It’s been more than three years since Premier Christy Clark announced a plan to make British Columbia a liquefied natural gas powerhouse.
On Friday, B.C. finally got its first LNG plant.
Woodfibre LNG, a facility proposed near Squamish, announced it would move forward with its $1.6 billion investment on Nov. 4.
“This project is a go,” said Byng Giraud, Woodfibre LNG's vice president of corporate affairs.
Clark and Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman attended the announcement at the former pulp mill site.
“We’re delighted to say today that LNG in British Columbia is finally becoming a reality,” Clark said. “Today’s decision is an important one for this community, the workers on this site, and the people of this province.”
Woodfibre, which would source much of its gas from the South Peace area, would create 650 jobs during construction and 100 operations jobs.
Woodfibre is one of the smallest LNG plants proposed for the B.C. coast, and would be a fraction of the size of Pacific NorthWest LNG—the controversial facility proposed for Lelu Island near Prince Rupert. Woodfibre is licenced to export just 2.1 million tonnes of gas per year, compared to the 19.68 million tonnes Pacific NorthWest could produce.
Because it is connected to the BC Hydro grid, it would also be one of the lowest-emitting LNG projects. Pacific NorthWest LNG, by contrast, would burn its own gas to power the super-cooling process to turn gas into a liquid. However, the Pembina Institute claims Woodfibre's emissions would still be significant due to “untapped opportunities” to reduce emissions from drilling operations upstream.
Giraud said early work would soon begin on site. The project still requires a certificate from the Oil and Gas Commission, which the company expects to receive by the end of 2017.
He said the former pulp mill site was ideal for an LNG project because it includes a deep water port, a Fortis B.C. pipeline and a grid intertie.
However, Woodfibre would be built at a time of low natural gas prices, making the project's economics uncertain. Giraud said the B.C. government's decision to "offer a competitive electricity drive rate" for proponents using more expensive electricity-powered liquefaction technologies tipped the balance in favour of building the project.
Woodfibre is expected to begin shipping gas to Asia in the 2020s.
The project has been controversial in the community, in part due to its potential impacts on sealife. The announcement came one day after the Woodfibre LNG office in Squamish was the victim of suspected arson.