The B.C. government is promoting liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports as an economic boom. But B.C.’s fracking and pipeline plans come with tremendous risk and little reward.
Fracking, which is taking place in northeastern B.C., is a process where water, sand and toxic chemicals are blasted into shale or coal beds under high pressure, creating cracks in the rock that allow gas to flow up the well. Via a network of new pipelines, the fracked gas would be transported to LNG terminals along the coast of B.C., to be transformed into LNG by supercooling it in huge refrigeration plants. It would then be loaded onto mega-tankers – more than 300 metres in length, the size of three football fields – for export to Asia.
There are currently 18 LNG terminals proposed for the B.C. coast, along with numerous pipelines that would supply them with fracked gas. LNG projects are proposed in Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Squamish, Delta, Campbell River, and the west coast of Vancouver Island.
If just five of these LNG terminals are built, the facilities would release 12 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The fracking and transport of the gas would generate an additional 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
The fracked gas needed for five LNG terminals would also drain an estimated 582 billion litres of water from B.C.’s rivers, lakes and streams.
There are serious safety concerns with the hundreds of tankers that would be transporting LNG on the Pacific Ocean. The risk of explosions on these carriers has led numerous U.S. cities to ban LNG tankers in their waters, just as West Vancouver recently voted to do.
Numerous First Nations oppose these terminals and pipelines, and have vowed they will not be allowed on their territory.
The Council of Canadians opposes the building of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals and pipelines in British Columbia. A ban on the development of LNG terminals and pipelines is necessary in order to limit greenhouse gas emissions, defend the province's freshwater sources, protect the coastline and respect Indigenous rights.
About the Pacific Trails Pipeline
Pipeline Basics: The Pacific Trails pipeline is proposed by the Apache Corporation, Encana and EOG Resources (formerly Enron). The $1 billion pipeline would carry up to approximately 1,000 million cubic feet per day of liquefied natural gas from primarily shale gas development in northeastern B.C. and Alberta to export markets from a proposed Kitimat LNG facility.
Pipeline route: The 463-km underground pipeline will stretch from Summit Lake, 55 km north of Prince George, to the proposed Kitimat LNG export facility on B.C.’s north coast. A large part of the pipeline’s right-of-way follows the same path as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway proposed pipeline, raising concerns that this pipeline might "blaze a trail" for the Enbridge project. According to a fall 2011 project update pipeline construction is expected to begin in 2013-2014 with the expectation that the pipeline will be operational by winter 2015.
Opposition: This pipeline will help drive the expansion of shale gas development in B.C. and Alberta. Shale gas requires fracking, a highly controversial technique that involves the injection of millions of litres of water and thousands of litres of unidentified chemicals underground at very high pressure in order to create fractures in the underlying shale rock formations and extract the natural gas below the surface. Fracking poses risks of water contamination and depletion. Evidence is mounting that fracking also contributes significantly to provincial greenhouse gas emissions. While industry continues to sell fracking as “green” academics such as Robert Howarth, an ecologist from Cornell University, have found that shale gas emissions can be worse than conventional gas, and even worse than coal and oil. The Likhts’amisyu and Unist’ot’en clans of the Wet'swet'en nation have long opposed the Pacific Trails Pipeline. Members of the group created a sign reading "Road Closed 2 P.T.P. Drillers” and guarded the road when heavy equipment and staff from the Pacific Trails Pipeline project attempted to enter their land.
Where does the government stand: The National Energy Board has approved the $5-billion Kitimat Liquid Natural Gas terminal. Required regulatory approvals for the pipeline are ongoing. The new BC NDP government has signalled it will conditionally support the development of a LNG sector, despite past criticisms of the former Liberal government's aggressive pursuit of the industry and ongoing opposition.
The Pacific Trails pipeline proposal is a part of this strategy as it would increase revenues by placing the gas on the more lucrative international market. Meanwhile, the government has done very little to monitor fracking's impacts on local watersheds and on the health of local communities.
Photo by Brian Huntington