VANCOUVERA new study by veteran earth scientist David Hughes finds that the industry and government narrative that BC liquified natural gas (LNG) will contribute to a global emissions reduction by displacing coal-fired electricity in Asia is not accurate, and in fact the reverse is actually true.

“As my analysis shows, LNG exports would in fact make global warming worse over at least the next three decades when compared to the best-technology coal-fired plants coming online in Asia,” says Hughes. In his analysis, Hughes accounts for the emissions from the production, processing, pipeline transportation, liquefaction, shipping and regasification of LNG and compares that to modern coal-fired electricity plants.

The study, titled BC’s Carbon Conundrum: Why LNG exports doom emissions-reduction targets and compromise Canada’s long-term energy security, was published today through the Corporate Mapping Project and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. 

Hughes also calls into question government claims that emissions targets can be met while Canada continues to expand the oil and gas sector. His analysis, based on the Canada Energy Regulator’s latest oil and gas production forecast and the federal government’s latest emissions report, finds that even without LNG exports emissions from BC’s oil and gas sector will exceed BC’s 2050 emissions reduction target by 54 per cent. If emissions from producing and liquefying the gas required for LNG Canada are added, the oil and gas sector would exceed BC’s 2050 target by 160 per cent — even if all other sectors of the economy reached zero emissions by then. If Kitimat LNG and Woodfibre LNG were also built (both of which have received 40-year export permits), BC’s 2050 target would be exceeded by 227 per cent.

“Government narratives have stated that reducing Canada’s emissions and expanding oil and gas production go hand-in-hand,” says Hughes. “Unfortunately, no amount of wishful thinking can overcome the math on emissions, or the impacts on the land surface from the increased number of well-pads, roads, pipelines and other infrastructure that would come with increased production.”

Beyond the serious implications for the climate emergency, the study raises many questions about the lack of benefits to Canadians in expanding the LNG export industry, including:

  • Land impacts: The increase in land disturbance from wells and other infrastructure required to support an expansion of gas production for the LNG industry will be significant. In order to meet the energy needs of Canadians and LNG Canada exports, the number of wells in the BC Montney region would need to more than triple by 2040.
  • Increased water use: If all three LNG export terminals were built, water consumption for well completions in BC would nearly triple from current levels, reaching 20 billion litres per year after 2030 (equivalent to two months of consumption for the city of Vancouver).
  • Limited benefit for taxpayers: Despite the doubling of gas production in BC since 2005, total royalty revenue has declined by 84 per cent from 2005 levels. Although increasing gas production may increase government revenues somewhat, the decline in royalty revenue, along with taxpayer funded incentives to spur LNG exports, represents a giveaway of finite, non-renewable resources that Canadians will need at some level in the future.
  • Fewer jobs than projected: According to LNG Canada, the number of permanent jobs that will be created by the project are half of the 950 estimated by the government.
  • Higher future energy costs for Canadians: In order to maximize profits, industry targets the lowest cost gas resources first. Exhausting the lowest cost resources for LNG exports means that future production will have to come from more remote and/or lesser quality deposits, resulting in higher prices to meet the future needs of Canadians.

Hughes is calling for Canada to rethink its current energy strategy that seems to be based on ramping up oil and gas production in the hopes of financial gain while ignoring unsustainable increases in emissions. Instead, he argues, we need a viable plan that meets both the long-term energy needs of the country and the emissions reduction goals that the climate crisis demands.

This report was undertaken as part of the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP). The CMP is a six-year research and public engagement initiative jointly led by the University of Victoria, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives BC and Saskatchewan Offices, and the Alberta-based Parkland Institute. This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

For more information and to arrange interviews, please contact Jean Kavanagh at 604-802-5729, [email protected]

Author: Corporate Mapping Project