Port Alberni perfect for LNG plant: premier

Premier Christy Clark said she’s excited about a proposal to modernize and expand port facilities in Port Alberni, which could include a new deep sea shipping terminal and a liquefied natural gas facility.

Clark said there’s been significant international interest in a Port Alberni LNG facility, which could be a huge job generator for the community. The premier has invited Port Alberni Port Authority to accompany her on a trade mission to Asia next month.

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In an interview, Clark highlighted the Port Alberni proposal as an example of how Vancouver Island could benefit from her government’s focus on encouraging an LNG industry, based primarily in the province’s northwest.

“It’s not true there is no LNG proposal specifically for the Island,” she said. “There has been some very real interest in building an LNG export facility in Port Alberni. The mayor there and his council there have been working really hard to nurture that interest.”

Port Alberni is “geographically just perfectly located” for export, with access to the west coast, the Pacific ocean and on to Asian markets, she said.

The Port Alberni Harbour Authority has secured 750 hectares of land for port growth. It is proposing two projects — a large container deep sea transshipment facility and an LNG export plant.

The port expansion, which could be worth up to $1 billion, is undergoing a feasibility study with funding help from the federal government, said Zoran Knezevic, Port Alberni Harbour Authority CEO.

The idea is to bring large container ships into Port Alberni, offload them, sort the cargo onto barges and take the barges to Lower Mainland locations, such as the Fraser River, to deliver the product close to users in areas where large ships can’t dock, said Knezevic.

There’s also been “strong interest” from an LNG company, on a potential facility worth more than $10 billion, he said. That’s currently undergoing an industrial suitability study, he added. “The impact of something like this could be huge,” said Knezevic. Potentially more than 200 jobs for LNG, and hundreds more for a modernized port, including spinoff benefits to the community, he said.

There’s an existing right-of-way available for an additional underwater natural gas pipe to the Island from the Lower Mainland, which would have to be further built to Port Alberni, said Knezevic.

Port Alberni officials hope to meet large-port-container operators and promote their idea while travelling to Korea, China and Japan with the premier’s delegation in late November.

The B.C. government is supportive, but it’s too early to talk funding, said Clark. “But if this proposal looks like we are going to go ahead, we are absolutely going to do everything we can to help them make it real,” she said. “We need to make sure that the transportation infrastructure is there, but we also have to make sure the social infrastructure is there. When economic development on this scale comes to a community like Port Alberni, if that’s what happens, that means schools, community centres and all that other social infrastructure needs to be there as well.”

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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