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Pipeline sea route possible

The final leg of a planned natural gas pipeline from northeastern B.C. to Prince Rupert could very well go underwater.

Although a final route for Spectra Energy’s planned 48-inch diameter pipeline has yet to be determined, two of three routes are underwater ones, says Doug Bloom, the man in charge of the company’s western operations.

As it is, the pipeline would emerge from the northeast at Cranberry Junction, a distance of approximately 600 kilometres, before turning southward toward Ridley Island at Prince Rupert to a site where Spectra partner BG Group wants to build a liquefied natural gas plant to serve Asian markets.

“We could go into the water sooner, later or not at all,” said Bloom of the three routes.

One of the water routes would have the pipeline enter the ocean in the Kitsault area and the other in the Nasoga Gulf area, just north of the Khutzeymateen grizzly bear sanctuary. The land route would run south of the Nasoga route.

“At this point we don’t have a preference. We’re still looking at the options and that will continue for some months,” he said.

Bloom was speaking while in Terrace as part of a regional tour.

In addition to a mass question and answer conference call Oct. 16, Bloom and other Spectra officials met with local politicians, business people and economic development officials.

While other companies were exploring routes ending in Kitimat, he said Spectra seized on the idea of a route north of Terrace terminating in Prince Rupert several years ago.

The geography involved leant itself to better terrain for a large diameter pipeline and Spectra prefers routes through what it calls “disturbed lands” where logging or other activity has already taken place.

“We realized several years ago that Prince Rupert was a viable terminal location,” said Bloom of the other crucial piece of the LNG plant puzzle.

The BG Group, an international company that  both finds and distributes natural gas customers with assets including plants to liquefy the product and ships to transport the product to market, also thought highly of Prince Rupert.

And that’s what led to Spectra signing a deal with BG to examine the feasibility of a pipeline and LNG project, said Bloom.

The two companies have a 50/50 partnership stake in the project with Spectra building the line to supply BG’s LNG plant. BG would buy all of the gas from the pipeline. It has yet to outline the size of its plant.

While not disclosing the number of years contained within the partnership agreement, Bloom noted that Spectra has been operating pipelines for more than 50 years.

“We’re anticipating a long term relationship with BG,” he said.

Bloom agreed when asked if

the number of companies now wanting to build export-focussed pipelines in the north resembled a race to the coast.

“I think so but it’s broader. LNG is a global business and we’ve been regarding it just as a North American one,” said Bloom.

“Australia is coming on strong, Qatar is big, China has their own shale plays, Turkmenistan is there and Russia has gas.”

“There’s a great deal of competition out there. In trips to Asia, four times in the past year, we’ve met with potential customers and participants and the feeling is that if we can hit a market window by the end of the decade, we have the opportunity to capture a significant portion of the market.”

Bloom noted that the US, a traditional purchaser of Canadian gas, is rapidly developing its own supply.

“The US right now has more gas than we do and we’re the major exporter,” he said.

Leading up to environmental and other studies, Bloom said the company is speaking to various people and groups.

That includes First Nations along the proposed pipeline route.

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