The Shell LNG Canada project officially opened its Information Centre at the old Methanex site offices in Kitimat on Tuesday, June 25, 2013. About 180 people attended the event, which included a barbeque, kids activities with face painting, a tour of the office/information centre and a chance to community to meet the LNG Canada project team. Shell’s partners in LNG Canada are Mitsubishi, PetroChina and Korea’s Kogas.
Samuel “Sammy” Robinson, Chief Jassee of the Haisla Nation, offered an opening prayer and welcoming remarks on behalf of the Haisla for the project in Haisla traditional territory (Robin Rowland)
LNG Canada project Director Rob Seeley makes opening remarks. “We are confident that the Shell-led LNG Canada Project Team has the combined expertise to safely and successfully design and operate this project. We thank you for welcoming us to your community and look forward to working together to develop a project that we can all benefit from and be proud of.” (Robin Rowland)
LNG Canada’s Craig Jackson explains shipping issues to Kitimat residents touring the LNG Canada open house. (Robin Rowland)
LNG Canada’s Seiichi Tsurumi speaks to Kitimat residents touring the information centre. (Robin Rowland)
Kitimat residents touring the information centre watch a video on LNG tankers. (Robin Rowland)
The LNG Canada information centre and office building during the open house. (Robin Rowland)
A report issued by Ernst & Young, The Global LNG Report, says that there will be strong demand for liquified natural gas over the next 10 to 20 years. At the same time LNG buyers will increasingly push back from “price-sensitive buyers who are likely to be less willing to pay supply security premiums.
That means that the pricing for LNG in Asia will move away from the link to the price of oil, which, so far, has been driving the potential profit picture of Kitimat’s LNG projects.
Ernst & Young says:
Even with reasonably strong demand growth, this implies growing supply-side competition and upward pressures on development costs and downward pressures on natural gas prices. Nevertheless, the very positive longer-term outlook for natural gas is driving investment decisions, both in terms of buyers’ willingness to sign long-term contracts and sellers’ willingness to commit capital to develop the needed projects.
The report says there have been three waves of LNG development.
The first wave was dominated by Algeria, Malaysia and Indonesia, while the second wave has been dominated by Qatar and Australia. The third wave could come from as many as 25 other countries, many of which currently have little or no capacity; but by 2020, these countries could provide as much as 30 per cent of the world’s LNG capacity.
The accounting and consulting firm says the most important LNG exporters will be those in western Canada and the United States “where the source gas is likely to be priced on a spot basis, unlike gas elsewhere in the world which is generally priced (wholly or partially) on an oil-linked basis.”
The report, and the charts that accompany it, show that Kitimat appears to be well positioned in the new LNG market. That’s because the capital cost of developing LNG projects in Kitimat, when
compared to potential return, is a lot lower than in many competing countries.
The one problem Kitimat may face in the future is competition from U.S. “brownfield” developments that could turn import terminals into export terminals.
Ernst and Young says that country most cited as Kitimat’s competition Australia, is facing problems.
LNG project proposals are growing faster than industry’s capabilities to develop them. Generally at the high-end of the cost curve, with development bottlenecks and spiraling construction costs, Australian projects are typically under the most pressure. Sanctioned projects are generally less significantly impacted, but projects still seeking contracted off-take are at substantial risk.
One advantage for Kitimat may be that buyers, worried about the volatility of the market, may be more inclined to sign long term contracts.
Overall Ernst & Young concludes:
The proposed North American LNG export projects are particularly well-positioned, even though the US Gulf Coast projects will give up some of their Free On Board (FOB) cost advantage with higher shipping costs. As substantial volumes of lower-cost LNG move into Asian markets, projects at the high end of the supply curve – namely, many of the Australian projects – will become increasingly vulnerable.
Going forward over the medium-to-longer-term, Ernst & Young expects to see a gradual but partial migration away from oil-linked pricing to more spot or hub-based pricing. LNG sellers are reluctantly facing realities and are offering concessions in order to remain competitive.
Dale Nijoka, Ernst & Young’s Global Oil & Gas Leader concludes: “LNG prices are unlikely to collapse, simply because the cost to supply is high and incentives to develop new capacity must be maintained.”
When the story of the Stephen Harper government is told, historians will say that the week of March 17 to 23, 2013, is remembered, not for the release of a lacklustre federal budget, but for day after day of political blunders that undermined Harper’s goal of making a Canada what the Conservatives call a resource superpower.
It was a week where spin overcame substance and spun out of control.
The Conservative government’s aim was, apparently, to increase support for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project with a spin campaign aimed at moving the middle ground in British Columbia from anti-project to pro-project and at the same time launching a divide and conquer strategy aimed at BC and Alberta First Nations.
It all backfired. If on Monday, March 17, 2013, the troubled and controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway project was on the sick list, by Friday, March 23, the Enbridge pipeline and tanker scheme was added to the Do Not Resuscitate list, all thanks to political arrogance, blindfolded spin and bureaucratic incompetence. The standard boogeymen for conservative media in Canada (who always add the same sentence to their stories on the Northern Gateway) “First Nations and environmentalists who oppose the project” had nothing to do with it.
Stephen Harper has tight control of his party and the government, and in this case the billion bucks stop at the Prime Minister’s Office. He has only himself to blame.
All of this happened on the northern coast of British Columbia, far out of range of the radar of the national media and the Ottawa pundit class (most of whom, it must be admitted, were locked up in an old railway station in the nation’s capital, trying interpret Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s spreadsheets).
The story begins early on that Monday morning, at my home base in Kitimat, BC, the proposed terminal for Northern Gateway, when a news release pops into my e-mail box, advising that Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver would be in nearby Terrace early on Tuesday morning for an announcement and photo op.
I started making calls, trying to find out if anyone in Kitimat knew about Oliver’s visit to Terrace and if the minister planned to come to Kitimat.
Visitors to Kitimat
I made those calls because in the past two years, Kitimat has seen a parade of visitors checking out the town and the port’s industrial and transportation potential. The visitors range from members of the BC provincial Liberal cabinet to the staff of the Chinese consulate in Vancouver to top executives of some of the world’s major transnational corporations (and not just in the energy sector). Most of these visits, which usually include meetings with the District of Kitimat Council and District senior staff as well as separate meetings with the Council of the Haisla Nation, are usually considered confidential. There are no photo ops or news conferences. If the news of a visit is made public, (not all are), those visits are usually noted, after the fact, by Mayor Joanne Monaghan at the next public council meeting.
It was quickly clear from my calls that no one in an official capacity in Kitimat knew that, by the next morning, Oliver would be Terrace, 60 kilometres up Highway 37. No meetings in Kitimat, on or off the record, were scheduled with the Minister of Natural Resources who has been talking about Kitimat ever since he was appointed to the Harper cabinet.
I was skeptical about that afternoon’s announcement/photo op in Vancouver by Transport Minister Denis Lebel and Oliver about the “world class” tanker monitoring.
After all, there had been Canadian Coast Guard cutbacks on the northwest coast even before Stephen Harper got his majority government. The inadequacy of oil spill response on the British Columbia coast had been condemned both by former Auditor General Sheila Fraser and in the United States Senate. The government stubbornly closed and dismantled the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. It’s proposing that ocean traffic control for the Port of Vancouver be done remotely from Victoria, with fixed cameras dotted around the harbour. Leaving controllers in Vancouver would, of course, be the best solution, but they must be sacrificed (along with any ship that get’s into trouble in the future, on the altar of a balanced budget).
The part of the announcement that said there would be increased air surveillance is nothing more than a joke (or spin intended just for the Conservative base in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Toronto suburbs,that is not anyone familiar with BC coastal waters). Currently the Transport Canada surveillance aircraft are used on the coasts to look for vessels that are illegally dumping bilge or oil off shore. As CBC’s Paul Hunter reported in 2010, Transport Canada aircraft were used after the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster to map where the oil was going after it erupted from the Deepwater Horizon.
Given the stormy weather on the west coast (when Coast Guard radio frequently warns of “hurricane force winds”) it is highly unlikely that the surveillance aircraft would even be flying in the conditions that could cause a major tanker disaster. Aerial surveillance, even in good weather, will never prevent a tanker disaster caused by human error.
I got my first chance to look at the Transport Canada website in late afternoon and that’s when a seemingly innocuous section made me sit up and say “what is going on?” (I actually said something much stronger).
Public port designations: More ports will be designated for traffic control measures, starting with Kitimat.
(Transport Canada actually spelled the name wrong—it has since been fixed—as you can see in this screen grab).
Kitimat has been one of the few private ports in Canada since the Alcan smelter was built and the town founded 60 years ago (the 60th anniversary of the incorporation of the District of Kitimat is March 31, 2013).
The reasons for the designation of Kitimat as a private port go back to a complicated deal between the province of British Columbia and Alcan in the late 1940s as the two were negotiating about electrical power, the aluminum smelter, the building of the town and the harbour.
For 60 years, Alcan, later Rio Tinto Alcan, built, paid for and operated the port as a private sector venture. For a time, additional docks were also operated by Eurocan and Methanex. After Eurocan closed its Kitimat operation that dock was purchased by the parent company Rio Tinto. The Methanex dock was purchased by Royal Dutch Shell last year for its proposed LNG operation.
The announcement that Kitimat was to become a public port was also something that the national media would not recognize as significant unless they are familiar with the history of the port. That history is known only to current and former residents of Kitimat and managers at Rio Tinto Alcan.
The port announcement came so much out of left field; so to speak, that I had doubts it was accurate. In other words, I couldn’t believe it. I went to Monday evening’s meeting of District of Kitimat Council and at the break between the open and in-camera sessions, I asked council members if they had heard about Kitimat being redesignated a public port. The members of the district council were as surprised as I had been.
Back from the council meeting, I checked the Transport Canada news release and backgrounders. I also checked the online version of Bill C-57, the enabling act for the changes announced earlier that day. There was no mention of Kitimat in Bill C-57.
Tuesday morning I drove to Terrace for Joe Oliver’s 9 am photo op and the announcement at Northwest Community College (NWCC) that the government had appointed Douglas Eyford as a special envoy to First Nations for energy projects, an attempt on the surface to try and get First Nations onside for the pipeline projects, an appointment seen by some First Nations leaders as an attempt by the Harper government to divide and conquer.
As an on site reporter, I got to ask Oliver two questions before the news conference went to the national media on the phones.
In answer to my first question, Oliver confirmed that the federal government had decided to make Kitimat a public port, saying in his first sentence: “What the purpose is to make sure that the absolute highest standards of marine safety apply in the port of Kitimat.” He then returned to message track saying, “we have as I announced yesterday and I had spoken about before at the port of Vancouver we have an extremely robust marine safety regime in place but we want to make sure that as resource development continues and as technology improves, we are at the world class level. As I also mentioned there has never been off the coast of British Columbia a major tanker spill and we want to keep that perfect record.”
For my second question, I asked Oliver if he planned to visit Kitimat.
He replied. “Not in this particular visit, I have to get back [to Ottawa] There’s a budget coming and I have to be in the House for that but I certainly expect to be going up there.”
The question may not have registered with the national media on the conference call. For the local reporters and leaders in the room at Waap Galts’ap, the long house at Terrace’s Northwest Community College, everyone knew that Kitimat had been snubbed.
Back in Kitimat, I sent an e-mail to Colleen Nyce, the local spokesperson for Rio Tinto Alcan noting that Joe Oliver had confirmed that the federal government intended to make the RTA-run port a public port. I asked if RTA had been consulted and if the company had any comment.
Nyce replied that she was not aware of the announcement and promised to “look into this on our end.” I am now told by sources that it is believed that my inquiry to Nyce was the first time Rio Tinto Alcan, one of Canada’s biggest resource companies, had heard that the federal government was taking over its port.
The next day, Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan told local TV news on CFTK the Kitimat community was never consulted about the decision and she added that she still hadn’t been able to get anyone with the federal government to tell her more about the plan.
Who pays for the navigation aids?
Meanwhile, new questions were being raised in Kitimat about two other parts of the Monday announcement.
New and modified aids to navigation: The CCG will ensure that a system of aids to navigation comprised of buoys, lights and other devices to warn of obstructions and to mark the location of preferred shipping routes is installed and maintained. Modern navigation system: The CCG will develop options for enhancing Canada’s current navigation system (e.g. aids to navigation, hydrographic charts, etc) by fall 2013 for government consideration.
Since its first public meeting in Kitimat, in documents filed with the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel, in public statements and advertising, Enbridge has been saying for at least the past four years that the company would pay for all the needed upgrades to aids to navigation on Douglas Channel, Wright Sound and other areas for its tanker traffic. It is estimated that those navigation upgrades would cost millions of dollars.
Now days before a federal budget that Jim Flaherty had already telegraphed as emphasizing restraint, it appeared that the Harper government, in its desperation to get approval for energy exports, was going to take over funding for the navigation upgrades from the private sector and hand the bill to the Canadian taxpayer.
RTA not consulted
On Thursday morning, I received an e-mail from Colleen Nyce with a Rio Tinto Alcan statement, noting:
This announcement was not discussed with Rio Tinto Alcan in advance. We are endeavoring to have meetings with the federal government to gain clarity on this announcement as it specifically relates to our operations in Kitimat.
On Friday morning, Mayor Monaghan told Andrew Kurjata on CBC’s Daybreak North that she had had at that time no response to phone calls and e-mails asking for clarification of the announcement. Monaghan also told CBC that Kitimat’s development officer Rose Klukas had tried to “get an audience with minister and had been unable to.” (One reason may be that Oliver’s staff was busy. They ordered NWCC staff to rearrange the usual layout of the chairs at Waap Galts’ap, the long house, to get a better background for the TV cameras for Oliver’s statement).
Monaghan told Kurjata, “I feel like it’s a slap in the face because we’re always being told that we’re the instrument for the whole world right now because Kitimat is supposed to be the capital of the economy right now. So I thought we’d have a little more clout by now and they’d at least tell us they were going to do this. There was absolutely no consultation whatsoever.”
By Friday afternoon, five days after the announcement, Transport Canada officials finally returned the calls from Mayor Monaghan and Rose Klukas promising to consult Kitimat officials in the future.
Monaghan said that Transport Canada told her that it would take at least one year because the change from a private port to a public port requires a change in legislation.
Transport Canada is now promising “extensive public and stakeholder consultation will occur before the legislation is changed,” the mayor was told.
On this Mayor Monaghan commented, “It seems to me that now they want to do consultation….sort of like closing the barn door after all of the cows got out!”
There are a tiny handful of people in Kitimat openly in favour of the Northern Gateway project. A significant minority are on the fence and some perhaps leaning toward acceptance of the project. There is strong opposition and many with a wait and see attitude. (Those in favour will usually only speak on background, and then when you talk to them most of those “in favour” have lists of conditions. If BC Premier Christy Clark has five conditions, many of these people have a dozen or more).
Oliver was speaking in Terrace, 60 kilometres from Kitimat. It is about a 40 to 45 minute drive to Kitimat over a beautiful stretch of highway, with views of lakes, rivers and mountains.
Scenic Highway 37 is the route to the main location not only for the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline but three liquefied natural gas projects, not to mention David Black’s proposed refinery half way between Terrace and Kitimat.
Why wouldn’t Kitimat be a must stop on the schedule for the Minister of Natural Resources? In Terrace, Oliver declared that Kitimat was to become a public port, run by the federal government. Although technically that would be the responsibility of Denis Lebel, the Minister of Transport, one has to wonder why the Minister of Natural Resources would not want to see the port that is supposedly vital to Canada’s economy? You have to ask why he didn’t want to meet the representatives of the Haisla Nation, the staff and council of the District of Kitimat and local business leaders?
Oliver has been going across Canada, the United States and to foreign countries promoting pipelines and tanker traffic, pipelines that would terminate at Kitimat and tankers that would send either bitumen or liquefied natural gas to customers in Asia.
Yet the Minister of Natural Resources is too important, too busy to take a few hours out of his schedule, while he is in the region, to actually visit the town he has been talking about for years.
He told me that he had to be in Ottawa for the budget. Really? The budget is always the finance minister’s show and tell (with a little help from whomever the Prime Minister is at the time). On budget day, Oliver would have been nothing more than a background extra whenever the television cameras “dipped in” on the House of Commons, between stories from reporters and experts who had been in the budget lockup.
According to the time code on my video camera, Oliver’s news conference wrapped at 9:50 a.m., which certainly gave the minister and his staff plenty of time to drive to Kitimat, meet with the representatives of the District, the Haisla Nation and the Chamber of Commerce and still get to Vancouver for a late flight back to Ontario.
On Tuesday, Joe Oliver’s snub pulled the political rug out from under the Northern Gateway supporters and fence sitters in Kitimat. Oliver’s snub showed those few people in Kitimat that if they do go out on a limb to support the Northern Gateway project, the Conservatives would saw off that limb so it can be used as a good background prop for a photo op.
Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers councils have all voted against the Northern Gateway project. Kitimat Council, despite some clear divisions, has maintained a position of absolute neutrality. Kitimat Council will continue to be officially neutral until after the Joint Review report, but this week you could hear the air slowly leaking out of the neutrality balloon.
Oliver may still believe, as he has frequently said, that the only people who oppose Northern Gateway are dangerous radicals paid by foreign foundations.
What he did on Tuesday was to make the opposition to Northern Gateway in Kitimat into an even more solid majority across the political spectrum.
Blunder No 2. Rio Tinto Alcan
It doesn’t do much for the credibility of a minister of natural resources to thoroughly piss off, for no good reason, the world’s second largest mining and smelting conglomerate, Rio Tinto. But that’s just what Joe Oliver did this week.
I am not one to usually have much sympathy with rich, giant, transnational corporations.
But look at this way, over the past 60 years Alcan and now Rio Tinto Alcan have invested millions upon millions of dollars in building and maintaining the Kitimat smelter and the port of Kitimat. RTA is now completing the $3.3 billion Kitimat Modernization Project. Then without notice, or consultation, the Conservative government—the Conservative government—announces it is going to take over RTA’s port operations. What’s more, if what Transport Canada told Mayor Joanne Monaghan is correct, the federal government is going to start charging RTA fees to use the port it has built and operated for 60 years.
Too often RTA’s London headquarters acts like it is still the nineteenth century and the senior executives are like British colonialists dictating to the far reaches of the Empire on what do to do.
No matter what you think of RTA, it boggles the mind, whether you are right wing, left wing or mushy middle, that the federal government simply issues a press release–a press release– with not even a phone call, not even a visit (even to corporate headquarters) saying “Hey RTA, we’re taking over.”
There’s one thing that you can be sure of, Rio Tinto Alcan’s lobbyists are going to be earning their fees in the coming weeks.
(One more point, even if there wasn’t a single pipeline project planned for Kitimat you would think that the Minister of Natural Resources would want to see what is currently the largest and most expensive construction project in Canada, a project that comes under his area of political responsibility).
It took five days, from the time of the minister’s news conference on Monday until Friday afternoon, for officials in Transport Canada to return phone calls from Mayor Joanne Monaghan and Rose Klukas, to explain what was going to happen to the Port of Kitimat.
This week was yet another example of the decay of Canadian democracy under Stephen Harper. Executives from Tokyo to Houston to the City of London quickly return phone calls from the District of Kitimat, after all Kitimat is where the economic action is supposed to be. At the same time, the federal government doesn’t return those calls, it shows that something really is rotten in our state.
Blunder No 5. LNG
There are three liquefied natural gas projects slated for Kitimat harbour, the Chevron-Apache partnership in KM LNG, now under construction at Bish Cove; the Royal Dutch Shell project based on the old Methanex site and the barge based BC LNG partnership that will work out of North Cove.
None of these projects have had the final go ahead from the respective company board of directors. So has the federal government thrown the proverbial monkey wrench into these projects? Will making Kitimat a public port to promote Enbridge, help or hinder the LNG projects? Did the Ministry of Natural Resources even consider the LNG projects when they made the decision along with Transport Canada to take over the port?
And then there’s…..
Kitimat has a marina shortage, especially since RTA closed the Moon Bay Marina. The only one left, the MK Bay Marina, which is straining from overcapacity, is owned by the Kitimat-Stikine Regional District. That means there will be another level of government in any talks and decisions on the future of the Kitimat harbour. There are also the controversial raw log exports from nearby Minette Bay.
Although Transport Canada has promised “extensive public and stakeholder consultation,” one has to wonder how much input will be allowed for the residents of Kitimat and region, especially the guiding and tourism industries as well as recreational boaters. After all, the Harper government is determined to make Kitimat an export port for Alberta and the experience of the past couple of years has shown that people of northwest count for little in that process. Just look at the Northern Gateway Joint Review, which more and more people here say has no credibility.
Big blunder or more of the same?
I’ve listed five big blunders that are the result of the decision by the Harper government to turn Kitimat into a public port.
Are they really blunders or just more of the same policies we’ve seen from Stephen Harper since he became a majority prime minister?
This is a government that has muzzled scientific research and the exchange of scientific ideas. The minister who was in the northwest last week, who has demonized respect for the environment, is now squeezing the words “science” and “environment” anywhere into any message track or speech anyway he can.
That’s just the point. Joe Oliver’s fly-in, fly-out trip to Terrace was not supposed to have any substance. Changing the chairs at the Waap Galts’ap long house showed that it was more important to the Harper government to have some northwest coast wall art behind Joe Oliver for his photo op than it was to engage meaningfully with the northwest, including major corporations, First Nations and local civic and business leaders.
Joe Oliver’s visit to Terrace was an example of government by reality television. The decision to change the private port of Kitimat into a public port was another example of Harper’s government by decree without consulting a single stakeholder. The problem is, of course, that for decades to come, it will be everyone in northwest British Columbia who will be paying for those 30 second sound bites I recorded on Tuesday.
Epilogue: Alcan’s legacy for the socialist Prime Minister, Stephen Harper
If an NDP or Liberal government had done what Harper and Oliver did on Monday, every conservative MP, every conservative pundit, every conservative media outlet in Canada would be hoarse from screaming about the danger from the socialists to the Canadian economy.
That brings us to the legacy left by R. E. Powell who was president of Alcan in the 1940s and 50s as the company was building the Kitimat project.
As Global Mission, the company’s official history, relates, in 1951, Alcan signed an agreement with the British Columbia provincial government, that “called upon the company to risk a huge investment, without any government subsidy or financial backing and without any assured market for its product.”
According to the book, Powell sought to anticipate any future problems, given the tenor of the times, the possible or even likely nationalization of the smelter and the hydro-electric project.
So Powell insisted that the contract signed between Alcan and the province include preliminary clauses acknowledging that Alcan was paying for Kitimat without a single cent from the government:
Whereas the government is unwilling to provide and risk the very large amounts of money required to develop those water powers to produce power for which no market now exists or can be foreseen except through the construction of the facilities for the production of aluminum in the vicinity and….
Whereas the construction of the aluminum plant at or near the site of the said waterpower would accomplish without risk or to the GOVERNMENT the development power, the establishment of a permanent industry and the new of population and….
(Government in all caps in the original)
…the parties hereto agree as follows (the agreement, water licence and land permit)
Powell is quoted in the book as saying:
I asked the political leaders of BC if the government would develop the power and sell the energy to Alcan and they refused. We had to do it ourselves. Someday, perhaps, some politician will try to nationalize that power and grab it for the state. I will be dead and gone but some of you or your successors at Alcan may be here, and I hope the clauses in the agreement, approved by the solemn vote of the BC legislature, will give those future socialists good reason to pause and reflect.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the federal government had very little to do with the Kitimat project. With the declaration that Kitimat will be a public port, the federal government comes to the party 60 years late. But one has to wonder if the late Alcan president, R.E. Powell, ever considered that the “future socialists” he hoped would “pause and reflect” would be members of Canada’s Conservative party, Stephen Harper, Joe Oliver and Denis Lebel?
As part of the strengthened and modernized Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) put in place to support the government’s Responsible Resource Development Initiative, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency must decide whether a federal environmental assessment is required for the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG Project in British Columbia. To assist it in making its decision, the Agency is seeking comments from the public on the project and its potential effects on the environment.
Progress Energy Canada Ltd. is proposing to construct and operate a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility and marine terminal near Prince Rupert, within the District of Port Edward. The Pacific Northwest LNG facility would be located on Lelu Island. The proposed project would convert natural gas to LNG for export to Pacific Rim markets in Asia.
The agency says written comments must be submitted by March 11, 2013.
The CEAA says it will post its decision on the website if a federal environmental assessment is required.
It goes on to say:
If it is determined that a federal environmental assessment is required, the public will have three more opportunities to comment on this project, consistent with the transparency and public engagement elements of CEAA 2012.
Projects subject to CEAA 2012 are assessed using a science-based approach. If the project is permitted to proceed to the next phase, it will continue to be subject to Canada’s strong environmental laws, rigorous enforcement and follow-up, and increased fines.
By “CEAA 2012,” the agency is referring to the omnibus bill, best known as C-38, which actually weakened the CEAA’s ability to review projects. “Science-based approach” has become a stock phrase used by the government of Stephen Harper on resource issues, while it weakened environmental review procedures, terminated the jobs of hundreds of scientists and restricted those who are left in the government from speaking to the media or commenting on issue.
The export licence will authorize LNG Canada to export 670 million tonnes of LNG (approximately equivalent to 32.95 trillion cubic feet of natural gas) over a 25-year period. The maximum annual quantity allowed for export will be 24 million tonnes of LNG (approximately equivalent to 1.18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas). The daily equivalent of these exports is 3.23 billion cubic feet per day.
In approving the application, the Board satisfied itself that the quantity of gas to be exported does not exceed the surplus remaining after due allowance has been made for the reasonably foreseeable requirements for use in Canada, having regard to the trends in the discovery of gas in Canada.
As part of the strengthened and modernized Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) put in place to support the government’s responsible resource development initiative, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency must determine whether a federal environmental assessment is required pursuant to the CEAA 2012 for the proposed Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project in British Columbia (B.C.). To assist it in making its decision, the Agency is seeking comments from the public on the project and its potential effects on the environment.
Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. is proposing the construction and operation of an approximately 650-km pipeline to deliver natural gas from the area near the community of Groundbirch, B.C. (40 km west of Dawson Creek) to a proposed liquefied natural gas facility near Kitimat, B.C. The project will initially have the capacity to flow approximately 1.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day and could deliver up to approximately 5.0 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas after further expansion.
Written comments must be submitted by December 3, 2012.
Like the current Enbridge Northern Gateway project Joint Review Panel and the National Energy Board hearings in June 2011 on the Kitimat LNG project all comments received will be considered public.
The CEAA says after it has received the comments whether or not there should be an assessmet, it will post a decision on its website stating whether a federal environmental assessment is required.
The CEAA goes on to say:
If it is determined that a federal environmental assessment is required, the public will have three more opportunities to comment on this project, consistent with the transparency and public engagement elements of CEAA 2012.
Projects subject to CEAA 2012 are assessed using a science-based approach. If the project is permitted to proceed to the next phase, it will continue to be subject to Canada’s strong environmental laws, rigorous enforcement and follow-up, and increased fines.
If there is a federal assessment, the most likely course would be to create a new Joint Review Panel. However, this will not be a JRP with the National Energy Board, because the Coastal GasLink project does not cross a provincial boundary, thus it would not make it subject to scrutiny by the NEB.
Instead, if current practice is followed (and that is uncertain given the evolving role of the Harper government in environmental decisions) the new JRP would be in partnership with the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission, which has jurisdiction over energy projects that are entirely within the province of BC.
The Jackpine Joint Review Panel is the first to held under the new rules from Bill C-38 that limit environmental assessment.
The lead up to the Alberta Jackpine Joint Review Panel hearings was mired in confusion, partly because of the restrictions imposed by the Harper government in Bill C-38 which limited the scope of environmental assessments.
According to initial media reports in The Financial Post, the Joint Review Panel excluded First Nations further downstream from the Jackpine project ruling and individual members of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation that they were not “interested parties.” The Post cited rules on who can participate were tightened up when the Harper government changed the criterion for environmental assessment under Bill C-38. The Financial Post reported a French-owned oil company was permitted to participate.
A few days after the Financial Post report, Gary Perkins, counsel for the Jackpine Joint Review Panel released a letter to participants including Bill Erasmus, Dene National chief and Assembly of First Nations regional chief, who said he was denied standing. There appears to have been confusion over how people could register as intervenors for the Jackpine hearings, since according to the Perkins letter they apparently did so on a company website that no relation to the Jackpine JRP. Perkins also attempted to clarify its constitutional role with First Nations, saying it did not have jurisdiction to decide whether or not the Crown was consulting properly. (PDF copy below)
The Perkins letter also said that the Fort McKay First Nation, Fort McMurray First Nation #468, the Athabasca Cree First Nation, Fort McKay Metis Community Association and the Metis Association of Alberta Region 1 plus some individual members of First Nations are allowed to participate in the hearings.
The arcane rules of the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel has caused months of confusion and frustration for many of those who participated, whether they from the BC provincial Department of Justice or other government participants, intervenors or those making ten minute comments.
Although most people in northwestern British Columbia support the liquified natural gas projects, the prospect of a new Joint Review Panel could likely quickly become controversial in this region. A Coastal GasLink JRP will be the first real test of the restrictions on environmental review imposed on Canada by the Harper government. Environmental groups, especially the few groups that oppose any pipeline projects, will be wary of precedents and likely to test the limits from Bill C-38. Both environmental groups and First Nations will be on alert for any limitations on who can participate in a review. First Nations, even if they support the LNG projects, as most do, will be wary of any attempt by the federal government to limit consultation, rights and title.
A Coastal Gaslink JRP will be a big hot potato for District of Kitimat Council, which has taken a controversial strictly neutral position on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project until after that Joint Review Panel reports sometime in 2014. Can the District Council now take a positive position on a natural gas pipeline, which from all appearances council supports, long before a Coastal GasLink JRP report (if there is a panel) without facing charges of hypocrisy?
TransCanada will hold a community briefing in Kitimat on October 15, 2012, at Riverlodge to inform residents of its plans for its subsidiary Coastal GasLink Pipeline, which would carry natural gas for the Royal Dutch Shell LNG project.
In a letter to District of Kitimat Council, TransCanada said it the Kitimat would be one of several sessions across northern British Columbia.
The public information session will include maps “showing our conceptual route as well as information on community benefits, environmental management and other aspects of our project. Coastal Gaslink project representatives will be available to answer questions and share information.”
The session will be a the Riverlodge Rescreation Centre from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. On October 15.
Shell Canada and its Asian partners have chosen TransCanada Corporation to design, build, own and operate the proposed natural gas pipline to Kitimat, now called the Coastal GasLink project.
The estimated $4-billion pipeline will transport natural gas from the Montney gas-producing region near Dawson Creek, in northeastern British Columbia to the proposed natural gas export facility at Kitimat, BC.
The LNG Canada project is a joint venture led by Shell, with partners Korea Gas Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation and PetroChina Company Limited.
In the release, Russ Girling, TransCanada president and CEO says:
Our team has the expertise to design, build and safely operate pipeline systems. We look forward to having open and meaningful discussions with Aboriginal communities and key stakeholder groups, including local residents, elected officials and the Government of British Columbia, where we will listen to feedback, build on the positive and seek to address any potential concerns. Coastal GasLink will add value to British Columbians, particularly Aboriginals and communities along the conceptual route, by creating real jobs, making direct investments in communities during construction and providing economic value for years to come.
TransCanada says the company has approximately 24,000 kilometres of pipelines in operation in western Canada including 240 kilometres of pipelines in service in northeast BC. Another 125 kilometres of proposed additions either already having received regulatory approval or currently undergoing regulatory review. These pipelines form an integral and growing part of TransCanada’s NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL) System, which brings natural gas from Alberta to British Columbia to a hub near Vanderhoof.
Girling said in the release:
TransCanada is a leading energy infrastructure company in North America, with a 60-year history of safe, efficient and reliable operation of our assets and a respect for the communities and environments where we operate. We appreciate the confidence that Shell and its partners have placed in us to build, own and operate this natural gas pipeline in British Columbia. We will work collaboratively with them, Aboriginals and other stakeholders as we launch into the initial phases of consultation and regulatory review.
In it’s release TransCanada describes the potential Coastal GasLink pipeline project this way:
Receipt point: Near Dawson Creek, BC
Delivery point: Proposed LNG Canada facility near Kitimat, BC
Product: Natural gas from BC’s abundant Montney, Horn River and Cordova basins and elsewhere from the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin
Length of route: Approximately 700 kilometres of large diameter pipe
Initial pipeline capacity: In excess of 1.7 billion cubic feet of gas per day
Anticipated jobs: Estimated 2000-2500 direct construction jobs over a 2- during construction 3 year construction period
Estimated cost: Detailed cost information will be developed following completion of project scoping and planning. The current estimate is approximately $4 billion
Regulatory process: Applications for required regulatory approvals are expected to be made through applicable BC provincial and Canadian federal processes
Estimated in-service date: Toward the end of the decade, subject to regulatory and corporate approvals
TransCanada says: “The final pipeline route will take into consideration Aboriginal and stakeholder input, the environment, archaeological and cultural values, land use compatibility, safety, constructability and economics.:
At this point there are two possible routes for the pipeline west of Vanderhoof. One route would be to follow the existing Pacific Northern Gas route that roughly parallels Highway 16. The second possibility is a cross-country route, which may lead to controversy. The Pacific Trails Pipeline, which would feed the KM LNG partners (Apache, Encana and EOG) goes across the mountains from Smithers. While the PTP project has the approval of most First Nations in the regions, Apache and PTP are still in negotiations with some Wet’suwet’en houses over portions where the pipeline would cross the traditional territory of the houses. The much more controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline follows a similar cross-country route and faces much stiffer opposition than the Pacific Trails Pipeline, due to the content of that pipeline, mainly diluted bitumen and because, critics say, Pacific Trails managed to secure the most geologically stable cross country route earlier in this decade when the pipeline was originally planned to import, not export, natural gas.
TransCanada says the Coast Gaslink pipeline will also have an interconnection with the existing Nova Gas (NGTL System and the liquid NIT) trading hub operated by TransCanada. The company says:
A proposed contractual extension of TransCanada’s NGTL System using capacity on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, to a point near the community of Vanderhoof, BC, will allow NGTL to offer delivery service to its shippers interested in gas transmission service to interconnecting natural gas pipelines serving the West Coast. NGTL expects to elicit interest in and commitments for such service through an open season process in late 2012.
That means that the Asian customers will not be just dependent on natural gas from northeast British Columbia. Instead the “molecules” of natural gas from Alberta will join the stream heading to Kitimat. “Open season” in the energy industry is an auction where potential customers or transporters bid for use the pipeline.
In the release Girling says:
The potential Coastal GasLink pipeline project will allow British Columbians, and all Canadians, to benefit from the responsible development of valuable natural gas resources and will provide access to new markets for that gas. The project will also create substantial employment opportunities for local, skilled labourers and businesses as part of our construction team,” concluded Girling. “We know the value and benefits that strong relationships in British Columbia can bring to this project and we look forward to deepening those ties as our extensive pipeline network grows to meet market and customer needs.
TransCanada Corp. is no stranger to controversy, the company is the main proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the US Gulf Coast. Portions of that pipeline were put on hold by President Barack Obama pending further review and Keystone has become a hot issue in the current American presidential election.
Blue Horizon, the company that had and lost the contract to dismantle the old Methanex site in Kitimat has obtained an injunction preventing the buyer of the equipment from removing the material from the site by the Kitimat River.
Last November, Ko Yo Development of Hong Kong cancelled its contract with Blue Horizon that would have seen the equipment in the plant dismantled and shipped to China.
Part of the old Methanex site is now operated by Cenovus and is used to ship condensate to the Alberta bitumen sands by rail.
Shell purchased the Methanex site and marine terminal in October, 2011, as part of its plans for a liquified natural gas facility at Kitimat. At the time of the contract cancellation in November, Shell spokesman Stephen Doolan told Northwest Coast Energy News “The transaction … does not affect Shell’s purchase of the Cenovus property, nor is Shell involved in any way.” On Friday, Doolan said he had nothing more to add to the original statement.
Blue Horizon Industries Inc. (“Blue Horizon” or the “Corporation”) (CNSX:BH) announces that its wholly owned subsidiary Blue Horizon Energy Inc. (“BH Energy”), on behalf of its wholly owned division Blue Horizon Contracting, obtained on January 12, 2012 an injunction in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Vancouver Registry, prohibiting Ko Yo Development Co. Ltd., a Hong Kong incorporated company (“KoYo”) and Guangan Lotusan Natural Gas Chemicals Co. Ltd., a corporation incorporated under the laws of the Peoples Republic of China (“GLN”) from removing any portion of the dismantled ammonia or methanol plants from the Province of British Columbia unless and until KoYo / GLN posts security in court in the amount of $4,180,000 by way of an irrevocable letter of credit or other security acceptable to BH Energy and to the Court.
Mr. Don Allan, President and CEO of Blue Horizon, stated “We are pleased that the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled quickly and decisively in this matter by issuing the injunction against KoYo / GLN while at the same time awarding significant security for costs and court costs to BH Energy. We are continuing to focus our attention on completing the bid process for a number of new high value dismantling contracts expected to be awarded for execution in 2012 as well as advancing our other operating businesses.”
The dispute between Blue Horizon, the Red Deer based contractor and Hong Kong based Ko Yo goes back months. The original contract was awarded in February, 2011, renegotiated in September 2011 and then cancelled in November, 2011.
The dismantling of the Methanex plant has since resumed with work being handled by a new contractor, Bula Enterprises, also of Red Deer. A profile of Bula Enterprises on the website shows that it has extensive construction experience, much of it in the Alberta oil patch, including projects for Shell Albian, CNRL, Suncor, Conoco Phillips in Fort McMurray. As of late Friday afternoon, Bula had not returned calls seeking comment on how the injunction might affect the deocommissioning.
Ko Yo Chemical (Group) Limited, formerly Ko Yo Ecological Agrotech (Group) Limited, is a Hong Kong based investment holding company. According to a company profile it is engaged in the research and development, manufacture, marketing and distribution of chemical products, chemical fertilizers and bulk blending fertilizers and has a natural gas energy utilization project at Dazhou City, Sichuan Province, China. The company has a number of subsidiaries with similar names.