Blog: Where’s the business case for hydrogen?


CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance

So Prime Minister Trudeau says there has “never been a strong business case” for liquified natural gas exports from Canada’s East Coast to Europe.

“There needs to be a business case,” he added. “It needs to make sense for Germany to be receiving LNG directly from the East Coast.”

Throwing frigid water on such exports, he is instead pushing future production and export of hydrogen from Canada to Europe.

“We must look to resources like hydrogen which can and will be clean and renewable. We can be the reliable supplier of clean energy a net-zero world needs.”

OK, so what is the “business case” that Ottawa sees and invokes for hydrogen exports?

There isn’t one.

There is, true, a federal “Hydrogen Strategy” — but all it offers is “an ambitious framework for actions that will cement hydrogen as a tool to achieve our goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and position Canada as a global, industrial leader of clean renewable fuels.”

That is not a business case.

But, hey, Canada did announce plans for a ‘Taste of Kanada’ social-media blitz to sell Germans our maple syrup, blueberry jam, poutine gravy mix and Moosehead canned lager.

One of the PM’s cavils on East Coast LNG-for-export is this: “There has never been a strong business case because of the distance from the gas fields, because of the need to transport that gas over long distances before liquefaction.”

If so, we know where to point fingers: First, the Quebec government blocked any LNG development or any pipeline to feed it. Then the federal government leaped fully onside with Quebec, also rejecting the GNL-Québec project and its pipeline on environmental grounds.

Ottawa’s current answer: We should ship more natural gas to the U.S., which then turns it into LNG and sells it overseas. As Stewart Muir of Resource Works points out, that means selling our gas to the U.S. at $3 a unit, and the U.S. reselling it at $10. Or more.

We thus lose jobs and billions of dollars. One more note from Muir: “The scale of this lost opportunity is simply staggering. At today’s high LNG prices, one large LNG plant on the east coast of Canada, of the size of Kitimat’s LNG Canada project being built now, would add $250,000,000 a day to the country’s GDP.”

The big losers include First Nations, who have been increasingly seeking equity positions in gas, LNG and other resource developments. Among them is the Miawpukek First Nation, which seeks to increase equity participation in the proposed LNG Newfoundland & Labrador project. That aims to tap “significant stranded natural gas” in the offshore Jeanne d’ Arc Basin.

Meanwhile, in BC, the Haisla Nation works toward its Cedar LNG project and the Nisga’a Nation on its Ksi Lisims LNG project. Good projects both, with big benefits for Indigenous peoples, but on the wrong coast to be of much help to Europe.

The feds still speak of hopes (if faint) for East Coast LNG. Trudeau spoke of perhaps easing regulatory processes to help get LNG set up on the East Coast and shipping to Germany.

But we remember how Canadian regulators spent a full 43 months reviewing one LNG proposal in BC, while U.S. regulators took only 14 months on a bigger one.

It’s time for the feds to recognize and accept the potential for LNG exports from both coasts, and to work with the industry — and First Nations — on a real business case, and plan.

(Posted here 22 September 2022)

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