Fraser Forum

LNG—will Oregonians eat B.C.’s lunch?

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Back in 2015, we conducted a study asking the question, “What would delays in LNG export capacity cost the people of British Columbia?” What we found, in a nutshell, was “a lot.”

British Columbia’s natural gas resources are substantial and the international market for liquefied natural gas is growing, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. British Columbia is well placed to serve that market: under conservative assumptions, B.C.’s export capacity could be 42% to 74% of Asia-Pacific imports of LNG in 2020.

Under the conservative assumption that actual sales of B.C. LNG to Asia-Pacific importers would be only 11% to 20% of that market in 2020, the annual export revenues lost due to delay would be equal to between 2% and 9.5% of BC’s GDP in 2014. This cost is substantial: CA$22.5 billion in 2020, rising to CA$24.8 billion in 2025.

But we also found that B.C. is dragging its feet in terms of decision-making and the federal government has been slow to act as well. As such, B.C. stands to be beaten to market by other countries:

The International Energy Agency notes, for example, that, because of these delays, “no Canadian LNG project will start production” by 2020, even as 17 international projects were under construction as of May 2015, with target on-line dates between 2015 and 2019.

Underscoring Canada’s sluggishness, the announcement that a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in the state of Oregon has taken another step toward development should serve to stimulate B.C.’s policymakers to find a way to move the province’s own LNG export plans ahead.

The Jordan Cove project received an important government approval that will let the project move through the U.S. permitting process, and demonstrates that in the U.S. at least, the ability to build pipelines and LNG export terminals remains. The Jordan Cove project includes both large scale liquefaction technology and a 232 mile (373 kilometre) natural gas pipeline.

Meanwhile, in B.C., the Pacific NorthWest project has been conditionally approved (with 190 conditions) by the federal government, but opposition to the project remains strong:

And Indigenous opponents of Pacific NorthWest LNG vow to stand their ground.

"We have no alternative now but to take it to the courts," said Donald Wesley, a hereditary chief representing the Gitwilgyoots tribe of the Lax Kwa'laams.

For over a year, local Indigenous people have been occupying Lelu Island, an important Pacific salmon habitat where the LNG plant and export facility would be located.

"We're trying to protect something here that belongs to the people of Canada and it's such a valuable resource here," said Wesley. "I think Trudeau made the biggest mistake of his career."

And once again, a natural resource project has become embroiled in provincial politics. B.C. will hold an election on May 9 and Premier Christy Clark, who has previously supported the Pacific NorthWest project (and its potential revenues), faces a challenger who is opposed to the project, at least in its current form:

John Horgan, leader of the province’s opposition New Democratic Party, thrust the LNG project into the middle of his campaign on Friday, telling reporters it was “poorly sited.” He vowed to “find a better place and a better way” to build the gas export terminal should he become premier.

One can only wonder how many years that little tweak would add to the project, leaving B.C.s prospect of being an LNG exporter idling, while others lock down long-term contracts in the world’s most lucrative markets.


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