If a liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing and export facility is built on the site of the old Woodfibre pulp mill in Howe Sound, its refrigerant compressors will run on electricity, officials announced last week.
The move “will drastically reduce the level of air emissions produced” by the $1.7 billion facility, officials said in a statement.
However, the Squamish-based group My Sea to Sky — whose stated goal is to promote a sustainable vision for Howe Sound — called the move a “deceitful carrot” that will lead to higher electricity rates for British Columbians and a still result in a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
Byng Giraud, vice president of corporate affairs with Woodfibre LNG, said the decision to go electric, as opposed to using natural gas to power the compressors, reduces the facility’s greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 80 per cent, and lowers both nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide emissions by around 95 per cent.
He said he believes it will make Woodfibre LNG the first such facility in British Columbia to commit to using electricity.
“The electricity is an additional cost to the project, but [the decision] really was driven by what we heard at the public consultations and the desire of the provincial government to have a green LNG industry,” Giraud said.
“We sought input from the community at an early stage and ‘air quality’ was a top concern,” he said. “Our engineers have now confirmed that going electric is indeed feasible, so the choice is a clear one.”
After the announcement, My Sea to Sky released a statement calling the company’s move “an attempt to deceive British Columbians into believing the company has made a conscientious step towards mitigating the harmful effects of LNG production and processing.”
Eion Finn, who holds a PhD in physical chemistry and an MBA in international business, said that even if it runs on electricity, the plant and the industry that supplies it will still result in an overall net increase in climate-change-causing greenhouse gas emissions.
“Powering Woodfibre LNG with electricity won’t do a thing to avoid the six million tonnes of carbon dioxide China will spew into the Earth’s atmosphere when it burns the LNG from the plant. That’s 10 per cent of B.C.’s 2012 emissions,” Finn said.
Melyssa Desilles, My Sea to Sky co-founder, said the announcement should be greeted with skepticism.
“Running their compressors off hydro is not going to resolve the larger issue of continuing a boom-and-bust cycle for Squamish,” she said. “The reality is the people of British Columbia have been standing up against fossil fuel expansion for years.
“We stand in solidarity with communities all across B.C. and Canada that refuse to allow dirty energy projects to dig us deeper into carbon emissions polluting the air we breathe.”
Last fall, District of Squamish council passed a resolution calling on the project, if it goes ahead, to be powered with electricity. Giraud said project engineers and B.C. Hydro officials have spent the past few months looking at its feasibility.
“The system impact study with B.C. Hydro is ongoing but the outcome of that will only affect some of the detailed elements. It won’t affect our ability to [use electricity]” he said.
Giraud said the proponents’ next big decisions involve the layout of the site — including whether parts of the facility would be located on land or on floating platforms — and technical issues surrounding how the liquefaction facilities will be designed.
The project, which would see up to 2.1 million tonnes of LNG shipped from the Squamish facility beginning as early as 2017, is undergoing a blended federal-provincial environmental review. If it receives certification, the parent company, Singapore-based Pacific Oil and Gas, is slated to decide in the first half of 2015 whether to proceed with the project.
© Coast Reporter