The federal and British Columbia governments are getting mixed reviews for their plan to partly decarbonize the province’s emerging liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry by electrifying upstream fracking operations.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan made the announcement at a BC Hydro training centre in Surrey August 29, Alaska Highway News reports.
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A newly-signed memorandum of understanding commits the two governments and the provincial utility “forming a committee to push projects that increase power transmission,” The Canadian Press writes. “The agreement is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the natural gas industry, which produces about 18% of the carbon pollution in the province.”
The deal “is not only crucial to B.C. meeting their climate change commitments on time, it will also position Canada as a supplier of the world’s cleanest natural gas,” Trudeau said. “What this means is that we’re taking another major step forward in the fight against climate change and for clean economic growth to create good, middle-class jobs.”
“We are going to be taking advantage of the abundant, clean, green energy we have here in British Columbia,” Horgan added.
“The natural gas industry burns some of the gas it produces to power processing plants, pipelines, wells, and other natural gas infrastructure. Switching to electricity—which in B.C. is nearly zero-emission power, thanks to hydro, run-of-river, and wind power—would take a significant bite out of the industry’s greenhouse gas profile,” Alaska Highway News explains.
“Lowering the carbon profile of the natural gas industry is particularly important for B.C., now that it has both a nascent liquefied natural gas industry and a climate change plan that calls for a 40% GHG reduction in just 12 years. Fitting the former into the latter presents a serious challenge.”
The new agreement funds a voltage conversion project between Bear Mountain and Dawson Creek and a power supply project for the fracking-heavy North Montney region, and creates a CleanBC Facilities Establishment Fund to subsidize fracking companies that want to connect their operations to the provincial grid.
The announcement produced a spectrum of response from climate and energy groups in the province.
“Today’s agreement between the federal and B.C. governments delivers on a critical component of B.C.’s climate plan,” said Clean Energy Canada Executive Director Merran Smith. “That is, electrifying natural gas projects, particularly in the Peace region—where demand for electricity is currently growing faster than anywhere else in the province.”
Electrification “is the thread that ties all climate efforts together,” Smith added. “Powering our cars, our homes, and our industries with clean electricity is the only sustainable path forward.”
“Bringing electricity to B.C.’s gas fields is essential to reducing carbon pollution from upstream gas operations, so today’s commitment in support of electrification from both governments is a positive move,” said Pembina Institute B.C. Director Karen Tam Wu. “However, we must ensure that all developments, including LNG projects, do not undermine B.C.’s ability to meet its climate goals….To have any credible chance of achieving B.C.’s climate targets, carbon pollution from the gas sector must be brought down significantly.”
“Electrification of fracking and LNG is not effective climate action,” countered Sierra Club BC Campaigns Director Caitlyn Vernon. “It’s the opposite: it locks us into ongoing carbon pollution that will worsen the climate emergency, at a time when we have very few years to rapidly phase out the use of coal, oil, and gas.” Any gas saved by electrifying fracking operations “will still be burned when the gas is exported overseas,” Vernon added, so “today’s announcement has no net benefit for the climate. By facilitating the expansion of fracking, it will make things worse.”