Port Edward LNG ticks the boxes

Port Edward LNG is a planned small-scale LNG plant in BC, but has some giant-scale work to do before it can begin to build on its site.

“From a topographical perspective, it’s the side of a mountain,” says President Chris Hilliard. “We have to take a 30-degree slope of solid rock and turn that into level ground.

“So, at one point, on the uphill side of our site, there will be a 22-metre high rock wall, which is the side of Mount Stewart.”

That site is two kilometres east of the main townsite area of Port Edward, which is 9 km south of Prince Rupert as the crow flies.

Though it offers that big rock-blasting challenge, the site has some key advantages.

“It’s immediately beside BC Hydro and this facility will be entirely electrically driven,” says Hilliard. “And it’s immediately beside the Pacific Northern Gas Pipeline. So our lateral pipe from that main line to our site, would be only about 150 metres, something like that.

“And we’re just off Highway 16, which is how we will transport the containers to the existing dock at Port Edward. . . . One of the things that makes the site sing for us is the new port access road and the expansion of the highway, so we will be able to move our containers outside of the main residential and commercial areas.”

It would mean up to 40 specially designed containers a day at full production, each loaded with 20 tonnes of LNG for export to overseas markets.

“They’re very specialized containers. They’re the same as those already moving, already driving, through Vancouver. They have an outer carbon-steel shell that is very, very strong. Inside that shell is a vacuum, an insulated vacuum, and then there’s an inner stainless steel chamber that actually holds the LNG.”

When does all this come about?

“It looks like two years. If you break it down simply, it’s about a year’s worth of site preparation and roadwork and about a year’s worth of construction. So that would have us at first push about late 2024 or early 2025, maybe. It’s in that range.”

The project has long been discussed with six First Nations in the region.

“The concerns we’ve heard from communities are about environmental impact and about safety, more than anything.  Much discussion about jobs and opportunities and training and all that stuff, yes, but the concerns are really ‘How are you managing the environment?’”

“This will be, I will say, carefully, and with some pride, the lowest carbon-intensive LNG facility anywhere in the world. Woodfibre does make that claim at the moment, but we’re some two thirds of what they are (in terms of emissions).”

As well, notes Hilliard: “We sit back from the water about 30 metres at all points, minimum. . . .  That allows us to do a couple of things. One is, we get less impact on the water. Two, it shelters us, both visually and acoustically.”

And, he adds, “There are culturally modified trees in the area, and they tend to be close to the foreshore (on tidal Morse Basin), because that’s where boats would have stopped. As a result there is a beautiful old plank cedar;  it’s in that 30-metre zone, so we don’t touch it.”

Hilliard continues: “We’ve done some initial geotechnical work. We need to do more. We’ve done some environmental surveys. There are seven water crossings that move through the property. So we’ve had to test those.

“We have found evidence of fish in one of them. It’s the eastern part of the route, so in some ways it’s easier to deal with, anyway, but we need to understand what the water looks like coming on to our site, and for the entire life of the project, and what the water looks like coming off our site. So we’re doing that kind of baseline work at this point.

“The immediate next step is to pioneer a road through the property from the east side, to create an access point from the highway, and then build an initial road right through the site. That will enable additional geotechnical work, and would also, ultimately, enable us to start clearing trees and to start prepping the site.”

Then comes building the plant and its two natural-gas liquefaction “trains.” Here, being only one per cent of the size of LNG Canada, and limited to some 300 tonnes of LNG a day, has advantages.

“If you have to build big, everything has to be custom-designed and custom-constructed, built with (prefabricated) modules. The small-scale option means we can, relatively speaking, order equipment off the shelf and at an off-the-shelf price.”

The First Nations affected have also asked about jobs. Hilliard at this point sees 100 to 150 jobs during the two years of construction, followed by 4-5 dozen permanent operating jobs.

While he talks of exporting the LNG overseas, and providing LNG for LNG-fuelled ships visiting northwest BC, there’s also the potential for shipping LNG by truck to remote mines and Indigenous communities, to replace diesel plants used to generate electricity.

“It’s a meaningful change, but it isn’t easy to shift. That said, it’s the right thing to do. If you look at LNG versus diesel, you’ve got about half the CO2 emissions, maybe 60% of the particulate emissions. It just makes sense. So are there opportunities? Absolutely. Any remote community, or remote job site that is currently running diesel is an opportunity, but it will take time. The market has been slow to develop.”

So the current focus is on exports, with China, Japan and Korea in mind.

“We have a number of initial agreements in place in all three of those markets. We don’t yet have binding Sales Purchase Agreements.”

Having said that, Hilliard noted that Port Edward LNG has just hosted visitors from China.

“That group is serious about operating and they are embedded in the value chain. They are already moving LNG by container in South China, so they understand our business, they understand what we offer, and they are very eager to get to a long-term binding agreement.”

As preliminary and site work progresses, Hilliard closes with this: “The names of our backers will come in due course and I don’t think there will be any surprises.

“I think we’re in a place that not very many people get to. We’re a fully permitted LNG project in British Columbia and ready to roll.

“If we can tick the final boxes, we can get rolling pretty quickly.”

(Posted here 11 August 2022)

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