Area residents can expect a renewed round of pipeline talk as plans advance for two more large liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects near Prince Rupert.
Each would require a gas-carrying pipeline from northeastern B.C. to pass through the area on the way to the coast.
There’s a potential for a brand new pipeline proposal to surface for one of the LNG projects while another could use one of two pipelines which received environmental approval late last year.
The project which could feed off a new pipeline proposal is Aurora LNG, majority owned by China’s CNOOC Ltd. through its Canadian arm called Nexen.
It had two sites in mind, but shelved one at Grassy Point north of Prince Rupert and is now proceeding with plans for a site on Digby Island, the same island on which the Prince Rupert airport is located.
The project envisioned by Aurora and for which it has filed a document with the provincial environmental assessment office to start the process to obtain environmental approval, would be on the larger side of LNG plants, costing up to $20 billion and employing nearly 5,000 workers at peak construction.
But while Aurora is fleshing out its site proposal, pipeline plans have yet to reach that stage.
“The pipeline route and ownership structure has not been finalized. Requests for proposal have been issued, and discussions with prospective pipeline builders are taking place,” said Nexen official Diane Kossman last week.
Just who exactly Aurora is speaking with is confidential for the moment, she said.
“The timing for making a decision on a builder will be contingent on a range of factors and business drivers, and has yet to be established,” Kossman added of pipeline plans.
At full production, an Aurora LNG facility would need 3.7 billion cubic feet a day of gas to produce 24 million metric tonnes of super-cooled gas per year for export.
Also now filing a beginning document is WCC LNG, a partnership owned by ExxonMobil and Imperial Oil, with an eye on a location just north of Prince Rupert on land owned by Prince Rupert on Tuck Inlet.
This would be slightly larger than Aurora LNG at 4 billion cubic fee a day and an annual production of 30 million metric tons.
It could also include placing some production components on barges.
It its filing, WCC LNG indicates gas will be carried to its facility “via a pipeline that will be built and operated by a third-party pipeline company to connect … to an existing pipeline network in northeastern B.C. …”
And although it does not mention them by name, the filing does refer to two pipelines receiving provincial environmental approval last year.
Those two pipelines are TransCanada’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project and Spectra Energy’s Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission project.
“Both proposed pipeline projects are considered viable alternatives for WCC LNG’s gas supply,” the filing continues. “WCC LNG project will actively pursue industry sharing synergies through the third-party provider.”
Both of the already-approved pipeline projects are already tied to other prospective LNG plants near Prince Rupert.
Prince Rupert Gas Transmission is to be a single pipe of 48 inches in diameter which is for now destined for the planned Pacific NorthWest LNG plant near Prince Rupert which is majority-owned by Petronas.
The Westcoast Connector is to have two pipes, each of 36 inches in diameter, and its prime client so far is the Prince Rupert LNG project owned by BG Group to be located on Ridley Island near Prince Rupert.
Both of these pipeline projects would leave the northeast and run across the north, entering Nisga’a lands north of Terrace before turning south toward Prince Rupert.
And both would run underwater on the last stretch to their respective final destinations.
The Nisga’a Lisim Government has already signed a benefits agreement with TransCanada for the portion of the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project that would pass through Nisga’a lands and it also now has the authority to tax industrial projects such as natural gas pipelines.