Jan 15, 2019
LNG Canada’s export terminal will enable coal-reliant customer nations to reduce GHG emisssions
In October, LNG Canada announced that it was moving forward with its investment to build a massive export terminal in coastal Kitimat, B.C. to bring natural gas to overseas customers in Asia. But underpinning the entire supply chain is the knowledge that the success of the project will significantly reduce the global production of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
There’s no denying the economic benefit of supplying natural gas to overseas markets and sharing those benefits with the First Nations who have enthusiastically supported LNG Canada. But the environmental benefits of the project are just as tangible.
The LNG Canada project will reduce global emissions of GHGs because the operation has been designed to achieve the lowest carbon intensity of any operating large-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in the world, because the exported LNG will be used to replace carbon-intensive coal energy, and because public policy in customer countries will ensure that the LNG they buy will displace coal-produced energy.
While the state-of-the-art technology required to export LNG in an environmentally responsible manner is complex, the basic concept is simple. Natural gas is delivered by pipeline to the terminal, cooled into liquid at normal atmospheric pressure and then delivered overseas on LNG container ships. The process is reversed at the destination, and distributed to utility customers through local pipelines in countries that include China, Japan, Korea and Malaysia.
There’s no doubt that work at the Kitimat terminal will create a marginal increase in GHG emissions in British Columbia, says Rob Seeley, energy and sustainable development consultant and president of E3Merge Consulting.
“But for every unit of GHGs that British Columbia produces to get that LNG to market, the overseas production of GHGs goes down by a factor of 10,” he says. “Shipping LNG at design capacity from Kitimat to displace coal-generated electricity in China would reduce global GHG emissions by 60 to 90 million tonnes annually, equivalent to the annual production of GHGs in all of B.C. and 10 per cent of Canada’s.”
However, recognizing that capacity for GHG reduction requires a global view of the issue, not a regional one.
“The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that we have to stop thinking regionally to solve a global problem,” says Seeley. “The need for energy in Asian markets will continue to increase, even as we strive for a zero-carbon future. If Canada doesn’t help to supply those energy needs, somebody else will, and the supplier may not share our commitment to GHG reduction.”
Canada is responsible for only about 1.6 per cent of regional global GHG emissions, while China dwarfs that output at roughly 30 per cent. But Canadians shouldn’t feel smug, says Wenran Jiang, president of the Canada-China Energy & Environment Forum. By purchasing products manufactured in China, the West has simply outsourced much of its GHG production.
“About 60 per cent of China’s total exports are produced by foreign multinational corporations,” he says. “If you buy from Canadian Tire, Walmart or Apple, you are part of China’s CO2 emission problem.”
Producing energy by burning coal remains cheaper than natural gas, but countries including China are already establishing policies and incentives that encourage the use of LNG to generate electricity.
“Canada can employ visionary leadership to work with China to ensure that Canadian LNG will replace coal to produce electricity,” says Jiang. “We can also work to quantify the CO2 reduction resulting from such a process.”
The Kitimat terminal is located on the traditional territory of the Haisla First Nation. Former chief councillor Ellis Ross was elected Liberal MLA for Skeena in 2017.
“I worked for 12 years to promote the establishment of an LNG project,” he says. “I resigned as chief councillor because I wanted this project to succeed and felt that I could do more to influence policy decisions as an MLA.”
LNG Canada has set new standards for consultation with First Nations, he says. The economic benefits of the project are already being felt locally and revenue- sharing agreements will benefit the band into the future. However environmental concerns were paramount.
“The local air shed is in much better shape than it was in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s when we had different industries in Kitimat,” says Ross. “We understand that there will be some increase in local greenhouse gas emissions, but we see that in a global context of overall reduction.”
As current chief councillor of the Haisla First Nation, Crystal Smith also counts on both economic benefits and the positive environmental impact of the project. “We support it 100 per cent,” she says. “We’ve lived in our territory for thousands of years. We have the support of our community because we’re holding LNG Canada to the high environmental standard they’ve agreed to. This agreement honours our traditions.”
Susannah Pierce is director of corporate affairs at LNG Canada. She believes that the world has the potential to achieve a zero carbon future—and that current solar and wind energy technology, which provide intermittent energy, can’t achieve that goal on their own.
“Over the short term as we transition to more robust renewable energy technology, you’ll need a transitional step, and that’s why natural gas is important,” she says. “I don’t accept the ‘all or nothing’ argument that we can’t allow the use of any more fossil fuels. We need a thoughtful transition that considers all of the impacts and unintended consequences of transitioning too quickly to renewables.”
She’s also confident that LNG Canada will deliver on its design promise of supplying overseas LNG, while contributing the lowest level of GHGs of any similar project in the world.
“It astonishes me that people are willing to offshore natural gas production to another country, knowing that it will increase the world’s carbon footprint,” she says. “The world needs energy and if we don’t supply it, someone else will. By getting it right in Kitimat, we can help lead the world into a low-carbon future.”
By Peter Kenter. Originally posted by The Vancouver Sun, on December 13, 2018.