The Kispiox Valley Community Center Association, in an advertisement May 22, 2013, put forward several claims about natural gas development in British Columbia.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) agrees that a frank and open conversation on this issue is important, considering the significance of this issue to all British Columbians. We also believe a meaningful conversation must be based on facts, not on unsubstantiated claims.
So here are some facts.
The province’s natural gas industry, including production and pipeline transportation, is highly regulated by the BC Oil and Gas Commission. Strict regulations, combined with industry’s operating practices for hydraulic fracturing, which address water use and management, have contributed to an exemplary safety record of natural gas development not only in B.C. but in all of Canada’s natural gas-producing jurisdictions.
Industry produces natural gas safely and responsibly every day. More than 175,000 wells have been hydraulically fractured over the past 60 years in B.C. and Alberta without a single documented case of harm to drinking water, according to regulators.
Natural gas is the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon. It burns 50 per cent cleaner than coal when used in power generation. Natural gas also has lower sulfur dioxide and particulate matter emissions than coal. The U.S. Energy Information Administration stated last year that carbon dioxide emissions from energy use were the lowest in 20 years, partially as the result of increased natural gas use in power generation.
The cleaner-burning attribute also applies to natural gas produced from shale rock, which is the source for the majority of all natural gas produced or expected to be produced in B.C. Several scientific studies have come to this conclusion. For example, a 2012 study commissioned by Natural Resources Canada states: “life-cycle GHG emissions of natural gas produced from shale resources are only slightly higher than those of natural gas produced from more conventional resources.” Technology and innovation will further reduce emissions intensity in Canada’s energy sector, including the development of natural gas from shale rock.
GHG life-cycle emissions studies comparing liquefied natural gas and coal-fired power generation in the Canadian context do not exist at present because Canada does not yet have an LNG industry. However, a U.S. study prepared by PACE for the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas in 2009 states “the cleanest coal scenario releases 73 per cent more emissions from a life-cycle perspective than LNG.”
If the objective of environmental activists is to move to a future with lower carbon emissions (which is also our objective), it is illogical to suggest Canada should not export responsibly produced, cleaner-burning natural gas to countries like China.
The environmental benefits of B.C. natural gas should be viewed from a global perspective: by exporting this cleanest-burning fossil fuel, B.C. can help displace higher-emitting fuels in countries that rely on less environmentally sound fuel sources for power generation. The International Energy Agency points out in Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Natural Gas that natural gas has a “more substantial impact on CO2 emissions” in countries such as China that heavily rely on coal for power generation.
Exporting natural gas, and using more of it at home in power generation or as a vehicle fuel, does have tangible environmental benefits.
In addition to its environmental benefits, a natural gas export industry also has significant economic benefits. These include increased tax revenue, economic growth and job creation. A calculation based on a 2012 report by the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) shows the proposed LNG facilities in B.C. would generate about $150 billion in taxes and $500 billion in GDP growth across Canada over the next 25 years. CERI also estimates the natural gas industry would directly employ 40,000 people in B.C. by 2035, up from the 12,000 people it currently employs.
This is a tremendous opportunity, both from an environmental and an economic perspective. To realize it in an increasingly competitive global market, we must act collaboratively and with a sense of urgency to advance LNG export projects, the supporting upstream natural gas development and the infrastructure to connect the two.
CAPP believes it is important to broaden the discussion to consider how B.C. can contribute to reducing GHGs in the global context while at the same time seizing the opportunity to enable responsible natural gas development to the benefit of all British Columbians.
Manager of B.C. Operations,
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers,