BC Gets Set to Cash in on a Trillion Dollar Fracking Opportunity, or Not?

By Roy L Hales

BC took another step towards Premier Christy Clark’s goal of developing a $1 trillion dollar LNG industry yesterday.

Chevron/Apache awarded a contract for the engineering, procurement and construction of a Natural gas plant at Bish Cove near Kitimat.

= {{int:filedesc}} == {{Information |Description={{en|1=Christy Clark at the India Economic Summit 2011.}} |Source=[http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldeconomicforum/6343453736/ Christy Clark - India Economic Summit 2011] |Date=2011-
Christy Clark at the India Economic Summit 2011 – Inia Economic Summit 2011, courtesy Wikipedia

“There are already 400 people supporting their families by working on the proposed Kitimat LNG facility site – one that has the potential to benefit all British Columbians,” Clark boasts.

There are three more prospective export facilities at Kitimat, half a dozen near Prince Rupert, another near Squamish and “Discovery LNG” at the old Catalyst mill site in Campbell River.

The BC government hopes to have three of these terminals operational by 2020.

In response to an internal report that warned this usage of natural gas will increase the province’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 16%,   and possibly as much as twice the current level, Clark told reporters, “we can either decide that we want to get to ‘yes’ or we are going to throw up barriers in the way of that that will ensure we don’t have a natural-gas industry in British Columbia.”

There are 23,000-plus fracking wells in Northern BC and, according to a report the BC Oil and Gas Commission published last year, they have triggered at least 38 minor seismic events (earthquakes). Similar stories have come in from parts of the world and – so far – the quakes have always been minor.

“We’re good at fracking,” Premier Clark told a reporter from the Globe and Mail, “We’ve never had an example of water contamination.”

Fracking site as seen from the air, near Fort St. John, BC. - Credit: Jeremy Sean Williams
Fracking site as seen from the air, near Fort St. John, BC. – Credit: Jeremy Sean Williams, WiIderness Committee

But the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission has been taken to court for allowing oil and gas companies to withdraw vast quantities of fresh water from lakes, rivers and streams for fracking operations without proper approval.

Between February 2007 and October 2010, Encana Corporation was allowed to take the equivalent of almost 880 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of water from the Kiskatinaw River. That is more than the population of Dawson Creek, who depend upon the Kiskatinaw for their water supply, use in a year.

“People who live near gas drilling and fracking are worried about their water. They fear contamination, potential shortages, and what further gas development will do to the environment,” said Eoin Madden, climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee. “The bottom line is that we need to ensure that B.C.’s water is protected for people and the environment, not offered on a platter to oil and gas companies.”

Ms Clark has also said, “My commitment is to have the cleanest LNG facilities in the world.”

She later clarified this, “We don’t produce LNG in the northeast, we produce natural gas. We will produce liquefied natural gas in the northwest, so that’s what we have been talking about. There is no ‘L’ in LNG until it gets to Kitimat or Prince Rupert.”

This prompted Matt Horne, of the Pembina Institute, to comment, “If this is truly how the province is going to define ‘cleanest’ LNG, it wipes away any hope that this government is serious about addressing the environmental concerns. Attempting to draw an artificial boundary around Kitimat and Prince Rupert is misleading; the LNG plants themselves would be just one part of the bigger LNG future that B.C. is barrelling toward.

“More than three quarters of the greenhouse gas emissions from LNG development would be released before any gas reaches the northwest. All of the fracking needed to get the gas out of the ground would happen in northeast B.C. These impacts will be caused by LNG development and they will be ignored by a standard focused only on Kitimat and Prince Rupert.

“The LNG plants are just the tip of the iceberg. Not accounting for the much bigger part below the surface is a recipe for disaster. There’s no way around it: the province must include the full natural gas picture — from extraction to export — if it wants any credibility for its ‘cleanest’ claims.”

David Suzuki says it is time that Premier Clark got “serious about where we are heading” through our reliance on fossil fuels. We need to limit the rise of Global temperature to two degrees “and then calculate what that means we can dig out of the ground and use. We’re not doing that.”

While Christy Clark is gambling that exploiting Natural gas could bring BC over new 100,000 new jobs, the province actually lost close to 12,000 jobs during the first ten months of 2013.

BC will be facing fierce competition in the Natural Gas market.

“Australia’s strong infrastructure, low population density and legacy of mining; Argentina’s powerful government incentives; and China’s seemingly bottomless development capital make the three countries clear front-runners in this race,” said Daniel Choi, Lux Research Associate in a news release today.

Asian Buyers will be meeting in February and have reputedly been contemplating the idea of negotiating as a group.

“I don’t know that there will be a buyers’ club – I don’t know all the competitors in Asia will be able to get together to set those prices,” Premier Clark told the Globe and Mail. “Typically when it comes to energy exports, it has been the seller that sets the prices.”

The Montney formation, which straddles the BC/Alberta border, is believed to be one of the richest sources of natural gas in the World and Christy Clark desperately needs to cash in on it.

The “Pacific Northern Gas Transmission Pipeline,” which connects the interior with Kitimat, is being expanded and a series of new pipelines are being proposed to enable the flow of LNG to coastal terminals:

  • Prince Rupert Gas Transmission (Montney formation to Prince Rupert)
  • West Coast Connector Gas Transmission
  • Coastal GasLink Pipeline (Montney formation to Kitimat)
  • Spectra Energy Westcoast Pipeline
  • Pacific Trail Pipeline (from the Spectra pipeline to Kitimat)

Some of the First Nations along these routes have expressed about the project’s impact upon their “rights and title,” the effect on air and water quality as well as “wildlife migration and habitat, traditional and cultural importance of wildlife and traditional hunting and trapping techniques.”

Clark promises to respect First Nation’s rights. (Most wells are in Treaty 8 territory).

She also said, “What oil has been to Alberta since the 1970s-80s is what LNG is going to be for British Columbia, nothing less than that. Energy output from LNG will likely be as big as the total energy output today from the oilsands.”

(Photo at top of page: A  fracking wastewater storage site located on the Farrell Creek road between Fort St John and Hudson’s Hope, BC. Note the “no smoking” sign! –  Credit: Joe Foy, Wilderness Committee)

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