Woodfibre LNG in Squamish has announced it will run its proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant off electricity from the B.C. grid, rather than using natural gas — making it the province’s first LNG producer to commit to do so.
Using electricity to power its cooling compressors will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 80 per cent and decrease local air pollution, according to the company.
“We sought input from the community at an early stage and ‘air quality’ was a top concern,” said Byng Giraud, vice president of corporate affairs for Woodfibre LNG. “Our engineers have now confirmed that going electric is indeed feasible, so the choice is a clear one.”
Woodfibre is a small-scale project about one-tenth of the size of the large projects proposed on B.C.’s north coast.
“It’s setting a great standard for the others to follow,” said Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada. “If B.C. is going to develop an LNG industry then the carbon footprint of the industry has got to be as small as possible.”
Liquefying natural gas involves cooling gas to -162 degrees Celsius, at which point it turns into a liquid and shrinks in volume by 600 times, making it possible to transport on ships. However, this process takes enormous amounts of electricity.
Power company TransAlta estimates electricity demand from LNG facilities in B.C. could total 4,000 MW by 2018 — that’s about four times the power that would be produced by BC Hydro’s proposed Site C dam on the Peace River.
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In 2012, Premier Christy Clark told a World Economic Forum in China that B.C. has “set a goal to have the cleanest LNG in the world. We want our LNG plants to be principally fueled by renewables."
Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for LNG development, also said in 2012: “We’re trying to stay away as much as possible from having to use gas for power.”
This week, Coleman changed his tune, telling the Globe and Mail: “The cleanest means to me that we will beat any other gas-fired plant in the world.”
“That is Rich Coleman lowering the bar from what Premier Christy Clark and in fact Rich Coleman has said in the past,” Smith said.
She noted that if three of the larger LNG plants up north were to commit to using renewable energy instead of gas, it would reduce carbon pollution by the equivalent of taking three million cars off the road each year.
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Clean Energy Canada has argued that B.C. could create 400 more permanent regional jobs (a 45 per cent increase) and cut carbon pollution by a third without undermining competitiveness if it required LNG producers to primarily power their facilities with renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.
Coleman dismissed that idea this week, saying: “The cost to deliver the power [to a large LNG plant] would be so expensive that it would be ridiculous to make the investment.”
Clean Energy Canada disagrees. The group recently commissioned a feasibility study by Navius Research, a consulting company that has worked with the B.C. government, and Steve Davis & Associates, a firm providing British Columbia power developers with advice.
The study found that any LNG facility on B.C.’s North Coast could reliably power its production facilities with renewable energy — affordably and on schedule using established commercial technologies.
The study, to be released next week, also found powering an LNG plant via renewables would reduce carbon pollution by 45 per cent and increase local permanent jobs by 40 per cent.
“What we have modeled is using new renewables from the north coast,” Smith said. “It’s economically feasible and technically feasible. It will add a two per cent cost to the sale of gas, which in the world of gas is negligible."
A poll conducted by NRG Research Group in October 2013 found 91 per cent of British Columbians polled stated it was either “very important” or “somewhat important” that proposed LNG plants maximize their use of renewable energy.
Next week, 1,200 delegates from around the world will be in B.C. for the province’s second annual International LNG in B.C. conference. There are 14 LNG projects proposed for B.C., although only a handful are expected to be built.
Photo: Rich Coleman at revenue-sharing agreements announcement between the province and First Nations by Province of British Columbia