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Scientists Argue Against LNG Export Permit

By MarEx 2016-06-03 14:09:48

The Petronas-backed Pacific NorthWest LNG project in British Columbia, Canada responded Tuesday to allegations by climate scientists that its facility would lead to "significant adverse environmental effects from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions."

"PNW LNG would be one of the single largest point source emitters in Canada. When upstream emissions are added to facility emissions, the project would add between 18.5 and 22.5 percent to British Columbia's total GHG emissions," the group of 90 scientists wrote in an open letter to Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. "This would make it virtually impossible for BC to meet its GHG emission reduction targets, and would undermine Canada's international climate change commitments."

Opposition to fossil fuel exports is strong in the Pacific Northwest (relative to most other regions), and a combination of economic pressure from declining energy prices and political pressure from environmental organizations has halted almost all LNG export terminal proposals on the U.S. West Coast. Only one, Jordan Cove, still has a plan in the regulatory pipeline; over a dozen facility proposals remain active in Canada.

In arguing against the facility, the scientists’ letter cites the use of a low methane leakage rate estimate in PNW LNG's environmental impact study (0.3 percent, as opposed to industry-supported estimates of 1.1 to 1.3 percent for existing natural gas infrastructure). Processed natural gas is 95-98 percent methane, and it is about 80 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. In the group's view, a low methane leakage rate in the estimate is an indication that GHG emissions from the facility and its associated upstream production would be even higher than projected. 

PNW LNG responded that its customers want to enjoy the benefits of the natural gas supplied to local B.C. consumers. “Pacific NorthWest LNG, once in operation, would supply the world’s cleanest LNG to our partners in Asia who are eager to import the same natural gas that British Columbians use in their daily lives,” said Spencer Sproule, senior adviser of corporate affairs at Pacific NorthWest LNG. He also contended that Canada risked missing out, and that if it didn't supply the gas, someone else would. “Global appetite for LNG will continue to grow over the coming decades with numerous countries, including the United States, racing to meet that global demand . . . Canada can move forward with exporting a significantly cleaner product to world markets or let our competitors step into the breach," he said.

Kenjiro Monji, Ambassador of Japan to Canada, also argued that there was a narrow window for PNW LNG and other B.C. facilities to enter into contracts in the Asian market – and that if they did so, they would assist in displacing the consumption of more carbon-intensive forms of power generation (an assertion the scientists contested). "If the approval of the environment assessment is delayed further, Canada may run the risk of missing the chance to export LNG to the growing Asian market for a long time . . . While the LNG export projects in British Columbia may produce some additional greenhouse gases, LNG exports to the Asian market will reduce the heavy use of coal-fired power and crude oil there, contributing to a drastic reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions of these developing countries," he wrote in a letter of support in March.