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BC Hydro to increase northwestern BC spending

BC HYDRO
BC HYDRO'S Skeena Substation south of Terrace is to play a signficant role in the next years as the crown corporation ramps up its northwestern BC presence.
— image credit: STAFF PHOTO

BC HYDRO is contemplating everything from building new transmission lines to adding more renewable energy projects to meet a growing demand for power in the northwest.

Topping the power demand list is the development of Kitimat into a liquefied natural gas (LNG) hub to feed Asian markets.

No cost estimates have been released yet but BC Hydro, based on current construction costs, could be looking at upwards of a $1 billion price tag.

More details are expected next week when BC Hydro releases a document outlining power demand and supply for the province for the next 20 years.

Information already released by the crown corporation suggests its Skeena Substation just south of Terrace and its Minette Substation near Kitimat will play key roles.

The Skeena Substation, for example, is a regional distribution point for power coming into the area via a 500kv line from the Williston Substation near Prince George.

A variety of other lines then feed out from the substation to communities around the region.

One of those lines connects the provincial grid to Kitimat but it's incapable of providing sufficient power to two planned LNG plants at Kitimat, indicates a BC Hydro information letter sent to the Kitimat-Stikine regional district.

One part of BC Hydro's plan to provide more power involves work on that existing 287kv line running to Kitimat.

When more power passes through the conductors, they heat and sag,” explains the BC Hydro letter.

By replacing some of the poles with taller poles and recontouring the ground in some locations, BC Hydro will ensure the clearance between the lowest point of the conductors (wires) and the highest point of the ground is adequate,” the letter continues in outlining what's called an interim solution.

In the past, BC Hydro might have been able to rely on surplus power from Rio Tinto Alcan's Kemano hydro-electric generating facility but the company will need that power once it finishes rebuilding its Kitimat aluminum smelter.

BC Hydro's long term solution “will involve constructing one or more new transmission lines between Skeena and Minette substations. BC Hydro is studying various alternatives at this time.”

BC Hydro's northwest plans become even larger now that a third LNG plant plan has entered the picture.

While BC Hydro estimates it can supply power to the Kitimat LNG and BC LNG plants from existing sources, that won't be the case for the Canada LNG plant plan announced two weeks ago.

Canada LNG, a partnership of Shell and three Asian companies, is much larger than either of the first two LNG plants and the power requirements to compress natural gas to a liquid for export overseas will not only require a new transmission line, but new power sources as well.

BC Hydro has already begun planning to finish its Site C hydro-electric project on the Peace River in northeastern B.C. in anticipation of the province's future power needs.

One option for meeting these future needs is a new 500kv line linking Williston Substation to Minette Substation for an approximate length of 500 km. New electricity resources would need to be added as well. Another option involves adding renewable energy projects backed up by natural gas thermal generation in northwest B.C. where LNG facilities are being proposed,” the letter states.

The prospect of using natural gas-powered turbines to provide the power to run the Shell/Canada LNG plant has been acknowledged by Shell officials.

Our preference is to power the plant with electricity from the B.C. grid vs gas turbines which would significantly reduce the C02 emissions,” says Shell official Rob Seeley in responding to questions about the project.

BC Hydro is studying their options to supply the needed power to northwest BC for a number of proposed LNG plants.”

But Seeley also indicates Shell will “continue to carry a gas turbine option in the event power needs cannot be met by BC Hydro.”

LNG facilities will need a reliable and consistent supply of electricity if they are to use electric drives,” continued Seeley.

One of BC Hydro's options is to firm up regional power with gas turbine power. Renewables could also then be considered in the regional power portfolio,” he states.

Even as BC Hydro plans for more projects in the northwest, it is already spending $561 million to extend power north of Terrace via the 287kv Northwest Transmission Line. It's to be 344km in length.

The corporation is getting $130 million from the federal government for the line and, in return for access to the line, $180 million from Calgary-based energy company AltaGas.

AltaGas is now building a 195 megawatt run of river project called Forrest Kerr on the Iskut River and has plans for two smaller ones in the area. Power from all three will be sold to BC Hydro through the Northwest Transmission Line.

As part of the $130 million from the federal government for the Northwest Transmission Line, BC Hydro is committed to building a smaller line to Iskut from the end of the larger transmission line which is to be at Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North.

That extension is expected to cost approximately $117 million and BC Hydro has been largely silent on its details.

 

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