City urged to get on top of natural gas development

Billions to be invested in northwestern BC in next decade

THE City of Terrace and local businesses need to start making plans now to capitalize on the emerging liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in the region, a former Liberal cabinet minister and now consultant says.

Roger Harris brought the message to city council armed with a list of LNG projects he said represents more than $18 billion in spending.

The list includes everything from the smallest, the BC LNG project at an estimated $400 million to $600 million in spending, to Shell’s larger Canada LNG project worth an estimated $12 billion.

It’s a big, big number,” said Harris of what he says would be the largest investment in one industrial sector B.C. has ever seen. “And all of them have a very good chance of going past the drawing board.”

The large number of potential LNG projects grouped in the Kitimat-Terrace-Prince Rupert area means the northwest has the opportunity to become the second largest cluster of LNG export facilities in the world and a world-leading export hub.

We would be second only to Qatar, currently the top exporter of LNG with approximately 25 per cent of the market.

It’s this clustering effect combined with a close proximity to Asian markets that has the potential to set B.C. apart and fuel the industry’s growth, Harris said.

Canada’s dominance in the industry could last for decades,” Harris said.

Right now, the US is the largest importer of Canadian LNG – but that’s set to change, warned Harris, as the US is in the beginning stages of setting up its own LNG export facilities.

If this happens, the US would become an exporter rather than an importer of the product, which is odourless, colourless, non-toxic and non-corrosive, and B.C. would lose its biggest market.

B.C. needs to start locking down foreign markets like Japan in order to remain competitive, Harris said.

And that’s one reason Harris is urging city council to prepare a plan on how to capitalize on the LNG economy.

Plants need to be up and running by 2022, said Palmer, meaning permits will need to be approved by 2015.

The environmental assessment process alone takes two years – not an unreasonable amount of time to make sure it is done right, said Harris.

This is one of the best kept secrets in B.C. … [but] I do think it is all at risk,” he said, noting that LNG projects are not even on the federal government’s radar, which could hinder approvals.

Harris Palmer, which is Harris’s consulting company, and the Terrace Economic Development Authority, which have prepared a report on the LNG in the northwest, have identified  local businesses they say will directly gain from LNG projects if they are prepared.

There are businesses here in town that aren’t aware of the opportunity that’s about to come,” Harris said, noting council needs to support and encourage businesses that are already here to expand or encourage new businesses to move to town.

Harris was the MLA for Skeena between 2001 and 2005 and was Minister of State for Forestry Operations from 2004 to 2005.