven Alberta oil pipelines to a group of indigenous communities last week.
"As a midstream company we are at the head of the spear in terms of opposition. It often fell to us to make sure that everyone understands the importance of energy," Monaco added.
($1 = 1.3649 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Ruhi Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Uttaresh.V and Chris Reese)