Environmental groups were quick to criticize Canada’s announcement of an official investment in a liquefied natural gas facility in Kitimat and how it will affect sources of natural and renewable energy. But an environmental professor at UBC says the project will instead help B.C. be ready for what comes next.
The $40-billion project, announced Tuesday in a joint news conference with Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will carry natural gas through a pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat before being shipped overseas. It marks the largest private-sector investment in Canadian history.
“LNG Canada and the thousands of fracking wells it would require will create 8.6 mega-tonnes of carbon pollution, nearly as much as every passenger vehicle in the province,” the Wilderness Committee said in a news release.
“Nothing indicates the provincial government will be able to make up for the added burden to meet its newest climate target of a 14 mega-tonne reduction by 2030. That goal was set after B.C. announced it would miss its 2020 target.”
Kevin Hanna, director at the Centre for Environmental Assessment Research at the University of British Columbia, told Black Press Media that if natural gas replaces coal and keeps new factories from opening in China, there is a net benefit.
“I think we have to view it as a global contribution because greenhouse gases don’t respect a jurisdictional boundary,” Hanna said. “If we see it as a transitional fuel, it could put B.C. in a really good position to provide that product to market as they bring other products online.”
Natural gas is most commonly used for power production – first discussed in B.C.’s political arena in 1982. Since then, environmental groups like the Pembina Institute have voiced concern over methane leaks, which can occur during production, delivery and use of natural gas and emit carbon monoxide.
While Hanna agreed with concern over such leaks, he said the risk can be mitigated as long as best practices and technologies are used for extraction, liquefaction, and shipping.
In March, the NDP ordered an independent panel to review hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction and how the process affects water quality and supply. Those results are expected by the end of the year.
LNG does not discourage other renewable energy sources, as some environmental groups suggest, Hanna said.
“It allows for us to move from coal specifically to natural gas for a period of time and then onto other things – or bring other things into that mix,” he said, referring to wind, solar, hydroelectric and, in some places, nuclear power.
“All of those things take time to get up and running and to build on a scale to replace the older, dirtier power production,” he said, adding large players in the energy sector must start incorporating cleaner modes of production sooner than later.
The Kitimat project indicates a future for LNG facilities in other parts of Canada, Hanna said, especially as the transportation industry heads towards electric.
“The real huge challenge for us is transportation, which is globally liquid fuel based,” he said.
“If there is a big shift to electrification – which is possible in a very short period of time – then where is that power going to come from? I think LNG is going to play a big role in that.”