NATURAL GAS minister Rich Coleman says he’s approaching the promise of liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in BC with the same optimism that saw him through to a BC Liberal win when others had written off the party during the May provincial election.
“I really do think there’s at least three or four, maybe five [LNG plants] that are really dead serious and they are looking at this long term,” Coleman said after making a speech Sept. 5 to nearly 90 people at a Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
“There’s three others that if they can find the land base they want they will come through.”
Three LNG proposals have surfaced in Kitimat and two in Prince Rupert. Two of the Kitimat ones have received environmental approval but no project has revealed any signed up customers.
But it may not be until the middle of next year and even early in 2015 before northwest businesses hear if energy companies make final investment decisions to proceed with approved projects, said Coleman.
“Our message must be that we support that industry,” Coleman told the luncheon attendees at the Bavarian Inn, calling it a “generational opportunity.”
“I’ve never seen a better leader to have on a file like this,” he added of premier Christy Clark, who is chair of the cabinet working group on LNG.
Coleman said the government is working land use plans for plants and will continue to promote regional training through colleges.
He was firm, however, that the province would itself not commit any money to public infrastructure or construction projects in the region based on speculation.
“Did someone put a shovel in the ground that I didn’t hear about?” he said in reference to requests coming from municipalities for everything from new pools to museums based on anticipated LNG taxation revenues.
Still, Coleman did say local governments should look at ways of increasing housing options in anticipation of a flood of LNG employment should the industry ever take hold.
Coach housing, in which small homes are built on lots already containing large homes, as well as container housing should be considered, he said.
He said that B.C. already supplies about 1.8 trillion cubic feet per year to North American markets, and that running at maximum output provincial gas reserves could provide 6 trillion additional cubic feet to the rest of the world for the next 84 years.
“That’s the opportunity we face,” said Coleman.
He spoke of the negotiations underway between industry and government designed to keep companies interested while at the same time securing the promised benefits for British Columbians through appropriate taxation.
“I can’t tell you what the sweet spot is, even though I do have an idea,” said Coleman, explaining that it has to do with the confidential matter of tax regimes.
Canada’s main advantage, Coleman said, is a climate that is 30 per cent cooler than other major competing countries such as Africa, Australia, and the US. This means less energy needs to be expended to further cool the gas to a liquefied state for transportation overseas.
“Which is why we have the cleanest and most environmentally friendly LNG industry in the world,” Coleman said.