Up to 120 LNG tankers a year could ply the south arm of the Fraser River after a U.S. company secured a licence to export LNG from a facility on Tilbury Island in Delta.
The National Energy Board of Canada approved the plan on May 7.
“It’s the first I’ve heard of this,” said MP Fin Donnelly (New Westminster-Coquitlam-Port Moody), the NDP critic for West Coast fisheries and oceans.
“You’re dealing with one of the world’s greatest salmon rivers. I’m certainly concerned about the explosive radius of any of these large ships. You would want to have a proper review in place”.
The plan is the first LNG proposal to emerge for the Metro Vancouver area, although numerous projects have been proposed elsewhere in the province.
The export licence has been granted to Wespac Midstream and gives it permission to ship up to 4.76 billion cubic-metres of LNG a year from an expanded $400-million liquification plant currently being built by FortisBC on its long-standing site on Tilbury Island.
The plan requires a $175-million docking facility, which is undergoing a B.C. environmental assessment.
The plant’s annual output would be about one-tenth the amount of the largest LNG terminals being proposed in B.C., but it would still handle up to 120 tankers per year.
“The ships are mid-sized,” said Wespac spokesman Ben Thompson. “Collaboration will occur with Port Metro Vancouver and the Fraser River Pilots to ensure safe operating procedures are established.”
Wespac is part of Oaktree Capital Management, a global investment firm, and is based in Irvine, Calif.
Delta mayor Lois Jackson said her city hall has not received any building permits or applications related to the export facility.
“We had heard about the possibility,” Jackson said. “I’ve never had a problem with LNG.”
Richmond mayor Malcolm Brodie said he is deeply concerned with the industrialization of the Fraser River between Delta and Richmond.
“Delta has no issue with this and we do,” said Brodie, pointing out the LNG facility would be directly opposite a river-based jet fuel import facility being planned in Richmond.
Kevin Washbrook, of Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, said the approval was made “under the radar”.
“I’m worried that this is just the start of LNG exports,” said Washbrook, 52.
He said the public has until June 11 to let the federal government know that a federal environmental review of the plan is necessary, as well as the provincial one.
“The downstream risks are ignored,” said Washbrook. “Nobody is asking whether it’s a good idea to have LNG tankers on the Fraser River. To me, that is astounding.
“This epitomizes the kind of get ’er done, gold-rush mentality this government has to LNG,” he said.
The FortisBC plant is noticeable by a large, white storage tank at 7651 Hopcott Road which has been operating since 1971. The site is on the South Arm of the Fraser, 21 kilometres from the river-mouth.
Tankers must pass over the George Massey Tunnel, which is slated to be replaced by a bridge which will then allow bigger ships to pass.
Brodie said that he suspects a key driver behind the decision to close the Massey Tunnel and replace it with the bridge is that it will permit larger ships to travel up the south arm of the Fraser.
Several hundred residents are located in condos on the Richmond side of the river in the 14000 block of Riverport Way, where ships would pass within 200 metres.
“I don’t feel safe having an LNG terminal immediately across the river from me,” said condo resident Terri Havill. “Terminals are not necessarily safe when earthquakes and floods happen.”
According to the BC LNG Alliance, LNG has been transported in ships for over 50 years globally and there has never been a significant incident in that time,firstname.lastname@example.org
Some facts about LNG:
• As of June 2015, there are 19 industry projects proposing to produce and export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from plants along B.C.’s coast.
• B.C. has an enormous supply of natural gas — an estimated 2,933 trillion cubic feet — primarily in four key areas in northeastern B.C.: the Horn River Basin, the Montney Basin, the Liard Basin and the Cordova Embayment.
• There are three major LNG pipeline proposals under consideration: 1) Pacific Trail Pipeline, approximately 480 kilometres from north of Prince George to Kitimat; 2) The Coastal GasLink Pipeline, 650 kilometres from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat; and 3) The Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project: 900 kilometres from the Hudson’s Hope area to Port Edward.