Liberals to gamble on liquefied natural gas exports

Super chilled natural gas smoothies carried on ships three football fields long — this is the new Liberal vision for B.C.’s prosperity.

Super chilled natural gas smoothies carried on ships three football fields long — this is the new Liberal vision for B.C.’s prosperity.

I can see now why the provincial government has been sitting on the fence over the controversial Enbridge pipeline and its attendant oil tanker traffic on the west coast. Building liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants up north and shipping that gas to Asia is so much more benign at -162°C

With the NDP breathing down her neck, Premier Christy Clark is betting her wad on building B.C.’s first LNG export facilities that will superchill natural gas to a liquid form for shipment.

Global energy barons — thwarted on the U.S. west coast — are rushing to build export facilities in B.C. to benefit from high gas prices in Asia. The National Energy Board has granted two LNG export licences to BC LNG Export Co-operative, a joint venture between the Haisla Nation and LNG Partners of Texas, and to Kitimat LNG.

The government wants to have three LNG plants online by 2020, the first in Kitimat by 2015. The Liberals estimate this initiative will create 9,000 construction jobs, 800 permanent jobs and pump more than $1 billion into the treasury annually.

There are just two problems: B.C. does not have the electrical generating capacity to run these plants; and the ENGOs (environmental non-governmental organizations) have a very successful track record derailing LNG initiatives south of us.

BC Hydro recently estimated that to meet the power demands of shale gas extraction — eight new mines promised in the Canada Starts Here jobs plan, and the LNG plants — it will have to increase generation capacity to 3,250 megawatts, 20 per cent more than current capacity.

That means B.C. can kiss goodbye to former premier Gordon Campbell’s laudable target of energy self-sufficiency by 2016. That vision — one of the few of Campbell’s that reached legacy status — was based, in part, on smallish green power projects scattered across B.C. Instead, natural gas power generation — i.e. Burrard Thermal — will be here to stay. The massive and intrusive $8 billion Site C project in the Peace will be a done deal. And, we will be forced to make up our power shortfalls with imported “dirty energy” from Alberta and Washington State.

As for the ENGOs, I can assure you the Greenpeace and Sierra Club war rooms are being prepped. Both have fought take-no-prisoner campaigns against LNG in California and Oregon.

Greenpeace calls it the latest green energy fraud. “The development of LNG infrastructure in California and Baja California threatens the state’s ability to combat global warming.”

The theory is that the development of LNG terminals on the West Coast for export to Asia would also open up limitless quantities of natural gas to domestic energy markets. “This shift threatens to turn natural gas, previously viewed as a transitional fuel, into a permanent source of global warming gasses.”

The Sierra Club, which has been campaigning against LNG in Oregon, has exploited public fears about safety. It says “if just three million gallons of LNG (10 per cent of one ship’s cargo) were to escape and reach an ignition source, the resulting fire could reach three miles from the source.”

Well, that would certainly trump a little oil spill.

I wonder if anyone has told Premier Clark that the federal government has opposed a U.S. proposal to ship LNG on the east coast. M

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