An aerial view of AltaGas' Ferndale

AltaGas reaches out to Rupert council

The lineup to situate terminals in the Prince Rupert area keeps getting longer.

The lineup to situate terminals in the Prince Rupert area keeps getting longer.

Two representatives from AltaGas, manager stakeholder relations David Markham and advisor stakeholder relations Jennifer Osmar, made the company’s first formal presentation to city council at last Monday’s meeting, April 11, regarding the company’s proposed propane export terminal on Ridley Island.

Among the shared information was specific figures on jobs created by the terminal, which sums up to between 200 and 250 construction jobs and approximately 50 local jobs once the terminal is completed.

AltaGas, which owns a similar terminal in Ferndale, Washington, is proposing to ship 1.2 million tonnes of propane per year sourced from northeast B.C. and northwest Alberta commencing in 2018.

“This would be the first [propane facility] of its kind here in Canada, so we’re every excited about the possibility of being pioneers in that regard,” said Markham.

AltaGas is making a $400-500 million capital investment in the project and is planning to start its environmental review in the immediate future. Part of that is an extensive public engagement process, similar to those undertaken by the numerous LNG companies proposing to build a terminal near Prince Rupert.

“The regulatory process will be handled by Ridley Terminals … since we’re subleasing Ridley Terminals land, it would be Ridley undergoing the review,” Markham added.

AltaGas hopes to have its final investment decision by the end of 2016, would begin construction in 2017 and ready to ship propane in 2018.

Coun. Nelson Kinney asked the representatives if there are any dangers in the shipment of propane in the community, and Markham referenced the process of getting the resource to the terminal, which would be via CN Rail.

“I think it’s clear that we’re going to be seeing an increase in volume of rail traffic that is going to bring propane to the facility – we’re looking at roughly 50 cars per day. So I think that’s an obvious risk and we’re fully aware of the level of concern out there with the prospect of shipping dangerous goods such as propane into the community,” he said, adding that Prince Rupert already receives propane travelling through the community toward Alaska.

“The design of the rail cars that we’ll be shipping with propane are very tightly regulated by Transport Canada and with respect to the recent Lac Megantic tragedy, we’ve seen a real tightening of the rules.”

Coun. Gurvinder Randhawa inquired if the jobs will be created locally, to which Osmar responded that yes, AltaGas’ commitment is to hire locally and provide jobs for a “sustainable community”.

Coun. Joy Thorkelson asked what response procedures are to a derailment or spill in the water.

“Propane as a fuel is non-toxic. In the event of a spill or leak, propane will dissolve into the air, it will not contaminate the soil or water. The tank that we’ll be storing the propane at the site will be double-walled, so that’s an extra precaution that we do plan to take, plus we’ll be employing a state-of-the-art protection system … to minimize the risks of any leaks occuring,” said Osmar, adding that CN is able to respond to train derailment inquiries.

Thorkelson also inquired if AltaGas plans to use a gas flare, used for burning off flammable gas released by pressure relief valves. The representatives stated that the flare would only be used for emergency purposes and during startup and would be located at ground level and be enclosed.

Markham and Osmar also invited council to visit the Ferndale location and tour the facility. The Ferndale terminal has been owned and operated by AltaGas since 2014 and been in operation for over 40 years.