If Pacific Energy Corp.'s plan comes to fruition, something like 1.5 million tonnes of natural gas will be received, refrigerated for conversion into liquid form and shipped from the proposed Woodfibre LNG facility each year beginning in late 2017 or early 2018.
The facility, proposed on the 86-hectare (212-acre) site of the former Woodfibre pulp mill, would employ between 50 and 100 people, and the terminal at the deepwater port would handle three to four ships per month, Ratnesh Bedi, Pacific Energy's president, told The Chief in a telephone interview from his company's home base of Singapore on Thursday (March 7).
The estimated 1.5 million tonnes — the actual volume that would be handled depends on the results of a feasibility study being conducted by the proponents and Fortis B.C. — would make it what the company calls a “small-scale” LNG processing and export facility.
“Shell is talking about handling 20 million tonnes of LNG per year,” Bedi said of the Kitimat facility being proposed for construction by the energy giant. “We will be less than one-tenth of that volume. So it's that small.”
The natural gas would be shipped by pipeline from northern B.C. to Huntingdon, near the U.S. border at Abbotsford, then to a facility in Coquitlam, finally to be received at the site via a Fortis B.C. pipeline that supplied natural gas for the Woodfibre pulp mill operation.
The capacity of that pipeline is one of the key components in determining how much of the product could be handled at the facility, Bedi said.
“[The proposed facility] is like a refrigeration station — we import the gas, we cool it, we ship it,” he said. “Fortis will undertake a study to tell us what sort of volumes they can use in that pipeline, whether they need any looping or not, and what sort of pressure is needed.”
Western Forest Products, the current owner of the site, announced a “tentative” sale in late January, but declined to reveal the prospective future owners. The company is responsible for site remediation, including the removal of wood waste in the waters around the site.
An application for environmental certification of the site is being submitted to the B.C. Ministry of Environment. Acquisition of that certificate is, in fact, one of the conditions of that sale, Pacific Energy officials said.
“We will be hiring local consultants to guide us through the process,” Bedi said. “I'm looking at one to two years for environmental approvals.”
Squamish Mayor Rob Kirkham on Friday (March 8) said he first heard about the proposal when he met with the proponents “in the last couple of weeks.”
Kirkham said that while the process is in its early stages — with community and First Nations consultation still to come — he's encouraged by the prospects of bringing much-needed jobs and tax revenue. The site, which generated some $2 million in annual property taxes before the pulp mill closed, is within the District of Squamish and is zoned industrial.
Bedi said he believed a municipal zoning amendment might be required to make way for the LNG facility.
“Economic development has certainly been a focus for us,” Kirkham said. “We obviously are on the map for outdoor recreation and it's very good to see that we're on the map for investment dollars as well. It's very good to see a proposal to bring industry back to that site.
“I'm very excited at the potential for tax revenue and jobs for our community.”
Asked whether he could foresee any sort of environmental concerns being raised in the coming months, Kirkham said, “This is really in the early, new stages, but that's something that we've yet to hear about this — impacts. I wouldn't want to guess on that.”
The current B.C. Liberal government has been touting LNG one of B.C.'s most promising new economic drivers in the coming decades. Just this week, government and industry leaders met at a two-day conference in Vancouver “showcasing the economic growth and jobs potential of the emerging LNG industry,” stated a government release.
“With five major LNG projects proposed by 2020, British Columbia is on the verge of becoming a global leader in natural gas production, generating thousands of jobs and $1 trillion in economic activity over the next 30 years.”
Bedi, whose company has operations in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Mainland China, said the feasibility study that's underway will help determine whether the Woodfibre project will move ahead.
“We will probably know by the end of this year whether we'll be able to make this work,” he said.
Stay tuned to The Chief for more on this developing story.