Canada’s LNG carbon footprint seen as better than best in class

This article is part of the Fall 2019 Alberta Oil & Gas Quarterly. Click here for your complimentary copy.

LNG from Western Canada is expected to have among the lowest GHG profiles in the world, layering another competitive advantage on top of fast shipping times to Asia.

Right out of the gate with the first major project, Canadian LNG operations will be well below the global emissions average of 0.26 to 0.35 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per tonne of LNG produced. LNG Canada, currently under construction at Kitimat, B.C., is being designed for 0.15 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per tonne per tonne of LNG.

The two projects that may follow over the next decade – Woodfibre LNG and Kitimat LNG – are designed for intensity of approximately 0.06 to 0.08 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per tonne of LNG.

“Liquefied natural gas from B.C will have the least CO2 per tonne of any LNG produced in the world,” said Bryan Cox, CEO of the BC LNG Alliance.

“Not only will B.C. projects have the potential to reduce global emissions by displacing coal, they will also reduce global emissions if they replace LNG produced in other jurisdictions.”

LNG Canada says its low GHG footprint will be achieved through a combination of the lower-CO2 composition of Montney natural gas; widespread electrification of upstream operations like drilling and processing; the use of green power from B.C.’s hydro-driven electrical grid; and use of highly efficient gas turbines at the liquefaction plant.

“A B.C. LNG facility that uses gas-powered turbines will produce literally millions of tonnes less CO2 during its life cycle than a Gulf Coast plant of similar size,” Cox said.

Both the Woodfibre LNG and Kitimat LNG projects plan to take it one step further by using electric-drive technology versus gas-fired turbines for liquefaction.

Since the power produced in B.C. is 98 percent clean energy, mostly from hydro power, electric drive will be “orders of magnitude” lower in emissions intensity of the large LNG plants either built or proposed for the U.S. Gulf Coast, said Fred Eastwood, commercial manager for the Kitimat LNG project with Chevron Canada.

“With the use of hydro power, our greenhouse gas footprint is five to eight times lower than best-in-class,” he said.

Projects in Western Canada also have fewer emissions associated with transporting the LNG to Asia, since the travel time from B.C. is just 10 days – about half the time it takes for LNG carriers to travel from the Gulf Coast

to Asia.

“The greenhouse gas footprint, and the fuel loss through the value chain, is orders of magnitude lower than the Gulf Coast,” Eastwood said.

Electric-drive technology “would substantially reduce, but not completely eliminate, greenhouse gas emissions from the LNG facility at Kitimat,” said David Austin, a lawyer specializing in energy at Stirling Law.

“From this perspective it’s very good news. But like all LNG projects, the proof will be whether it’s ever built.”

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