The British Columbia chapter of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies held a seminar in downtown Vancouver on Jan. 12 with David Keane from the BC LNG Alliance on the present and future of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in the province.
BLOG: ACEC-BC on the future of LNG in British Columbia

Keane began by explaining the composition of the BC LNG Alliance. The members range in size from giant corporations like ExxonMobil to smaller firms working at a local level. He said the alliance “represents seven of B.C.’s leading LNG proponents,” and added that while there are other projects being proposed, it is unlikely the west coast of British Columbia will see 20+ LNG projects.

The mission of the alliance, Keane said, is to foster the growth of a safe, environmentally and socially responsible, and globally competitive LNG industry in the province.

To reach that goal, he said, it is necessary to engage with First Nations, communities and stakeholders. The alliance must also develop policies to enable industry to reach full potential, he said, and provide the public with reliable information.

It is also necessary to develop the industry to the highest environmental and safety standards, he added.

Challenges include competition from other countries, low oil and gas prices, and costs are becoming an even bigger issue. There are also concerns, he said, that there may not be enough labour available and environmental challenges must also be met. Thanks to the downturn in the Alberta oilsands, there is some hope for skilled labour for the development of the B.C. LNG industry, Keane said, but there are also opportunities in the United States where skilled workers can earn a stronger currency.

Developing LNG in B.C. is important, he said, because exports to the United States are declining since the U.S. is developing its own energy sources and is becoming energy independent.

“We have to find a market for our gas or it’ll stay in the ground,” he said.

The markets being targeted are predominantly in Asia, including China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. There are five LNG export terminal projects under construction in the United States, Keane said, and we have yet to build a single terminal. The U.S. will be a significant competitor.

There are also opportunities, Keane said. He listed First Nations partnerships as an opportunity, as well as the large natural gas resources in the province. B.C.’s cold climate enables a 25 per cent increase in production capacity, and B.C. is in close proximity to Asian markets.

These economies will grow, and will need energy. There is also significant political support at the federal and provincial level, he said.

Despite recent economic decline in China, there will be 2.2 billion more people on the planet in 2050, Keane said, and they will want access to modern conveniences.

“That has to come from somewhere and I think it should come from here,” he said.

He also cited China’s crippling pollution problems as an issue where the country has to replace their coal-fired power plants with something else. There will be renewables, Keane said, but he believes B.C. natural gas could also play a part.

Replacing coal fired plants in China and elsewhere will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), Keane said. More than 25 per cent of GGEs are produced in China and 0.0002 per cent are from British Columbia.

In conclusion, Keane said, the industry must be globally competitive, work with First Nations partners and invest billions of dollars. There will be tens of thousands of new jobs and a fair return to British Columbians for sale of natural gas.

“This is nation building,” Keane said, and stressed the industry will be paying billions of dollars in taxes to all levels of government.