Natural Gas Terminal on Texada Island

A Liquefied Natural Gas terminal on Texada Island in the middle of scenic Georgia Strait is one of those bizarre ideas that shouldn’t float, but, given the peculiar throes of the world of fossil fuels and the absence of strategic energy planning in BC these days, one never knows.

Residents of Texada Island, 84% opposed to the idea, are taking no chances and are trying to squash the proposal before it gets to the formal application stage,possibly in 2009. They rally behind the slogan “It’s not needed, it’s not wanted, and it’s not green.”

WestPac LNG is a private com­pany which recently relocated to Van­couver from Calgary. Geoff Plant, the former Campbell Liberal Attorney General and special advisor to the Premier, is on their Board of Direc­tors. WestPac wants to build a lique­fied natural gas terminal on Texada to receive tankers from Russia, southeast Asia, and/or the Middle East.

When natural gas (which is most­ly methane) is cooled to minus 160 de­grees Celsius, it changes from a gas to a liquid, and its volume is reduced 600 times. It is then referred to as liquefied natural gas or more commonly, LNG.

The process of extracting, processing, pipelineing, extreme cooling, shipping, and then regasi­fying uses a lot of energy, between 20 and 30% of the gas product. Gas which escapes, referred to as “fugitive emissions,” is even worse than the gas burned in the process, since methane has a greenhouse effect 23 times that of carbon dioxide.

Thirty Six Tankers a Year

The company estimates that 36 tankers a year will arrive on Texada, where the liquid cargo will be offload­ed and regasified. Some of it would be used to fuel a 600 MW or maybe 1200 MW natural gas electrical generating station which would emit up to 4 mil­lion tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) annually, more than all the GHGs from electricity generation in BC to­day as well as substantial other pollu­tion (echoes of Sumas 2, Duke Point and Port Alberni Generation). The big transmission lines which keep the lights on for Vancouver Island – the 500 kV Cheekye-Dunsmuir system – run across Texada, perfectly located for WestPac to feed the power into the BC grid, although the islanders object to the idea of a new big trans­mission line running down the spine of Texada. The rest of the natu­ral gas, imported from cheap fields abroad, would go into the existing Terasen gas pipe­line which runs from Huntingdon near Abbotsford, where it connects to the big pipeline which starts in BC’s gas fields in the northeast and goes south into the USA.

BC has no shortage of natural gas, exporting 60 to 80% of what we produce, but gas flows to wherever the demand (or price) is greatest, so West­Pac’s imported gas in the pipeline could easily be exported to the US. American towns from southern Cali­fornia to northern Oregon have been successful in fighting off similar LNG proposals. In response to the difficul­ties to shipping, potential dangers, and fears of terrorism, many new pro­posed LNG terminals are sited way offshore.

Avoiding US Opposition

WestPac’s Texada proposal avoids US opposition by not locating in the US, and it hoped to avoid Cana­dian opposition by not docking in any large cities or communities in Geor­gia Strait. No wonder the residents of Texada were offended by company officials as they tried to sell the idea: “They were talking to us as if we were a bunch of stupid assholes,” said one resident, still irate weeks later.

Ironically, the Canadian federal government has been strident in its opposition to US proposals for a LNG tanker route on the coastal border at the southeast corner of New Bruns­wick and the northeast corner of Maine.


[From WS June/July 2008]

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