When the provincial government announced its CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 on Oct. 25, conspicuously absent was any mention of BC’s LNG export aspirations, which will increase emissions from the oil and gas sector and likely doom any chance of meeting BC’s emissions reduction targets.
The LNG Canada project under construction in Kitimat includes a gas-fired liquefaction terminal with two trains (LNG liquefaction and purification facilities) slated for completion in 2025 and two additional trains to be completed by 2030. The Canada Energy Regulator’s most conservative forecast projects that BC gas production will have to increase 38 per cent to meet the feed gas requirements of the first phase and 76 per cent when the second phase is complete.
Increasing gas production in 2025 for the LNG Canada project will add substantial new emissions to the existing oil and gas sector, which were not addressed in the CleanBC Roadmap. The terminal itself will add nearly four million tonnes per year and, together with producing the input gas it requires, the sector’s emissions will increase 92 per cent when phase 1 is complete and 130 per cent when phase 2 comes online.
Instead of reducing oil and gas emissions from 2007 levels, LNG Canada will increase the sector’s emissions by 24 per cent in 2030, 54 per cent in 2040 and 49 per cent in 2050.
With LNG Canada, even if all other sectors of BC’s economy met the CleanBC Roadmap targets, total emissions would nevertheless miss BC’s climate targets by a long shot (emissions would be down only 29 per cent in 2030, 41 per cent in 2040, and 58 per cent in 2050, instead of the required 40, 60 and 80 per cent, respectively). In 2050, the 16.5 million tonnes of emissions from the oil and gas sector alone would exceed BC’s total allowable carbon budget of 13.2 million tonnes.
Meeting the Roadmap’s targets with the LNG Canada project would mean even more drastic cuts to the non-oil and gas sector, along with controversial, costly and energy intensive carbon capture and storage technologies.
The John Horgan government justifies LNG exports by claiming that global emissions will be reduced by displacing coal-burning in places like China. In fact, due to the much higher climate impact of methane in the early years after release compared to carbon dioxide, LNG powered plants in China would have higher emissions than coal over their first few decades of life.
The CleanBC Roadmap pledges to reduce methane emissions from the production of gas 75 per cent by 2030 without stating how this could be done. If it was easy, companies would have done it long ago as lost methane means lost revenue. Government emissions reduction ambitions have a history of failure: BC’s 2008 climate action plan, for example, stated emissions would be down 33 per cent from 2007 levels by 2020—instead they are up four per cent—and BC emissions are up six per cent since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016.
Government claims of a revenue bonanza from LNG exports are also contradicted by the hundreds of millions it provided as incentives for LNG and industry as well as the decline in government revenues from royalties and taxes over the past two decades despite increased production.
Canada is a mature exploration region and gas production is falling in every province but BC, where the advent of fracking has provided a temporary reprieve. BC has most of what is left of Canada’s low-cost gas, and what remains would best be used to fill our domestic energy needs, beyond what renewables are able to provide, over the next few decades. Gas can provide a valuable backup for intermittent renewables like wind and solar, as well as a source of high-grade heat; exporting it as fast as possible for questionable climate benefits makes no sense.
It’s not surprising that LNG isn’t even mentioned in BC’s CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 given its impact on the province’s emissions reduction targets. Canadians deserve viable strategies that provide long-term energy and climate security—not ill-conceived resource extraction projects for illusory gains represented by LNG exports.
This article was originally published in The Province.
Author: David Hughes
J. David Hughes is an earth scientist who has studied the energy resources of Canada and the US for more than four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) as a scientist and research manager.