An aerial shot of the AltaGas propane terminal construction on Ridley Island last June. (Submitted)

In Our Opinion: Propane, making small first steps

LNG was too big for Prince Rupert, but LPG seems to be moving along on the North Coast

With a licence to export up to 19 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) a year, Pacific NorthWest LNG’s project was a monster.

Aurora LNG wanted to export 24 million tonnes a year, WCC LNG Ltd. proposed to export 15 million tonnes, with the potential to expand to 30 million tonnes a year.

One by one, each of these massive LNG projects folded in the Prince Rupert area. While Kitimat has the only northwest project that is seeing the light of day, the LNG Canada project once constructed and operational will export 14 million tonnes a year, most big projects have proven sluggish in the permitting and environmental approval phase.

Smaller scale natural gas projects however are moving along just fine.

While it took Pacific NorthWest LNG six years to decide it wasn’t going to move forward, it took AltaGas three years from concept to construction and now the liquefied propane gas (LPG) export facility on Ridley Island is fully operational with the first export on May 23. AltaGas will export 1.2 million tonnes of propane a year, mostly to Japan.

READ MORE: AltaGas makes first propane shipment from northern B.C.

An even smaller propane project, Pembina, is working on repairing the dock at Watson Island for its proposed LPG export terminal — if it goes forward it will ship 550,000 tonnes of gas a year.

Taking bite-sized pieces of the industrial landscape on Ridley and Watson islands may be the way of the future.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority didn’t go straight for a 7 million TEU-capacity container terminal. It started with a half a million TEU capacity per year, then it proposed the Phase 2 expansion for up to 2-million TEUs, which it has the federal environmental approvals to do. Beyond that, the port will need to apply for another assessment.

If the Conservative government is elected this fall, Andrew Scheer will work on pushing his coast energy corridor westward, to “lower the costs of environmental assessments, increase certainty for investors, and, most importantly, get these critical projects done,” he said.

With the AltaGas proof-of-concept propane export project on time and within budget, it’s likely we’ll see a few more small-scale projects proposed along B.C.’s coastline.

READ MORE: Create new coast-to-coast energy corridor to get pipelines built: Scheer


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