OTTAWA — Canadian LNG is the best choice for global energy investors looking for sustainable and competitive natural gas production, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan said Monday.
His speech on the opening day of the virtual Gastech 2020 conference comes just two weeks before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to unveil his promised "ambitious green agenda" in a throne speech laying out his government's COVID-19 economic recovery plan.
O'Regan hinted at some of what may come in that plan, including promises of investments in the electrical grid and energy efficiency programs, a focus on workers and investing in technology to make fossil fuels cleaner.
"We'll get to where we need to be tomorrow by using what we have at our fingertips today," O'Regan said.
He said the best path to a healthy, low-emission economy includes Canada making natural gas a greener product that can be sold overseas — mainly to Asian nations — to replace coal as a source of electricity. That includes developing better carbon-capture and storage technology, as well as investing in research and commercialization to come up new ways to get gas to be more sustainable.
Politically, support for LNG crosses party lines in Ottawa. A plan to sell Canadian LNG to overseas market was one of the chief climate change policies in the Conservative campaign in 2019 and was also part of new Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole's leadership campaign platform.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has also been supportive of LNG projects, particularly the LNG Canada project in northern British Columbia that is also fully backed by the provincial NDP government in B.C.
O'Regan said the International Energy Agency forecasts growth in demand for gas for decades and that "bodes well for Canada."
The IEA's own forecasts are a bit more complex than that. Looking at existing policies around the world, it predicted in 2019 that LNG will grow 36 per cent over the next 20 years. However under a "sustainable development scenario" that transforms the world's energy use in line with the Paris climate change agreement goals on global warming, it expects natural gas use to peak by the end of this decade.
The IEA also warned that shipping LNG to Asia may not be as attractive as some think given dropping prices for renewables and rising prices for natural gas. Those warnings however came before the COVID-19 lockdowns curbed demand and saw gas prices plummet, a scenario the agency says will not reverse itself very quickly.
Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada, said the 11 LNG project proposals in Canada which O'Regan referenced in his speech are likely to become "white elephants" that are abandoned in favour of everything from wind and solar to hydrogen. He said many major investors have already shown reluctance if not outright refusals, to back fossil fuels any longer.
"Politicians want to tell us 'okay we don't have to change very much' but we do and we have to start planning for those big changes rather than imagining we can kind of tweak our way out of this," he said.
The IEA does say that switching from coal to gas reduced global emissions more than 500 million tonnes between 2010 and 2019, an amount equal to two-thirds of Canada's total annual greenhouse gas emissions. It estimated that replacing coal with gas in existing power plants could save 1.2 billion tonnes of emissions, noting that may be the best case for scenario for gas.
Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada, said initially O'Regan's Monday speech sounded good to her, talking about investing in a transition for workers, electricity grids and energy efficiency programs.
"Then I realized it was actually a speech about LNG disguised as a speech about renewable energy and I felt really duped," she said.
She said she is trying to remain hopeful about the throne speech but is worried it will provide "token" acknowledgments or investments for clean energy "but then continues this trend that we've seen of the real priority and the real investment going toward the fossil fuel sector."
Woah, what is this the Libs. are wanting to make NG apart of the Green initiative? Pipelines are the key to a greener tomorrow say it aint so Hoid, Flossy
Cleaner LNG one answer to climate change crisis, O'Regan tells investors
While making the woke heads explode like the bolded lady
IMO this is to pave the Liquification project through Quebec that saw Buffet say phuck it
If all the anti's were cleared out of the way we would have been selling LNG from the beginning of the demand not at the tail end.
Anti-nuclear flyers sent to 50,000 Ontario homes, that criticize a proposed high tech vault to store the country's nuclear waste, contain misinformation and are an attempt at 'fear mongering,' according to a top scientist working on the proposed project.
The flyers were mailed to homes in a dozen communities across a large swathe of Bruce and Grey counties, including Owen Sound, Kincardine and Walkerton by Protect Our Waterways - No Nuclear Waste, a grassroots organization trying to halt the federal government's efforts to build a high tech underground facility to store the country's stockpile of nuclear waste in Southern Ontario.
The flyers show a brightly coloured map of the southwestern Ontario peninsula with a radiation symbol near the community of Kincardine meant to symbolize the proposed location of the vault. A red plume appears to be leaking from the site into the nearby lake with the words "a leak from the dump site could eventually contaminate the Great Lakes."
Paul Gierszewski, the director of safety and technical research with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), the federal agency tasked with finding a permanent place to store Canada's stockpile of nuclear waste, said the flyers are an attempt to deliberately deceive the public.
Flyers an attempt to deceive the public, says top scientist
"From my perspective it's being deliberately vague and its encouraging people to misinterpret the project," he said. "It's fear mongering in a way. Our approach is to isolate and contain the waste."
The NWMO has been tasked with finding a permanent home for the most toxic waste Canada has ever produced, a stockpile of three million spent nuclear fuel bundles, which could end up at one of two potential sites: Ignace, a community northwest of Thunder Bay and the town of South Bruce on the shore of Lake Huron.
Scientists are proposing a kind of high tech underground vault, called a deep geologic repository, or DGR; a multi-billion dollar high tech nuclear waste dump that would see the material stored for millennia as far below the Earth as the CN Tower is tall.
The debate over whether to put the DGR in South Bruce has divided the community. A debate that includes the ethics of leaving the burden of some of Canada's most dangerous nuclear material to future generations, the possible development and devaluation of prime Ontario farmland and concerns over the potential safety of the drinking water for 40 million people in two countries.
Except, Gierszewski said, according to all of their models, the potential radioactive contamination of Lake Huron isn't just improbable, it would take a really long time.
"The only way for radioactivity to move is through the process of diffusion and that's an extremely slow process."
Gierszewski added that the waste stored inside the facility would be encased in several layers of protection far below the bottom of the lake.
Gierszewski said even if the water were to make it into the DGR and into the protective case holding the waste, the vault would still be safe and capable of supporting a family living on the land on top of it, even in what he called the "unlikely circumstances" that one or more containers containing waste were to rupture.
"One container, multiple containers, all containers; these are things that we look at to understand risk," he said. "It's extremely unlikely."
Scientists have tested nuclear waste containers rigorously for decades. The NWMO has even published a video in which the containers survive being dropped from a tower, lit on fire, submerged in water and hit by a speeding freight train with no release of radiation.
In the proposed DGR, those containers would be encased in cement, clay and then stored in underground chambers nearly a kilometre below the Earth.
'There's 40 million people who drink from the Great Lakes'
"There's 40 million people who drink from the Great Lakes and they deserve to know what this proposal is," said Michelle Stein, one of the organizers of the grassroots anti-nuclear group Protect Our Waterways - No Nuclear Waste, which distributed the flyers to 50,000 homes.
Stein said the map on the flyer is meant to show people how the Great Lakes could become contaminated by radiation, if it were to leak from the proposed site, but she admitted it is not based on any particular research or scientific information.
"Off the top of my head, I can't say there is any specific research paper, but everything that happens in the Great Lakes water basin, ends up in the Great Lakes," she said.
Stein said she thinks the high level nuclear waste, which has been sitting in temporary storage for the past 70 years, should stay where it is until new and better technology can come up with a better solution.
"It needs to be kept above ground and monitored until a real solution can be found," she said. "They can upgrade the facilities that are there."
Stein said building the multi-billion dollar DGR and having regular shipments of highly toxic nuclear waste delivered to the area will change the community of South Bruce forever.
"They're going to be bringing work camps, which they tend not to want to talk about," she said. "The fabric of our community is going to change."
She said the stigma of being a dumping site for Canada's nuclear waste will also affect the community. She said the DGR hasn't even been built yet and already the area's reputation is suffering.
"They say it's not going to affect agriculture, yet I've one Toronto land buyer tell me he would not be interested in our lands anymore because his clients want to know where their produce comes from."
"If I'm living next to the nuclear dump nobody wants my produce," she said. "This is a decision that will change life as we know it around here."
As the federal government puts the finishing touches on a national hydrogen strategy designed to kickstart the budding sector, some experts say one of the vital ingredients for the industry to flourish is to build more pipelines.
While pipelines are often associated with moving oil and natural gas, they are equally important for the developing cleaner sources of fuel like hydrogen, according to Maggie Hanna, a fellow at the Energy Futures Lab.
After a 30-year career in the oilpatch as a geologist, Hanna's focus is now on technology and innovation.
Instead of oil and natural gas, she believes hydrogen, hydro, nuclear, solar and wind will be the dominant energy sources a few decades from now as the country moves toward lowering its emissions.
Still, for that clean energy transition to happen, the country will need to put more pipes in the ground.
"We got to get over this friggin' pipeline thing," said Hanna, with a smile as she shook her head. "It is the No. 1 safest way to move any fluid."
Not only does the country still depend heavily on pipelines to move oil and natural gas, but many other sources of energy may also depend on pipelines.
Hanna is a big supporter of utilizing hydrogen for heating buildings, powering trains and long-haul trucks, and for industrial sectors like manufacturing, among other uses.
WATCH | A clean energy transition does require more pipelines:
Hydrogen has the potential to be a major energy source in the future and help the country lower its emissions in the future. That's why the federal government is set to release a national hydrogen strategy before the end of the year, which is expected to include financial incentives and other measures to fuel the sector's growth.
Pipelines would be needed to move hydrogen across the country and for export, said Hanna.
"In liquid forms and gaseous forms, mixed in with methane," she said, among other examples. There would also be a need to move carbon dioxide emissions to be sequestered underground or used in industrial sectors.
Over the last 20 years, oil and natural gas pipelines have garnered much more attention across North America and have attracted a significant amount of criticism because of concern about the impact that expanding the fossil fuel industry will have on climate change.
Federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan said the discussion shouldn't focus on vilifying one industry, but instead be centred around how the country can lower its emissions in the future.
"I think we're all going to get a lot more sophisticated about this. I mean pipelines have become a lightning rod," he said. "Pipelines aren't the issue, emissions are the issue."
Whether the country will need more pipelines in the future to move materials like hydrogen, O'Regan said it's an important question "because all of that will require significant investment."
To get more pipes in the ground in the future, some argue a so-called 'Team Canada' approach is necessary.
While Alberta and Quebec have sparred often in recent years over oil and gas pipeline development, both are supporters of growing the hydrogen industry.
Some hydrogen proponents say there is strong support for the sector from coast-to-coast.
"It's the one energy solution that isn't divisive across Canada," said Stephen Beatty, a vice-president with Toyota Canada, which is part of a Quebec hydrogen coalition, which formed earlier this year.
Hydrogen is environmentally-friendly and not a pollutant, he said, like other materials that move by pipeline.
"I think if you look at the history of energy politics over the last year or two, you've seen pipeline debates, you've seen lots of other things happening. The reality is that every major part of the country has a potential to be a player in hydrogen," he said, in a phone interview from a dealership in Ajax, Ontario......More