Petronas and partners announce conditional Final Investment Decision for Lelu Island subject to environmental assessment

In a news release this afternoon, Pacific Northwest LNG announced that the company has given a positive, but conditional, Final Investment Decision, to build an LNG facility on the environmentally sensitive Lelu Island at Port Edward. BC.

pacificnorthwestlogo100Pacific NorthWest LNG (PNW LNG) announced today that the required technical and commercial components of the project have been satisfied. Consequently, PNW LNG has resolved to move forward with a positive Final Investment Decision, subject to two conditions.

The Final Investment Decision will be confirmed by the partners of PNW LNG once two outstanding foundational conditions have been resolved. The first condition is approval of the Project Development Agreement by the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, and the second is a positive regulatory decision on Pacific NorthWest LNG’s environmental assessment by the Government of Canada.

“In parallel with work to support the Final Investment Decision, Pacific NorthWest LNG will continue constructive engagement with area First Nations, local communities, stakeholders and regulators,” said Michael Culbert, President of Pacific NorthWest LNG. “The integrated project is poised to create thousands of construction and operational careers in the midst of the current energy sector slowdown.”

ProgressenergyProgress Energy Canada and the North Montney Joint Venture partners will continue to invest in its North Montney natural gas resources. The investment to date has proved and probable natural gas reserves of over 20 trillion cubic feet (tcf) with $2 billion-plus invested annually, representing approximately 4,000 sustainable jobs in northeast British Columbia.

“A Final Investment Decision is a crucial step to ensure that the project stays on track to service contracted LNG customers,” Culbert continued. “Pacific NorthWest LNG is poised to make a substantial investment that will benefit Canada for generations to come.”

Lelu Island, the flat area in the left of the image, across from the harbour at Port Edward is the potential site of the Petronas  Pacific Northwest LNG project.  (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)
Lelu Island, the flat area in the left of the image, across from the harbour at Port Edward is the potential site of the Petronas Pacific Northwest LNG project. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Although Pacific Northwest LNG is first off the mark with a positive, if conditional, Final Investment Decision, putting a shovel in the ground is not guaranteed. Of all the proposed liquified natural gas projects for northwestern BC, the location on Lelu Island, right at the mouth of the Skeena River, is probably the most environmentally sensitive. Even if the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency does give its approval, probably with a long list of conditions, it is highly likely the decision will be challenged in court by First Nations and environmental groups.

The environmental process was put on hold in early June after the agency asked Pacific Northwest to provide more information about building the terminal. The island sits near Flora Bank, where young salmon shelter in eel grass after coming down the Skeena, taking time to grow before venturing out into the Pacific. Flora Bank has been called the “nursery” for one of the world’s most important salmon runs.

The fact that Pacific Northwest LNG has to supply more studies means that any final environmental assessment decision will come after October’s federal election.

After initial proposals to dredge the area where met with loud and sustained opposition, Pacific Northwest proposed a suspension bridge and trestle which means the LNG tankers would tie up well off the island in Chatham Sound.

Lelu Island is on the traditional territory of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation. Members of the First Nation recently voted overwhelmingly against accepting a billion dollars over the life of the project from Pacific Northwest.

Pacific NorthWest LNG filed a report, prepared by engineering and environmental company Stantec Inc., that said there would little or no environmental impact impact from building the $11.4-billion LNG terminal. Stantec’s report, however, is unlikely to reassure many people in the northwest because of Stantec’s close to ties to the energy industry.  Stantec did major studies for the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway project, studies that were challenged by other environmental studies opposing that pipeline project.

Petronas_LogoPetronas holds  62-per-cent of Pacific NorthWest LNG.

Partners are China’s Sinopec, which holds 10 per cent, Indian Oil Corp. Ltd. which holds 10 per cent, Japan Petroleum Exploration, 10 per cent, China Huadian Corp., 5 per cent and Petroleum Brunei, 3 per cent.

As well some First Nations and environmental groups in the northwest of British Columbia, in the northeast, Blueberry River First Nations who live in the North Montey natural gas region have said they are worried about increased drilling in their traditional territory are concerned about increased drilling by Progress Energy for natural gas within their traditional territory.

The Blueberry River group says it plans request judicial review of the B.C. Natural Gas Development Ministry’s decision to sign the 23-year royalty agreement for the region.

 

Editorial Part I: Kitimat needs a world class council

kitimatlogoKitimat voters in the upcoming municipal election should carefully, very carefully, consider who are the best candidates that will, as much as humanly possible, produce a “world class” municipal mayor and council.

Northwest Coast Energy News will not endorse any individual for mayor or council in the 2014 municipal election.

However, this election is probably the most important in the District’s history and so this editorial will outline the issues facing the District of Kitimat.

When that council takes office in January 2015, it must have one item high on the agenda. Plan B. That’s B for Bust. In the past few days, just as the nomination process closed for municipal candidates, the world’s commodity markets began showing a sharp downturn and that commodity downturn will be a factor, like it or not, during the years that the new council will be in office.

So the District of Kitimat, elected officials and staff will have to consider both a possible boom if LNG goes ahead or a bust if the world’s commodity markets tank, as some are already predicting. (Although it should be noted that apocolyptic news is good “click bait” in part two we will discuss the consequences of the current commodity down turn)

Why a “world class” council?

The term “world class” has been bandied about a lot recently, especially by BC Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But that “world class” term has largely been political spin. For Clark it gives her government a hall pass if they decide, in the end, that Northern Gateway isn’t worth the trouble. For Stephen Harper, “world class” is nothing more than a propaganda term.

When it comes to Kitimat, however, it is wise to take the term “world class” seriously. How many small town councils have to deal with the world’s second largest corporation, Royal Dutch Shell, the twelth, Chevron and, if Glencore takes over Rio Tinto, the tenth? How many small town councils have to deal daily with federal and provincial governments, governments that while praising Kitimat for its potential really want to bury it by taking for themselves much of the advantages that industrial development could bring here?

There is already one world class local council in the region, just down the road in Kitamaat Village, the Haisla Nation Council, which shows that with strong, intelligent and determined leadership, a small group can come out ahead in tough negotiations with giant transnational corporations and the governments. Yes, rights and title do give the Haisla Nation a negotiating and legal advantage, but a paper advantage is useless without vision and as Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross has said in interviews, the abiity to learn from mistakes and apply those lessons. We’ve heard people say that if Ellis Ross ever chose to run for mayor of Kitimat (which he wouldn’t because he is focused on improving the lives of the Haisla) he would win in a landslide.

The present council has had a couple of major failures, both with the Northern Gateway project. The first was the failure to participate in any way with the Joint Review process. Council chose to be neutral, and stubbornly maintained that neutrality meant sitting out the entire Joint Review hearings rather than participating in such a way that the Kitimat was properly represented during the hearings without taking a stand one way or another. The Haisla intervenors ablely not only represented the interests of the Nation, by default the Haisla often represented the interests of the entire district before the JRP. The second was the plebisicite which had a convoluted question and protracted disageement on how the plebisicite should be managed.

The question for voters is have those candidates for mayor and council who are part of the present adminstration shown a willingness to learn from those mistakes and do better in the next four years?

Which candidates for mayor and council have the intelligence, determination and vision to quide Kitimat during the next four years. Which candidates have the negotiating saavy and yes (whether male or female) cojones to get the best deal for the District in the coming years?

Access to the ocean

The big issue in this election, whether or not we are in a boom or a bust, is action to ensure that the residents of Kitimat have unimpeded access to the ocean for both casual recreation and for boaters. That means Kitimat needs a tough, determined council that is willing to really represent the residents in in the water access issue.

When it comes to the Regional District’s actions on the sale of MK Marina, the District of Kitimat has acted like a wimp. The attitude seems to be well, Kitimat has only one vote on regional council and the rest of the region doesn’t really care, so there’s nothing we can do about it. True leadership would be finding an imaginative way to make sure the interests of the people of Kitimat in gaining access to the ocean are not lost in regional council indifference.

It also means that there must be better relations with the Haisla Nation and a way around the fact that Rio Tinto controls far too much of the waterfront.

There’s also the long term problem that the federal government decreed two years ago, without consulting either the District or Rio Tinto, that the private port would become a public port. We’ve heard nothing about that since but the Harper government’s potential interference with the port of Kitimat cannot be ignored.

That may mean hiring additional staff. This site has said time and time again the District needs its own in house staff city solicitor who can deal with all the issues that come up, rather than depending on occasional legal advice from a lawyer on retainer. If the district can hire smart planners and economic development officers, it should also bring back the position of “harbour master” which existed on paper some years ago and that way there would be one district staffer who could use that title (even if conflicts with the feds) to work full time on ocean access.

Experience counts

One thing is certain, all members of the current District Council have had a huge work burden during the past three years, a work burden far beyond anything that is normal for a small municipal council in a town of 8,000 people. That work burden will likely increase during the next four years.

Experience counts. Voters should ask which councillor and mayoral candidates have handled that work burden the best? Which of the candidates, new or old, are genuinely willing to take on that burden, which will range from negotiating (within the powers of a municipality) with some of the world’s giant corporations, many with a century of more of negotiating experience, while at the same time dealing with perennial issues like snow clearing in the winter, garbage collection during bear season and deciding which of Kitimat’s unique system of sidewalks need to be fixed this year?

New blood

There are at least two positions on council that are up for grabs by new comer candidates. Who ever wins those positions will change the makeup of council, may even change the voting pattern (which during the current situation was often four to three one way or another, with Corrine Scott who is not running again, often, but not always, casting the deciding vote). So the voters should listen carefully and decide no matter what their position on all issues, who are the candidates that will strengthen the overall council.

One issue candidates

While we won’t know for certain until the debates, there appear to be a number of one issue candidates running, candidates that, it seems, want to refight both sides of the Northern Gateway plebisicite.

Unless these candidates show a wider vision the voters should reject those candidates.

On the “pro development” side there is a strange notion that if Kitimat could only elect a council that welcomes any industry, any time, then the world will beat a path to our door. That’s not only a fantasy, it’s a bad negotiating tactic as Christy Clark has found out. Clark in her provincial election campaign put all her political eggs in the LNG basket and (to mix metaphors) now the LNG industry is calling her cards and Clark has very little in the pot and a very weak hand. The big corporations would love a council that comes begging, cap in hand and will take any handouts the company may offer. Just look at Petronas and what it is demanding (not asking) from British Columbia.

On the other hand, a candidate who is stubbornly on the environmental side is also a danger to the future of the district, since that candidate may also be an impedement to tough negotiations needed to protect the district’s environment including the Kitimat airshed, the Kitimat River and the Kitimat Arm.

Electing a council that is unbalanced either on the pro development side or the pro environment side will solve nothing and will only increase the polarization in the community.

Electing one issue candidates who care only about one side or the other energy debate while it may give some voters satisfaction, will likely mean that these candidates, if elected, will not be working hard on the day-to-day municipal issues like water, sewerage, snow clearing, how many books the library has or unraveling the recycling condundrum.

So cast your ballot for those candidates best suited to take on the world, while at the same time making sure the sidewalks are safe.

Sending the Northern Gateway Pipeline to Prince Rupert: A dumb, dumb, dumb idea—and here are the photos to prove it.

There’s a dumb, dumb, really dumb idea that just won’t go away—that Enbridge could solve all its problems if only, if only, it would send the Northern Gateway Pipeline to Prince Rupert.

Enbridge long ago rejected the idea. Before Enbridge updated its website to make  Gateway Facts, to make it slick and more attractive, the old website had an FAQ where Enbridge explained why it wasn’t going to Prince Rupert.

Did you consider running the pipeline to Prince Rupert where a major port already exists?

We considered Prince Rupert and Kitimat as possible locations. We carried out a feasibility study that took into account a number of considerations. The study found that the routes to Prince Rupert were too steep to safely run the pipeline, and that Kitimat was the best and safest option available.

Current proposed route for the Northern Gateway pipeline. (Enbridge)
Current proposed route for the Northern Gateway pipeline. (Enbridge)

Here in the northwest even the supporters of the Northern Gateway roll their eyes when they hear the old Prince Rupert story come up again and again – and it’s not just because these people support the Kitimat plans for Northern Gateway, it’s because those supporters (not to mention the opponents) have driven along the Skeena from Terrace to Prince Rupert.

There just isn’t any room for a pipeline. It’s a game of centimetres.

A rainbow hugs the mountains near the Telegraph Point rest area on the Skeena River between Terrace and Prince Rupert, Sept. 29, 2014.  Traffic is seen on the narrow corridor between the mountains and the river (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)
A rainbow hugs the mountains near the Telegraph Point rest area on the Skeena River between Terrace and Prince Rupert, Sept. 29, 2014. Traffic is seen on the narrow corridor between the mountains and the river (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Alternatives to Kitimat?

Now the new premier of Alberta, Jim Prentice, who should know better if he’s going to lead that province, is hinting that Kitimat isn’t the only possible solution for the Northern Gateway.

Without specifying Prince Rupert, according to Gary Mason reporting in The Globe and Mail, Prentice was speculating about an alternative to Kitimat.

Asked whether he believes the Gateway terminus should be relocated to Prince Rupert or another destination, Mr. Prentice said, “Everything I’ve heard from the Haisla who live there is they don’t agree with the terminal being in Kitimat.” Is it possible to get First Nations approval if there is no support at the planned terminus site? “It’s pretty tough,” the Premier said.

A couple of days ago, the Prince Rupert’s Mayor Jack Mussallem told The Globe and Mail in Mayor, port authority say no room for Northern Gateway pipeline in Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert has a thriving local fishing industry that employs hundreds of people and is critically important to the local First Nations. He is convinced the community would not be willing to put that at risk.
“Overwhelmingly people in my community are much more comfortable with liquefied natural gas, with wood pellets, with coal, than any oil product,” he said.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority also rejected the idea

A spokesman for the Prince Rupert Port Authority said Wednesday there is currently no room for Enbridge to build at the port even if it wanted to. “We are fully subscribed,” Michael Gurney said. There are two large vacant lots within the port authority’s jurisdiction, but both are locked by other energy companies, earmarked for LNG projects.

So not only is there no room on the road to Prince Rupert, there is no room in Prince Rupert.

Shovel-ready?

Let’s just consider for a moment that if Prince Rupert was the ideal location for the Northern Gateway terminal (which it is not), what would be needed to get the project going today.

The Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel would have be reconstituted or a new JRP created by the National Energy Board. That’s because the bitumen comes from Bruderheim, Alberta, crossing provincial boundaries and thus it’s in federal jurisdiction.

Even under the fast track rules imposed on the NEB by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, new environmental and social impact studies would be required, starting from scratch. So add another five years of paperwork before a single shovel goes into the ground.

The pipeline would have to cross the traditional territory of First Nations that, so far, have not been part of the negotiations, mostly the Tsimshian First Nation as well as the Nisga’a First Nation which has a treaty establishing local rule over their territory.

Traditional leaders of the Gitga'at First Nation lead a protest march through the streets of Prince Rupert, February 4, 2012. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)
Traditional leaders of the Gitga’at First Nation lead a protest march through the streets of Prince Rupert, February 4, 2012. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

In February 2012, the largest anti-Enbridge demonstration outside of the Lower Mainland took place in Prince Rupert, with the elders of the Tsimshian First Nation welcoming the elders and members of the Gitga’at First Nation, at Hartley Bay, which had organized the protest.

While Kitimat Council long stood neutral on the issue, the councils at Prince Rupert, Terrace, Smithers as well as the Kitimat Stikine Regional District and the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District had voted to oppose the Northern Gateway.

Audio Slideshow; No to Tankers Rally, Prince Rupert, February 4, 2012

The Skeena Route

The Skeena is one of the greatest salmon rivers on the planet. The Petronas LNG project has already run into problems because its planned terminal at Lelu Island would also impact the crucial eel-grass which is the nursery for young salmon leaving the Skeena and preparing to enter the ocean. Note that northern BC is generally in favour of LNG terminals, if the terminals are in the right place, so expect huge protests against any bitumen terminal at the mouth of the Skeena.

When I say there isn’t room for a pipeline along the Skeena, it also means that there isn’t any room for the pipeline corridor right-of-way. Enbridge, in its submissions to the Joint Review Panel, said it requires a 25 metre wide right of way for the pipeline corridor. (For the record that’s just over 82 feet).

Along that highway, as you will see, there’s barely enough room for the CN mainline and Highway 16 (also known as the Yellowhead Highway) and on a lot of places both the highway and the railway roadbed are built on fill along the side of a cliff.

Now I’ve said this all before, two years ago, in a piece for the Huffington Post, Get Over it! A Pipeline to Prince Rupert Is Bust

Albertans’ desperate desire to see the Northern Gateway go to anywhere to what they call “tide water” keeps coming up like the proverbial bad penny. The latest came when Jim Prentice speculated about a new route for the Northern Gateway.

I knew I had an appointment coming up in Prince Rupert on Monday, September 29. So I decided that only way to prove to people sitting in Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray playing with Google Maps that the pipeline to Prince Rupert was a really dumb idea was to shoot photographs to show just why the Northern Gateway will never go to Prince Rupert—at least along the Skeena.

As you drive out of Terrace, you pass two large swing gates (also called by some “Checkpoint Charlie” gates after the Cold War era crossing in Berlin.) At the first rest stop west of Terrace, there are another set of gates at the Exstew. There’s a third set of gates just outside Prince Rupert.

A logging truck passes the avalanche gates at Exstew on Highway 16, Sept. 29, 2014.  (Robin Rowland)
A logging truck passes the avalanche gates at Exstew on Highway 16, Sept. 29, 2014. (Robin Rowland)

The swing gates are avalanche gates and, in the winter, Highway 16 can be shut down if an avalanche closes the highway or the danger from avalanche is too great to allow motorists to proceed. When you drive the highway from Terrace to Prince Rupert in the winter (the signs were covered up when I drove Monday) you are warned “Avalanche danger Next 13 kilometres. No stopping.”

The Exstew avalanche gates, (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)
The Exstew avalanche gates, (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

The drive along the Skeena from just west of Exchamsiks River Provincial Park all the way to Tyee where the highway turns inland to reach northwest to Prince Rupert on Kaien Island is one of the most spectacular drives on this planet. The highway snakes along a narrow strip of land with steep mountain cliffs on one side and the vast river on the other.

The problem is that apart from locals and tourists, none of the “experts” whether journalist, think tanker, bureaucrat or politician have, apparently ever driven from Prince Rupert to Terrace.

When both Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau were in the northwest earlier this summer to “engage” with the local people, apart from short boat trips down Douglas Channel, they flew everywhere. Scheduling you know. Stephen Harper has never visited northwest BC and probably never intends to. His cabinet members fly in for photo ops and then are on the next plane out of town.

Of all the visiting journalists who have come to the northwest only a couple have bothered to drive around the region. Most fly-in fly-out. These days, most often budget-strapped reporters never leave their offices, interviewing the same usual suspects by phone on every story.

On Monday, I took most of the photographs on my way back from Prince Rupert to Terrace after my appointment, so the sequence is from west to east. There are also very few places along the river where you can safely stop. There are concrete barricades on both sides of the highway to prevent vehicles either going into the river or onto the narrow CN right-of-way.

There are, however, two rest stops and a number of small turnoffs on the highway, the turnoffs mainly intended for use by BC Highways, but which are also used by tourists, fishers and photographers.

aberdeencreek1

The first image was taken at one of those highway turnoffs just east of Aberdeen Creek. This is what the highway and rail corridor are like all along the Skeena, the highway, bounded by concrete barricades, the CN rail line and then the towering mountains. Note where the telegraph and telephone lines are—further up the cliffside.

aberdeencreek4

A closer view of the highway and rail corridor just east of Aberdeen Creek.

aberdeencreek3

Here is the view of the Skeena River from the Aberdeen Creek turnoff. You can see to the east, a mountain and the narrow strip of fill land that supports the highway and the rail line.

 

aberdeencreek2
You see the broad width of the mighty Skeena, the Misty River, as it is called by the Tsimshian First Nation and by everyone else who lives in the northwest and on the right side of the image, the highway and rail corridor built on fill.

Any room for a pipeline?

aberdeencreek5

There’s another turnoff on the other side of the headland east of Aberdeen Creek, looking back the way we came.

khyex1

The final small turnoff is just by the Kylex River. Again you can see how narrow the highway and rail corridor are.

basalt

A few kilometres further along—as I said the highway snakes and curves its way along the riverbank–  you come to the Basalt Creek rest area. So this telephoto image shows a logging truck heading west,   taken from Basalt Creek, looking back at the highway.

Again you can see both the highway and CN line are built on fill. Is there any room for a pipeline?

Any room for a 25 metre pipeline right-of-way?

Between Basalt Creek and Telegraph Point, a few kilometres to the east, again the highway and rail line hug the narrow strip between the river and mountains.

Rowland_CN_container_Skeena

This shot, taken from Telegraph Point, in October 2013, shows a CN intermodal container train heading to Prince Rupert. The container trains and the coal trains usually have between 150 and 180 cars. If a winter avalanche took out a train, there would be environmental damage, but that damage would be insignificant from coal or containers compared to a train of railbit tankers carrying diluted bitumen.

At Telegraph Point, the second of the three rest stops between Prince Rupert and Terrace, again there is just a narrow strip between the mountain, the highway and the river.

telegraph1

telegraph2

Across the highway from the rest stop, you can again see the narrow corridor, the first shot looking west the rail line close to the cliff face, the second, east, with the waterfall, which you don’t see during the rest of the year, fed by the fall monsoon.

 

telegraphmarch2013Two shots from the same location, Telegraph Point, taken in March, 2013, of a CN locomotive hauling empty coal cars back to the fields around Tumbler Ridge. (No waterfall in March)

telegraphmarch2013_1

 

Alternative routes

Everyone has assumed that if Northern Gateway changed its route, the most likely choice given the configuration of the pipeline at the moment is to follow the Skeena.

There are alternatives. The Petronas LNG project and its partner TransCanada Pipelines have proposed a more northern cross-country route, which would go north from the Hazeltons, avoiding the Skeena 

Proposed natural gas pipeline. (TransCanada)
Proposed natural gas pipeline. (TransCanada)

The BG Group and Spectra Energy are also contemplating a pipeline…although details on the website are rather sparse.

If Enbridge wanted to try a northern route, similar to the one TransCanada contemplates for Petronas, Northern Gateway would again run into trouble.

It would require reopening or creating a new Joint Review Panel, many more years of environmental and social impact studies of the route, even under Stephen Harper’s fast track system. The TransCanada/Petronas pipeline would also cross the traditional territory of the Gitxsan First Nation and if Enbridge tried that the company would have to deal with the fact that it signed a controversial agreement with Elmer Derrick that was immediately repudiated by most members of the Gitxsan First Nation and eventually dropped by Enbridge.

So why does this idea of a pipeline to Prince Rupert keep coming up?

In most cases, the idea of the pipeline to Prince Rupert is always proposed by Albertans, not from any credible source in British Columbia, or the suggestions come from desk bound analysts in Toronto and Ottawa both in think tanks and in the newsrooms of dying newspapers who have never seen the Skeena River apart from a tiny handful who have looked at Google Street View

(Yes you can Google Street View Highway 16 along the Skeena, I recommend it if you can’t do the drive)

Perhaps the worst example of this failure of both analysis and journalism came in the Edmonton Journal on July 7,2014, when it published a piece by Bob Russell, entitled Opinion: Make Prince Rupert the terminus, which went over the same old inaccurate arguments.

The overland route currently proposed by Enbridge is fraught with environmental issues because it goes over coastal mountains and streams before entering Kitimat’s port. This port will also be the base of perhaps as many as four liquefied natural gas terminals, which will result in the channel always busy with LNG ships outbound and returning from many Asian ports.

There are existing rights of way for the major highway, the Yellowhead, and CN Rail line from Edmonton to the Port of Prince Rupert, so this eliminates the issue of transgressing First Nations lands. The technical issues of narrow passages can be overcome with engineering. In fact, the pipeline can be buried in the roadway at some restricted locations if absolutely necessary, but two different engineers have assured me that for the most part, the right of way should be able to handle the pipeline. A vital factor, of course, is to reduce the impact by eliminating the need for two pipelines.

The clue is how the Edmonton Journal describes Russell;

Bob Russell has an extensive background in planning and was a member of the Edmonton Metro Regional Planning Commission. He has flown the Douglas Channel, visited Kitimat and toured the Port of Prince Rupert.

This is so typical of the Albertan attitude toward northwest British Columbia,  people fly in for a couple of days, make a quick observation, and fly out again and present themselves as experts on the region. (Some “experts” on Kitimat, very active on Twitter have apparently never left Calgary).

It obvious that the “two engineers” who assured him “the right-of-way could handle of pipeline” have no idea what they’re talking about. As the photos show there is barely enough room for a highway and a rail line much less a 25 metre wide pipeline corridor.

If the pipeline was to be built as Russell proposed, the only highway between Prince Rupert and the rest of Canada would have to be closed for years, there are no detours.  All so a pipeline can be buried under the asphalt not in solid ground, but in the fill on the side of a riverbank in an avalanche zone?

Of course, closing a highway up here won’t inconvenience anyone in Edmonton or Calgary, will it?

Would CN be happy with years of disruption of their lucrative traffic to Prince Rupert with grain and coal outbound to Asia and all those containers coming in to feed Chinese products to the North American market? (you can be sure Walmart wouldn’t be happy about that, not to mention prairie farmers including those from Alberta)

Russell’s statement

There are existing rights of way for the major highway, the Yellowhead, and CN Rail line from Edmonton to the Port of Prince Rupert, so this eliminates the issue of transgressing First Nations lands.

Is also inaccurate.

I was told by First Nations leaders during the Idle No More demonstrations in the winter of 2013, that, a century ago, when the Grand Trunk built the railway along the Skeena , they did just that, built it without consulting the First Nations along the route, sometime digging up native cemeteries and sacred spots.

While apparently CN has worked in recent years to improve relations with the First Nations along the rail line, according to those leaders some issues of right-of-way remain to be resolved.

If there were any plans to build a diluted bitumen pipeline along that route, that would likely mean another court battle adding to those already before the Federal Court, a court battle that would cost Enbridge, CN, the federal government, environmental NGOs and the First Nations more millions in lawyers’ fees.

It’s doubtful if in the long gone (and perhaps mythical) days of “get it right” journalism that the Russell opinion piece would have passed the scrutiny of an old fashioned copy editor and fact checker.

In 2012, the Edmonton Journal (in a story no longer available on their website) also cited former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed and former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge, as also favouring Prince Rupert.

Dodge, who was in Edmonton Tuesday to deliver a speech on the global economic outlook at MacEwan University, said Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat looks like even more of a long shot.
“I think the project to Kitimat looks, objectively, more risky. So why hasn’t much greater effort gone into looking at Prince Rupert and taking (bitumen) out that way? My guess is, the easiest place to get B.C. to buy into the project would be to go to Rupert.”
Dodge’s views echo those of former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, who also favours looking at an alternate pipeline route to Prince Rupert, where ocean-going supertankers can navigate more easily.

Back in 2012, I finished my piece for the Huffington Post by saying:

So why do people insist, despite the evidence, that the Northern Gateway go to Prince Rupert? It’s no longer an pipeline; it’s emotion and ideology. Ideology in that opposition to the Northern Gateway is seen by conservatives as heretical opposition to free enterprise itself. Emotion among those who see promoting the oil patch as an issue of “Alberta pride” and even Canadian patriotism.
For the promoters of the pipeline to Prince Rupert, ignoring the science of geology and the study of geography across all of northwestern B.C. is no different than repeatedly knocking your head against the Paleozoic metamorphic greenstone of the mountain cliffs along the Skeena. It only gives you a headache.

Things haven’t gotten much better in the past two years. In fact they’re getting worse as opposition to pipelines mounts.

It seems that in 2014  the Alberta and the federal government policy in promoting pipelines Northern Gateway, KinderMorgan’s TransMountain, Keystone XL, Line 9 Reversal and Energy East (slick PR and smiling representatives at open houses, politicians at strictly controlled photo ops) is to ignore facts on the ground and to refuse to deal with the concerns of local people from coast to coast.

There could, perhaps, be a more inclusive and truly science-based pipeline planning process that could see pipelines go on optimum routes but that isn’t happening.

The policy  for the oil patch and its politician supporters when it comes to pipelines is facts and geology don’t really matter. So they put on ruby slippers, knock their heels together three times and send pipelines down a yellow brick road to an Emerald City (while telling the locals to ignore the man behind the curtain)

Related links

The Save Our Salmon website has a different view, arguing that federal government and the energy companies have a plan to create an energy corridor for bitumen pipelines to Prince Rupert.

Japan Petroleum approves LNG import facility in Fukushima Prefecture

Media reports say that Japan Petroleum Exploration (Japex) has given final investment approval to build a liquified natural gas receiving terminal and storage facility  at the Soma Port in Shinchi, Fukushima Prefecture to receive Canadian LNG, probably from Prince Rupert.

The company will also build a 40 kilometre connecting pipeline to move the natural gas to Japex’s main pipeline which will then connect with natural gas storage facilities in  Natori in Miyagi Prefecture and another facility in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan.

The Soma port was severely damaged in the March, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

“We want to help areas affected by the disaster to create employment and secure a stable supply of energy,” Shoichi Ishii, Japex senior managing director,  was quoted by the Japanese newspaper Ashai Shimbum at a news conference on Nov. 27.

Japex owns 10 per cent of the planned Petronas LNG export terminal at Prince Rupert, which is expected to have an annual capacity of 12 million metric tons.

Japex plans to import 1.2 million tonnes of LNG made from  Canadian shale gas a year starting in 2018. The construction of the new LNG terminal in Shinchi, is scheduled for completion in 2017 and will start in 2014, at a cost of $587 million US.

The reports say with LNG import facilities on both the east and west coasts, that means Japan is ensuring a stable supply of LNG. If an earthquake or tsunami hits one coast, the other would likely be spared.

Ashai Shimbum also reports that Japex is considering building at an LNG fired power plant near the planned import and storage facilities to sell power to the struggling and controversial Tokyo Electric Power Co, owner of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture that was destroyed in the March, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

The newspaper says that because Japex does not have experience operating a thermal plant, it intends to work with other companies to run the new powerhouse.

Related The Australian Fukushima fallout fuels LNG demand

 

 

PetroChina in multi-billion dollar LNG buying spree in Canada and Australia

PetroChina went on a multi-billion dollar natural gas buying spree Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, picking up shares in operations in both Canada and Australia.

In Canada, Encana, one of the partners in the Kitimat LNG project, signed a joint venture arrangement with Phoenix Duvernay Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of PetroChina, to explore and develop Encana’s extensive undeveloped Duvernay naturgal gas holdings in west-central Alberta. According to an Encana news release, Phoenix will gain a non-controlling 49.9 per cent interest in Encana’s approximately 445,000 acres in the Duvernay play for total consideration of C$2.18 billion.

Hours earlier, PetroChina agreed to pay $1.63 billion for BHP Billiton’s 10 per cent share for an Australian LNG development, known as Browse, that like the KM LNG project in Kitimat had been delayed by the uncertainty in the LNG market. The other partners in the Browse are Woodside Petroleum, Chevron Corporation, Royal Dutch Shell and BP.

Encana says the PetroChina/Phoenix investment is significant for the Duvernay, which Encana describes as a “liquids rich play” with potential for natural gas, butane and oi development.

THE Encana release quotes Randy Eresman, Encana President & CEO. “A transaction of this magnitude keeps us on track to create a more diversified commodity portfolio and maintain our balance sheet strength. It is a strong endorsement of Encana’s position as a reliable long term partner.”

The release also quotes Zhiming Li, Phoenix’s President & Chief Executive Officer, as saying The Duvernay project will combine Phoenix’s integrated upstream and downstream capabilities and financial resources with Encana’s proven resource play hub expertise. This joint venture will build a foundation for the successful development of the Duvernay play and help to diversify our business portfolio. Encana is our ideal long term partner for the development of our future natural gas business.”

The company goes on to say:

Having entered into several joint venture transactions in 2012, these types of arrangements have become an important part of Encana’s business model. Joint ventures help the Company to achieve a highly efficient deployment of capital throughout its vast exploration and development asset base as Encana transitions to a more diversified portfolio of commodities.

Significantly, the Encana release, while talking about LNG development and export, it makes no mention of the Kitimat KM LNG project, instead looking south to Louisiana.

These relationships have the potential to increase natural gas demand as a number of Encana’s partners are actively exploring opportunities to export liquefied natural gas (LNG), while some are industrial consumers looking to transition to natural gas as fuel for their operations. An example is a recent agreement with Nucor Energy Holdings (Nucor) which is designed to support Nucor’s increased use of natural gas for its facilities, such as its direct reduced iron facility currently under construction in Convent, Louisiana.

Reports say PetroChina paid a premium price for the Australian Browse natural gas project, anticipating that if it comes on stream, as planned in 2018, the current glut in the natural gas market will have eased and once again LNG will be a seller’s market.

The Browse project at James Price Point on the north-western coast of Australia is facing similar opposition to projects in British Columbia, including some of the site’s aboriginal landowners and from some environmental groups.

The opposition to the Australian Browse project, according to reports,  reflects a split in the local aboriginal community.  While Wikipedia says that 60 per cent of the local aboriginal people voted in favour of the project, there is also fierce opposition, according to the Australian Mining Journal, which reported in 2009:

[A] number of Traditional Owners, as part of the Save The Kimberley organisation, issued a statement which said there is not unanimous support for this site.

In a signed declaration, Traditional Owners have affirmed that they do not support the imposition of an industrial site on their country and will legally challenge the authenticity of any agreements entered into by the Kimberley Land Council supporting the proposal.

The statement said that “…many local Indigenous people are disgusted by the apparent abandonment of the established process put in place by the previous State government. Concerns include the threats made earlier in the year by the Premier regarding compulsory acquisition of land and the pre-empting of the Joint State and Commonwealth environmental and cultural assessment process via announcements by Woodside and the Premier.”

 

A company called Woodside Petroleum, which leads the LNG venture wants to build the “greenfield” onshore terminal but is facing competition from Shell’s proposed offshore floating LNG “given the land access challenges and soaring development costs in Australia,” even though Shell also has a stake in the Browse project.

The Encana PetroChina deal comes a week after the Conservative government approved the takeover of Nexen by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and the take over by the Malaysian state oil company Petronas of Progress Energy. Petronas and Progress Energy have announced plans for an LNG export facilty at Lelu Island, opposite Port Edward, near Prince
Encana spokesman Jay Averill told the Globe and Mail the Duvernay deal will not need approval from Investment Canada because PetroChina will only gain a 49.9-per-cent, non-controlling share of the specific Encana assets.

In Australia, in October, CNOOC bought a stake in Queensland Curtis LNG from British energy company BG. BG, in partnership with Spectra Energy has also announced plans for an LNG facility at Prince Rupert 

Related links

Petroleum Economist
PetroChina pays premium for Browse stake

Calgary Herald

PetroChina inks $2.18B deal with Encana Joint venture to invest $4 billion to develop Alberta Duvernay

 

 

Shell considering giant floating LNG platform off BC Coast: Alberta Oil

Energy LNG  Link

Alberta Oil is reporting that Shell’s plans for a liquified natural gas export facility somewhere on the northern British Columbia coast will likely be a giant floating platform, similar to the platform planned for the coast of Western Australia.

Shell Canada sizes up LNG options offshore B.C.

Although costs, production volumes and timelines haven’t been worked out, industry observers like FirstEnergy Capital are speculating that Shell and its partners are considering building a floating LNG structure off B.C.’s coast. The Anglo-Dutch super-major knows a thing or two about floating LNG projects. In May, Shell received approval from the Australian government for its Prelude floating LNG project. Scheduled to start production in 2016, the Prelude structure will be located in the Browse basin off the coast of Western Australia

The length of the floating prelude platform, at  488 metres according to a diagram released by Shell and reprinted by Alberta Oil, would be longer than the height of the 446.5 metre Skypod/ Space Deck on the CN Tower and longer than the hieght of Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Tower at 452 metres.  (The proportions in the Shell diagram of the CN Tower are not entirely accurate when compared to the information in the Wikipedia entry on the CN Tower)
518-tall_lng-thumb-500x454-517.jpg As reported in April by Alberta Oil Kitimat LNG faces Australian rivals the Western Australian development could rival Kitimat, a point that took up a lot of testimony at the June National Energy Board hearings into KM LNG’s application for an export licence.

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Malaysia buys stake in BC shale, eyes West Coast LNG export terminal

A Canadian energy company, Progress Energy Resources, based in Calgary, has agreed to sell 50 per cent its stake in  a BC shale gas development called North Montney to Malaysia’s state oil firm Petronas  for $1.07 billion Canadian ($1.09 billion US). The two plan to build  an LNG export terminal somewhere on the BC West Coast for the export of liguified natural gas to Malaysia and possibly other parts of Asia.

The Progress news release says:

Petronas and Progress will 
establish an LNG export joint venture (the “LNG Export Joint Venture”) 
to be 80 per cent  [by Petronas] and 20 per cent owned [by Progress], respectively. The LNG Export
 Joint Venture will launch a feasibility study to evaluate building and
operating a new LNG export facility on the West Coast of British
Columbia. Petronas would be the operator of this facility, and Petronas 
and Progress would jointly market the LNG utilizing Petronas’
well-established and extensive network of customers in the largest LNG
markets globally.

 No location was mentioned for the proposed LNG terminal.

In the news release Michael Culbert, President and Chief Executive Officer of Progress was quoted as saying:

“We look forward to working with West Coast British Columbia communities as we pursue this opportunity to build a new facility that will add value to British Columbia’s natural resourceswhile creating considerable long-term local economic benefits.”

Culbert also said in the news release:

 

“This is a breakthrough transaction for Progress: the partnership we are
launching will enable us to accelerate our growth strategy….
”We are very pleased to form this long-term partnership with PETRONAS.
They share our belief that our North Montney shale assets are a
world-class resource that deserves significant investment.  We look 
forward to benefitting from PETRONAS’ significant global expertise
 including their leadership in developing infrastructure and accessing
 LNG markets. As well as enhancing Progress shareholder value, this 
partnership will also generate substantial economic benefits for local
communities and the province of British Columbia, while leveraging the 
environmental benefits of Canada’s abundant and clean-burning natural
 gas resources globally.

This is the first time that Petronas has entered the Canadian energy market, an indication of the growing scramble in Asia for BC oil shale and likely Alberta oil sands.  

Petronas, the national oil and gas company of Malaysia is one of the Fortune Global 500, with oil, gas and petrochemical interests in more than 30 countries. The company calls itself  one of the world’s leading LNG companies and is involved in all parts of the LNG business, from liquefaction and shipping to re-gasification and trading. As well as Malaysia, it has assets in Australia, Egypt and the United Kingdom.

For the public, Petronas is best known as the owner of the giant twin towers that dominate the skyline of Kuala Lumpur.

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