This week, Prince Rupert residents will have a chance to learn more about the latest liquid petroleum project proposed for the North Coast.
Vopak Development Canada Inc. plans to build a gas storage facility on Ridley Island, Prince Rupert Port Authority land, for the purpose of shipping propane, diesel and methanol to customers in Asia.
Although the Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal by AltaGas and Vopak required a federal environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) 2012 Section 67, Vopak’s proposed energy storage facility also triggered a B.C. environmental assessment.
“I consider that Vopak Pacific Canada Project has the potential for significant adverse effects, an environmental assessment (EA) must be undertaken and an EA certificate must be issued before the Vopak Pacific Canada Project may proceed,” said Nathan Braun, executive project director for the Environmental Assessment Office, in a letter to Vopak.
The project is now under review by CEAA, under Section 67, and B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office.
There are two reasons for why it’s being considered a reviewable project: it exceeds the energy storage threshold of three petajoules of energy, and it requires dredging of an area larger than two hectars of foreshore or submerged land to build a marine port facility.
Some environmental and community groups, including SkeenaWild, Friends of Digby Island and T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, are calling for the project to be subject to a full CEAA environmental assessment.
In a letter to the CEAA project manager, the group said the project would see the first oil (diesel oil) tankers on the North Coast and there would be “unprecedented oil-by-rail traffic volumes along CN’s tar sands to Prince Rupert rail route, which runs along the Skeena River for well over a hundred kilometers.”
At full capacity, Vopak expects the 240 rail cars per day (60 for liquefied petroleum gas, 90 for clean petroleum products, such as diesel or gasoline, and 90 for methanol).
In the letter to CEAA, the signatories also raise concern over oil spills while loading the vessels and the proximity to Flora Bank, a juvenile salmon habitat near the Skeena River.
At the marine facility, very large gas carriers will receive liquefied petroluem gas (LPG), and handymax or panamax vessels will receive the other products, diesel or gasoline, for export. Vessels will be loaded once every three days, and the project anticipates approximately 150 vessels per year based on demand.
If the project goes through, Vopak estimates 200 jobs for the two-year construction period, and 40-50 long-term positions when the facility is up and running. The company said it will hire up to 60 per cent local employees in the construction phase and 70 per cent during operations.
Vopak has initiated the consultation process with First Nations, including Metlakatla, Lax Kw’alaams and Gitxaala Nation.
Public comment period opened Sept. 6 and will close Oct. 9. As of Sept. 23, only two comments were available to view online.
“Vopak is committed to being a good neighbour in the communities in which it operates and looks forward to receiving input on the proposed project,” states the latest press release from the company.
Residents of Prince Rupert and Port Edward can learn more about the project on Sept. 25 at the Port Edward Community Centre from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., and in Prince Rupert on Sept. 26, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the North Coast Convention Centre.