'Clean' LNG would produce large-scale emissions

BC Premier Christy Clark has repeatedly promised the world's cleanest LNG industry. But what would that look like when the projects are underway? 

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Albert Energy 2010 statistics for Alberta's oilsands indicate mining and upgrading facilities accounted for 28.1 megatonnes while 19 oil sands in-situ facilities accounted for 18.7 megatonnes.

So, going by 2010 figures, if only seven LNG plants go ahead, the industry would be producing emissions on just under two-thirds of the scale of the oil sands industry which has caused so much global concern.

A May 20 statement to The Vancouver Observer from the provincial ministry of Environment said  the provincial government is committed to the cleanest LNG facilities and those discussions with industry are happening now.

"The province is looking for ways to incent reduced emissions in the upstream  such as work we undertook with CAPP (the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers) to improve our understanding and detection of equipment leaks including the use of infrared technology, our flaring and venting guidelines, and our carbon capture and storage regulatory framework," the statement said. "We are pursuing outcomes that work for the environment and the economy."

It should be noted, however, that, responding to public social license to operate issues, one company seeking to build and operate a liquefied natural gas export plant on Canada's west coast said it would use electricity, rather than gas, to power its proposed plant to cut emissions.

Woodfibre LNG announced May 14 it would use electricity generated from hydroelectric sources to power cooling compressors for its proposed $1.6 billion liquefied natural gas plant near Squamish, British Columbia.

The use of BC Hydro electricity, instead of natural gas, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent, the company said.

Smith, however, said such changes need to occur all the way along the value chain in the LNG process _ 'from the gas fields to the coast." 
She said carbon capture and storage processes need to be instituted in the gas fields and gas leaks need to be plugged.

"All of this can be done with existing technology," she said.

Moreover, she said, much of it can be done with renewables with wind power being used on the north coast to power LNG plants with gas and electrical power used as backup.

In 2012, B.C. announced that natural gas would be classified as a clean fuel when used to power liquefied natural gas plants. The premier said the regulation would apply only to LNG development, not to power use in the rest of the province -- only to power generation meeting world-leading standards.

The BC Chamber of Commerce called this timely, as the  BC Hydro utility does not have enough capacity to feed all the LNG projects. 

Looming in the wings  is the proposed multi-billion dollar Site C hydro-electric project which has received a lukewarm approval from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency contingent on federal cabinet approval.

It's planned to provide 1,100 megawatts of capacity and produce about 5,100 gigawatt hours of electricity each year — enough energy to power the equivalent of about 450,000 homes per year in B.C.

It's being billed as clean renewable energy.

Could that be used to power LNG plants and thus increase the viability of something like a carbon tax?

Now, something else is thrown in the mix here.

The government seems almost giddy about the revenue potential from LNG.
British Columbia intends to raise from C$130 billion to $260 billion over 30 years through direct taxes from  LNG  facilities and royalties from upstream natural gas producers.

But, some companies are already balking at this potential ledger item that comes out of their profits. It's an issue the government is going to have to dance lightly around as it irons out the terms of the tax. 

In October 2013 for the first time, British Columbia required a proposed natural gas production plant to be carbon-capture ready as a condition for its environmental assessment certificate, or permit.

However, the province does not yet have any carbon capture requirements in effect. 
And, as Smith said, it is the government that must lead on the regulatory side.

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