Liquid opportunities: Northern B.C. businesses seek to tap into LNG boom

Energy companies are expected to spend billions of dollars building natural gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas export terminals in northern B.C. during the next decade.

By Arthur Williams, Vancouver Sun June 27, 2014

Presented by Northern Development Initiative Trust, Initiatives Prince George and the University of Northern B.C.

PRINCE GEORGE ­— Energy companies are expected to spend billions of dollars building natural gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals in northern B.C. during the next decade.

For small and medium-sized resource sector and construction firms in the north, tapping into the development of LNG is both an opportunity and a serious challenge.

“There is nobody in Prince George that builds pipelines. There is nobody in northern B.C. that builds pipelines. But there are people who work to support the projects,” Dick Mynen, president of TDB Consultants, a resource management company, said. “We’re a resource-based company — this is what we do. (But) in some ways we’re too small. Petronas doesn’t call up TDB Consulting.”

The Prince George-based TDB has been working for 27 years supporting the forestry and resource sectors, and currently employs about 50 people.

While major energy sector players like Petronas and TransCanada don’t call companies like TDB Consulting, their contractors and subcontractors do, Mynen said.

“We’re working very hard on the route access, route selection process. We want to help them find the route for their pipelines,” he said. “Our specialty is transportation design: roads, bridges … Once the pipe hits the back of the truck, we’re done.”

Mynen said TDB has been working to be ready when the LNG boom comes.

“We have been gearing up, adding capacity, getting more professional … adding professional engineers, professional foresters … That’s not an overnight type of thing,” he said.

When asked what challenges his company faces, Mynen summed it up in one word: labour.

“The word is out there that northern B.C. is getting developed,” he said. “You always lose a few (workers) to other projects. And just through attrition, you lose people. Finding those replacements — any replacements — is a problem. You don’t find people in (Prince George) any more. You used to be able to scoop grads from (the College of New Caledonia) and (University of Northern B.C.).”

TDB has had to change how it recruits to fill positions, he said, with recent hires coming from Vancouver, Ottawa and Halifax.

“There are a lot of things you have to do, and you can’t do it last-minute. If you’re not already in dialogue when the announcements are made, it’s too late.”

The lead time for major projects can be years and work begins long before final government approvals and company investment decisions are made, he added.

Eight years ago, TDB did some aerial photography for what is now Chevron and Apache Canada’s Pacific Trail Pipeline project. The final investment decision for the proposed 487-kilometre pipeline from Summit Lake to Kitimat still has not been made.

Mynen said he doesn’t expect natural gas development and LNG to redefine his company, but “it’s exciting times.”

Building the boomGary Giese, operations manager for Prince George-based construction company High Caliber Contracting, also sees exciting times ahead.

High Caliber is a small construction company, employing up to 56 people. Giese said the biggest crew he’s ever had on a single job is 27 people — but that could change.

“If it wasn’t for the LNG, we’d look at a growth curve of 30 per cent year, 40 per cent per year,” he said. “But what I see coming up is 100 per cent growth every year. We did a million last year, we’re looking at $2.5 million this year and (could be) looking at $4-4.5 million in a year’s time.”

Giese said High Caliber is “putting all the pieces in place” to ensure the general contractors and major subcontractors know the company is ready and able to take on subcontracting work.

One of those steps included completing the Browz safety program, he said. Browz offers contractors a searchable database of compliant contractors in each area.

In addition to working directly on LNG projects, Giese said he expects to end up working on projects resulting from the increased economic activity in the north.

“The spinoff is going to be incredible, too,” he said. “There is nothing that has ever happened in B.C. (like this).”

Coming soonIf TransCanada and its partner Progress Energy Canada Ltd. have their way, work on the 900-kilometre Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project from Hudson’s Hope to Lelu Island in Port Edward could begin as soon as next year, according to TransCanada Prince George regional manager Dave Kmet.

TransCanada applied for approval to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) in May.

“(Pending approval) we’d like to start clearing with pioneer camps in 2015. That would start on major clearing by August 2015,” Kmet said.

The proposed 48-inch diameter pipeline would initially transport two billion cubic feet of natural gas per day to the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal proposed on Lelu Island. With additional compression, the capacity could be increased to 3.6 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

TransCanada hopes to begin constructing the pipeline in 2016, with the goal of having it in service by 2018.

Prince Rupert Gas Transmission is just one of four natural gas pipelines TransCanada is working on in northern B.C., Kmet said. The company is also working actively on the Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project and two mainline extensions: the North Montney Mainline and Merrick Mainline.

TransCanada anticipates spending $14.5 billion on the four projects, Kmet said.

“There will be employment opportunities with these projects, and contracting opportunities,” he said. “We are engaged in skills training and education with local institutions. Our focus will be in preparing students for jobs on the pipeline.”

TransCanada is not the only company looking to begin construction within the next couple of years.

Chevron Canada and Apache Canada have EAO approval in hand for their proposed Pacific Trail Pipeline. The partners are expected to announce their final investment decision on the project by the end of the year.

Final investment decisions on the proposed LNG Canada terminal in Kitimat and 650-kilometre Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project linking the terminal to Dawson Creek are expected next year.

In addition, Spectra Energy applied to the EAO for approval of its Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission project — an approximately 854-kilometre-long pipeline from northwest of Fort St. John to the proposed Prince Rupert LNG export facility on Ridley Island — next year.

Earning trustWhether LNG projects get built will depend as much on market conditions, and the level of public support or opposition, as government approval.

Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to a marine terminal in Kitimat received federal government approval this month.

According to a recent Angus Reid poll, 34 per cent of Canadians and 40 per cent of British Columbians believe the project should not have been approved.

Vocal opposition from First Nations and environmental groups means the project is expected to face legal challenges, protests, blockades and potentially a citizen’s initiative petition against it if the provincial government approves the project. Federally, the NDP and Liberal Party have vowed to overturn the federal government’s approval if elected in 2015.

Provincially, the B.C. NDP is opposed to the project, and the B.C. Liberals have said the project has not demonstrated it meets the five conditions required for provincial approval.

LNG projects have not drawn the same level of public criticism as the proposed oil pipeline, but Kmet said TransCanada has been working with First Nations and communities along the proposed route to earn public support.

“We didn’t just look at one 900 kilometre route, we reviewed over 2,000 kilometres of routing,” Kmet said. “Our business exists to deliver gas safely to homes and businesses. (The project) needs social acceptance, it needs community support and it needs to be environmentally responsible.”


• Pacific Trail Pipeline — 487 km from Summit Lake to Kitimat; Environmental Certificate issued 2008; to be linked to Kitimat LNG export terminal; no final investment decision made by owners Apache Corp. and Chevron Canada.

• Pacific Northern Gas Transmission Pipeline Expansion — 525 km from Summit Lake to Kitimat; proposed twinning of PNG’s existing natural gas pipeline; application for Environmental Assessment Certificate expected this fall.

• Prince Rupert Gas Transmission — 900 km from Hudson’s Hope to Port Edward, near Prince Rupert; to be linked to Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal; in pre-application stage for environmental approval.

• Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project — 650 km from Dawson Creek area to Kitimat terminal; owned by TransCanada PipeLines Ltd.; in pre-application stage for environmental approval.

• Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission — 852-854 km long from Cypress area (100 km northwest of For St. John) to be linked to proposed Prince Rupert LNG export facility on Ridley Island; owned by Spectra Energy; submitted application for environmental approval to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office on March 21.

• Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre Gas Pipeline — 52-km loop from an existing line in Vancouver to Squamish, to serve the proposed Woodfibre LNG facility; proposed by FortisBC; in pre-application phase for environmental approval.


• LNG Canada — Kitimat; 24 million tonnes of LNG per year (24 MMTPA); a partnership of Shell Canada, PetroChina Company, Korea Gas Corp. and Mitsubishi Corp. National Energy Board (NEB) approval Feb. 4, 2013. Final investment decision expected in 2015. To be linked to Coastal GasLink Pipeline.

• Kitimat LNG — Kitimat; 10 MMTPA; by Apache Canada and Chevron Canada; NEB approval October 2011.

• Douglas Channel Energy (BC LNG) — Barge terminal on Douglas Channel, near Kitimat; 1.8 MMTPA; partnership of Douglas Channel Partnership Cooperative and Haisla First Nation; no NEB approval required.

• Aurora LNG — Prince Rupert; 24 MMTPA; partnership of Nexen Energy, INPEX Corp. and JGC Corp.; NEB approval May 1, 2014.

• Woodside — Grassy Point, near Prince Rupert; Woodside Energy Ltd. has expressed interest in Crown land for the purpose of an LNG terminal; no other details available.

• Prince Rupert LNG — Prince Rupert; 21 MMTPA; owned by the British Gas Group; NEB approval Dec. 16 2013.

• Pacific NorthWest LNG — Prince Edward, on Port of Prince Rupert land; 18 MMTPA; partnership of Progress Energy, PETRONAS and Japan Petroleum Exploration Company; NEB application July 5, 2013.

• Canada Stewart Energy Project — Stewart; 30 MMTPA; Canada Stewart Energy Group Ltd. plans to built a five MMTPA floating terminal and 25 MMTPA shore facility; NEB application March 5, 2014.

• Kitsault Energy Project — Kitsault; 20 MMTPA; Kitsault Energy Ltd.; NEB application Dec. 18, 2013.

• Woodfibre LNG Project — Squamish; 2.1 MMTPA; owned by Pacific Energy Corporation, to be linked to the proposed Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre Gas Pipeline; NEB approval Dec. 16, 2013.

• Discovery LNG — Campbell River; preliminary proposal by Quicksilver Resources Canada Inc.

• Triton LNG — Floating LNG terminal in undetermined location, possibly Kitimat or Prince Rupert; 2.3 MMTPA; partnership of AltaGas Ltd. and Idemitsu Canada Corp., to be supplied by the proposed Pacific Northern Gas Transmission Pipeline Expansion; NEB approval April 16, 2014.

• WCC LNG Ltd. — Kitimat or Prince Rupert areas; 30 MMTPA; a partnership of Imperial Oil and ExxonMobil Canada; NEB approval Dec. 16, 2013.

Sources: B.C. Ministry of Natural Gas Development, National Energy Board

These stories were produced by The Prince George Citizen’s editorial department in partnership with The Vancouver Sun as a result of interest in this topic by Northern Development Initiative Trust, Initiatives Prince George and the University of Northern B.C., who were not given the opportunity to put restrictions on the content or review it prior to publication.

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