Opportunities For Natural Gas In B.C. Go Beyond Lng: A Summary Of The Vancouver Board Of Trade Luncheon

December 5, 2012

On Wednesday, November 28, Communica attended the Vancouver Board of Trade’s luncheon entitled “Natural Gas: Benefits for B.C.” Always a lively way to spend the afternoon, this particular event by the Vancouver Board of Trade featured key energy personnel in British Columbia discussing the opportunities associated with natural gas. Doug Bloom from Spectra Energy Transmission and John Walker from Fortis BC described how B.C.’s economy can benefit from natural gas and that many opportunities exist beyond Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

Both Doug Bloom and John Walker spoke about the existence of significant opportunities for power generation with natural gas. One example of an important opportunity is getting natural gas to remote communities in the province which will help them ease off of diesel generators. As well, automotive and rail transportation systems can now be fitted to run off of natural gas instead of gasoline or other fuels. This not only serves to cut down operating costs, but emits a much cleaner burning fuel. Vedder Transportation Group, one of the largest trucking companies in Canada, and the Surrey Municipal Government have both switched some of their vehicles over to natural gas and are enjoying the benefits of this.

Small-scale LNG projects are another opportunity that B.C. has to use its abundant reserves of natural gas within the province. One idea is to have small LNG cooling facilities aboard trucks that can access Northern Canada and provide fuel to the burgeoning resource industries in Canada’s Arctic. Fortis BC currently operates two small LNG plants in B.C., so the infrastructure does exist to some extent.

Natural gas is a unique commodity for British Columbia. Unlike oil, gas prices are not based on a global pricing structure, but vary by region. In Western Canada, our price is quite low due to the distance from traditional North American markets and over-supply of gas due to new gas discoveries throughout North America. Many Asian countries are not connected to natural gas through continental pipelines but instead receive much of their supplies through shipping. This results in a large price differential between what Americans will pay for natural gas ($3-$4 per MMBtu) and what Asian buyers will pay ($13 – $14 per MMBtu).

The speakers maintained that this is perhaps B.C.’s biggest opportunity as a province and as a country. Getting B.C. natural gas to Asian markets means that large profits can be made for Canadian companies and for provincial governments getting tax and royalty revenues. The export of LNG should remain a strong priority but we must keep in mind the various other opportunities that Canadian natural gas holds.

— Jessica Davies, Vancouver