The Trans Mountain Pipeline is stalled indefinitely. But a petroleum export project of monumental importance to B.C. is moving along just fine, thank you.
This week, it was reported that the $40 billion LNG terminal planned for Kitimat will get federal relief from tariffs on steel modules.
This would save LNG Canada, a consortium led by Shell, about $1 billion.
There will be a new pipeline (one of those!) to supply the terminal with natural gas from Alberta and Northeastern B.C.
TransCanada is ready to spend $4.8 billion on the Coastal Gaslink line as soon as investment in the terminal is approved.
That could happen next week, according to the Financial Post’s Geoffrey Morgan.
All the approvals are granted. The shovels are ready. Every First Nation along the route is happy.
Imagine that upbeat scene with any oil pipeline from Alberta. Impossible.
The LNG project itself will eventually be a real benefit to gas producers – and economies – of both provinces.
That’s good, in itself. The industry, eager for any good news, is cheering. That’s understandable after all the disappointments and delays.
But the decisions that led to this LNG project have done enormous damage to Alberta’s economy and the oilsands.
First, Ottawa killed the Northern Gateway pipeline in 2016, after the Federal Court found its approval lacking.
The terminus for Northern Gateway was to be Kitimat — the same port now cleared for the LNG project.
In 2016, Natural Resources Canada said officially: “The Government has determined that (Northern Gateway) is not in the public interest because it would result in crude oil tankers transiting through the sensitive ecosystem of the Douglas Channel, which is part of the Great Bear Rainforest.”
Even as that was written, there were plans for huge LNG tankers to pass through the same waters.
Liquid natural gas may be more benign than diluted bitumen if there’s a rupture or collision, but such accidents are extremely rare.
The real danger these days is bitumen riding the rails in B.C. because there’s no room in pipelines.
Also, anyone glancing at a map will realize that Kitimat is a long way from the northern tip of Vancouver Island.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decreed a tanker ban in those latitudes, up to Alaska.
But Bill C-48, now before the Senate, doesn’t apply to ships carrying LNG.
Monster ships are therefore allowed to dock in Kitimat, load up LNG, and sail off to Asia.
It’s blatant hypocrisy for the federal Liberals to call their bill a tanker moratorium.
As I’ve pointed out before, it doesn’t even prohibit tankers. It only bans export of products listed in the bill — Alberta exports, as it happens.
Tankers are not allowed to load those products, so there’s no point for them to show up.
The Alberta government says the ban will kill billions of dollars in plans for exporting refined products.
The list includes oils which Ottawa deems “persistent” — fuel oil, marine diesel, synthetic crude, lubricating oil, partially ungraded bitumen (dilbit), condensates, and more.
In other words, all crude oil and bitumen, as well as almost everything derived from them.
But no problem for LNG.
Alberta Senator Doug Black, who is leading resistance to this bill, defies the government to show evidence of a similar ban anywhere in the world.
“I don’t believe there is one,” he says. “There certainly isn’t anything like it anywhere in Canada.”
Black adds that Canada is blessed with huge stretches of unspoiled coastline, west, east and north, all of it ecologically important and beloved by local residents.
What makes that one patch of northern B.C. coast so special?
He supplies his own answer — “Bill C-48 is an attack on the oilsands. It could not be more obvious.”
The Liberals will counter that they’ve spent $4.5 billion to buy a pipeline project specifically aimed at exporting bitumen from the Lower Mainland.
And how’s that going?