In the Aug. 4, Squamish Chief story “Enbridge invests in Woodfibre LNG project,” WLNG’s president Christine Kennedy suggested that the company would "...produce the lowest-emissions LNG in the world."
In a presentation before District of Squamish mayor and council in March, Kennedy also suggested that "...projects like this will off-set some of the 60 to 80 coal-fired power plants currently planned in China."
First. the idea that low-emissions fossil fuels would be part of the energy transition is an oil and gas industry pipe-dream. It suggests that we've time to transition slowly when we don't have that luxury at all. The reality is that with accelerating climate change, we must rapidly transition to renewable energy to avert the effects from becoming catastrophic and unbearable.
That doesn't mean that the offset claim isn't interesting, but only because it's impossible.
At a presentation on May 24 before Bowen Island mayor and council, a company spokesperson responded to a question from Coun. David Hocking if the company had done life-cycle emissions analyses of its LNG against that of coal used in Asia:
"We are doing that scenario analyses right now in terms...um...of the tonnage of carbon emissions that are not just produced by the facility itself but all of the upstream production and downstream transport. So we anticipate being able to make that plan public once we do the analysis."
So, without evidence, the company has claimed for years that its LNG would emit less than coal.
Of course, when you burn just the end-products of methane and coal, methane will emit less. But that's not the whole picture. To make a fair comparison, you've to include the emissions from the rest of the life cycles of the two fuels, those emitted at extraction, transportation, processing, re-processing etc. Then things change dramatically.
In 2015, David Hughes, who studied the energy resources of Canada for four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada as a scientist and research manager, prepared and compared life-cycle analyses of BC LNG and coal when used in Asia.
Hughes found that BC LNG, over its life-cycle, when used in LNG-fired power plants in Asia, against that of coal used in today's standard of 46% efficient ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants, did not emit less. In fact, Hughes found the opposite: For the first 100 years, BC LNG over its life cycle would emit 27% more greenhouse gasses than coal over its. In a repeat analysis in 2020, the number was 18% higher than coal.
The claim of "world's lowest emissions LNG" could be right, but it's just that, and of little significance when compared to renewable energy. Here's why. Instead of using methane to fuel the liquefaction of methane(= natural gas), Woodfibre LNG would use electricity: the E-drive. However, the emissions from the liquefaction only contribute to about 4% of the overall life cycle emissions of its LNG. So using Hughes's analyses, Woodfibre's LNG would still emit an estimated 14 to 23% more than coal over its life cycle.
But of course, the claims are distractions. You must've been living under a rock not to notice that we are experiencing the effects of 1.2 C warming globally, and that it is already bad. We can't let it become worse. It's our human commitment to life not to let that happen.
The next 10 years will be highly critical to cut emissions, transition rapidly to renewable energy, phase out existing coal oil and gas infrastructure, and stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure. Current oil and gas project approvals must be retracted because of force majeure, including for Woodfibre LNG.
We've no other choice.
Anton van Walraven
On behalf of Concerned Citizens Bowen