The positive directions in British Columbia’s new climate plan will be offset by the greenhouse gas emissions from the C$40-billion LNG Canada liquefied natural gas megaproject, particularly if both phases of the project are built, data analyst Barry Saxifrage concludes in a post for National Observer.
“The LNG Canada project is massive,” Saxifrage writes. “It will sprawl from new fracked gas wells in northern B.C., across the coast mountains via the hotly-contested, 650-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline, to a new liquefaction terminal in Kitimat. From there, the gas will be loaded onto supertankers and shipped to Asia. The LNG terminal is designed to be built in two phases, each of which will produce 13 million tonnes of liquid natural gas. The first phase is now going ahead.”
The two phases together would constitute the “biggest capital project in B.C. history,” he adds, and produce up to 10 million tonnes of climate pollution per year, more than all the cars, trucks, and SUVs on the province’s roads today.
“Despite the increase in emissions, the B.C. government says LNG Canada will be compatible with the province’s legislated climate targets,” he writes. But Saxifrage helps clarify the point with a series of charts that show the province’s emissions performance since 2007, the province-wide reductions in the CleanBC plan, and industry emissions in three scenarios—a baseline with no LNG production, a second snapshot with phase one of LNG Canada, and a final one with both phases in operation.
The province ends up with gaps of six megatonnes per year if only the first phase of the project is completed, or 11 megatonnes with both phases. Saxifrage says B.C. has already approved phase 2, leaving it to Royal Dutch Shell and its consortium partners to make the decision based on market conditions.
“Either way, LNG Canada is creating a multi-million-tonne emissions gap that the new CleanBC plan doesn’t have answers for at this point,” Saxifrage states. “The big unanswered question is who in British Columbia will be assigned the burden of making extra cuts to offset LNG Canada’s pollution. The CleanBC plan kicks that can down the road.” But the transportation and buildings sectors “are already tasked with making huge reductions between now and 2030,” and the only other source of emissions to be cut is an industry sector largely dominated by LNG.
The final chart in the series (literally) points an arrow at the rest of the bad news—further emission increases in the event that two more LNG developments, the Woodfibre and Kwispaa projects, win provincial approval. “If these also get approved, B.C.’s Industry sector emissions could jump by another 50%,” he writes.
As for the market conditions Saxifrage refers to, a subsidiary of Malaysian state fossil Petronas, which holds a 25% share of LNG Canada, cut back its natural gas exploration program just before the December holiday, with Petronas Energy Canada CEO Mark Fitzgerald blaming limited pipeline capacity.
“We talk a lot about oil infrastructure,” he told The Canadian Press. “Gas is trapped, as well, and if you compare the prices that Canadian gas producers are receiving against our U.S. peers, the differentials are significant and costing us a significant amount of money.”
The LNG Canada plant in Prince Rupert would be expected to begin shipping gas in late 2023 or early 2024.