By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Feb 8, 2014
An LNG export facility being planned on former Woodfibre pulp mill sit has thrilled some and worried others in Squamish. While many welcome the jobs and taxes the facility will create, there is anxiety about how it will impact local environment.
In an interview, the vice-president of corporate affairs at Woodfibre Natural Gas, Byng Giraud, answers questions about the project.
Q: Tell us about the company that will own the operation ?
Yes, RGE is a Singapore based multi-national company with a palm oil business, pulp and paper business. About ten years ago they started an oil and gas business, all owned by one family with a self-made man from Indonesia named Sukanto Tanoto. He had worked on LNG related infrastructure back in the 70s.
Q. Why did Sukanto chose Woodfibre ?
This is his first foreign venture and this company also represents the consumer side of things and as consumers they are also paying attention to where the gas is coming from.
“The most important thing we have to address is air emissions and it all boils down to what kind of technology we use.”
They started looking for all over North America for possible LNG sights, and the advantage of these sites is that they are already industrial, brownfield, and they have the existing infrastructure.
Q. What else makes this site viable?
A. Well, you’ve got electricity, gas, it’s zoned industrial with a deep water port, you have an educated and accessible labour force. Then, there is a permanent sewage plant, and we already have some permits there. Frankly, you avoid a lot of problems when you are going to a former industrial site.
Q. What kind of subsidy have you received from BC government?
A. There is no subsidy at all, not that I can think of. We are paying Fortis to do the extension of the gas line. When you have more consumers on the gas system, your prices may even drop because there is another big buyer on the line and every time you have more consumers, the cost of the infrastructure is divided among more consumers.
Yes, the government is providing more regulatory support for this, but I don’t think there are any financial subsidies.
Q. What about bringing the gas to Squamish?
A. Fortis has extra gas and not all the gas was being used and we asked them upgrade their line.
The gas comes from Coquitlam, then to here, and goes to the other side of the Sound, crosses to Texada. Fortis has to loop 52 kilometers, from North of Vancouver to Squamish, and they can give you more details.
Q. What kind of jobs can be expected?
A. We anticipate that during construction there will be approximately 300 jobs a year. It all depends on what kind of technology we use, but I would say somewhere over 100 jobs in 3 or 4 shifts. So, at any given time, there will be 30-40 people working there. And we would want the people working there to live in Squamish. We actually have a selfish interest that people live in Squamish, as they are more accessible when shift changes.
Q. What kinds of taxes can the district expect?
A. For municipal taxes, we are talking to the municipality and we need to figure it out. But essentially this is a 1.7 billion dollar capital project and possibly millions of dollars’ worth of construction. So how BC assessment assesses the value, we will have to see. Listen, we are a business and we don’t want to pay any more taxes that we have to, but this is a substantial piece of infrastructure.
You can do the math, our contribution won’t be small.
Q: Let’s talk about environmental impacts ?
Well, when you do any industrial activity, there is an impact. First of all, there is no discharge or emissions here and there are no solid effluents.
We have yet to figure the sound as it has to be tested on a quiet calm night on how far the noise would go. There is a shadow of the vessel that can have an impact on the marine life. For some it’s good, for some it isn’t and then of course there is the visual impact.
Q. What about the emissions?
A. Well, probably the most important thing we have to address is air emissions and it all boils down to what kind of technology we use to run the things.
You can run them on gas or electricity. If you run them on gas, they have greater emissions than if you run them on electricity.
But we will have the issue of emission and I’m not going to hide from it. We have a preliminary report that gives a certain idea but at this point we will be guessing, but yes, there will always be GHG emissions.
Q. And what is the energy source for your operation?
A. It could be gas…We may have the option to use electricity and it depends on technology and then again it depends on what BC hydro can provide us. It won’t be significant. And a lot of information on emissions is based on what is happening up north. Their combined exports would be 31 million and we are talking 2.1 million tonnes. Even if we run on gas, we are nowhere near the output that those people are foreseeing.
Q. What is the worst case scenario for an environmental damage here?
A. If you had a major spill and I wouldn’t even call it a spill because some if it would just evaporate. We are seven kilometres from town and there is also the buffer zone around it.
If there was a spill, and I think it’s wrong to call it a spill because it’s not going to land in water or land, we have an elaborate plan.
Everything can be manually shutdown and there are stringent rules around that.
Q. Tell us something about the export part of the operation ?
A. As a small LNG facility, the Woodfibre LNG Project will result in only three to four ships per month, each ranging from 150,000 to 175,000 m3 in size. We don’t intend to own or operate the LNG carriers.
LNG has been transported by ocean carrier for over 40 years without major incidents or safety problems either in port or in transit.
And unless we expand the pipelines, our export capacity is limited. Our export licence is 2.1 million, about tenth of the size of up north.
Q. What about some of the infrastructure cost ?
A. Any infrastructure that we require, we have to bear the cost. Under the regulatory system, Fortis can’t double the size of the pipeline and make you pay for it.
If I want them to do that, they have to get BC utility commission to agree to it. And we had a financial contribution.
We have put $700,000 for some of the studies, and upgraded will cost millions of dollars. If BC hydro is putting up a substation for us, we are paying for it. You have to pay for all the infrastructure, then there are connection charges to plug-in and a higher tariff.
Industrial customers in this province are not getting a special deal.
Q. What kind of commitment do you have on sourcing local?
A. Well, we have used local design firms and we use local water taxis. For concrete and infrastructure needs, we really do operate at a very local, grassroots level. We want to interact with locals and first nations.
And as you will see, we will be doing more open houses, meeting with stakeholders group, social media etc to keep people informed about what we are doing.