British Columbia finally got to “yes” with one of a score of companies that have dangled potential investments in liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals before the provincial government, after Premier Christy Clark made developing an industry based on the fossil fuel a centrepiece of her economic plan.
Woodfibre LNG, owned by the Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) Group of Singapore, said on Friday it would proceed with a $1.6-billion terminal at Squamish, northwest of Vancouver and near the highway to the resort town of Whistler, after Clark offered reduced rates for grid electricity to power its facility. Clark has made the same offer to any other LNG proponent, many of which have proposed instead to run their facilities from gas drawn from their product pipeline.
The premier boasted that the project will create 650 construction and 100 operational jobs over its 25-year life.
“From a climate point of view, it’s certainly a step in the wrong direction for British Columbia,” Josha MacNab, B.C. director at the Pembina Institute, told the National Observer. Even powered by electricity, MacNab noted, “gathering and transportation of the natural gas needed to feed [the terminal] would take up 6% of B.C.’s legislated 2050 emissions limit.”
The symbolic commitment may also draw new attention to the scale of the province’s shale gas resource—one that CBC News recently profiled at length. “The national broadcaster noted that the Montney formation, which stretches 130,000 square kilometres in a football-shaped diagonal from northeast British Columbia into northwest Alberta, is estimated to hold the equivalent of 90 billion barrels of oil—roughly half the full extent of Alberta’s tar sands/oil sands region—mostly in gas. That reservoir is larger than the Marcellus shale centred in Pennsylvania, about 20 times the size of Texas’ Eagle Ford gas field.
“Yet the Montney has received only a fraction of the attention, at least from the public at large,” CBC writes. “For oil and gas types, the gold rush is already on.”
Clark’s announcement may excite fossil investors who were already expected to spend more than $34 billion developing the Montney play over the next four years. But enthusiasm was more limited outside industry and Clark’s political circle. Her announcement was boycotted by Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell, who said it was “too early to celebrate because the environmental conditions set out by the Squamish Nation have yet to be met,” Global News observed
He noted that “the Squamish Nation set out its 25 conditions to specifically protect sensitive land and marine habitats in and around the proposed project site,” and “only when all those conditions have been resolved will we sign the deal.”