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Woodfibre LNG makes a “step in the right direction” but activist still wants the project to stop in

Eoin Finn, an activist from Bowyer Island, presented information on the Woodfibre LNG project to Bowen Island Municipal Council last Monday and asked for the creation of a resolution to ban the passage of LNG tankers in Howe Sound.

Eoin Finn, an activist from Bowyer Island, presented information on the Woodfibre LNG project to Bowen Island Municipal Council last Monday and asked for the creation of a resolution to ban the passage of LNG tankers in Howe Sound. On Tuesday, Woodfibre LNG announced its decision to power the liquefaction of natural gas using electric power, as opposed to gas turbines. This decision eliminates Finn’s concerns about the project potentially impacting the air quality in Howe Sound and he says he applauds the decision, but it does not change his mind about the presence of the LNG plant on the shores of Howe Sound.
“If the project goes ahead using electricity to power liquefaction, Howe Sound is not so likely to become a smoggy mess and the wonderful tourism and recreation industry that has developed here won’t suffer because of the air quality,” says Finn, adding that the Sea to Sky Gondola that takes people up Shannon Falls employs nearly as many local people as we can hope will be employed by Woodfibre.
Prior to its opening last Friday, the Sea to Sky Gondola was expected to provide seventy jobs.
On the Woodfibre LNG website, it says the project will provide 600 jobs to construct the facility, and 100 full time jobs once the plant is operating.
“Those advertized numbers are based on the idea of a land-based plant, but they are actually proposing a floating facility. If this is the case, it would likely be built in Korea and therefore eliminate the advertized construction jobs,” says Finn. “When I asked the principles of this LNG plant whether they would be hiring local people to operate the plant, they told me that would depend on the availability of people with the right skills. When I suggested that there might not be very many people here who are trained to work on LNG facilities I asked whether they would be willing to use the Temporary Foreign Workers program and they said that would be a possibility.”
Finn, who holds an MBA in international business and recently retired from the accounting firm KPMG, says that the business case for Woodfibre does not hold up –at least in terms of the benefits touted for British Columbia.
“The company doing the liquefaction will be Woodfibre LNG, who will be contracted by a Singapore-base company, Woodfibre LNG Export PTE. In the tax agreement between Canada and Singapore, if the company reporting the profits is based in Singapore, than Singapore will collect the tax revenue,” says Finn. “This does not add up to Christie Clarke’s promise that LNG will build a hundred-billion dollar heritage fund.”
Finn also adds that British Columbians will also end up subsidizing the liquid natural gas industry with higher electricity bills.
“British Columbia is currently debating the construction of the Site C Dam, where the projected market price of electricity being created will be between 8 and 10 cents per kilowatt hour,” says Finn. “The commercial rate of electricity quoted by the BC Utilities Corporation for large industrial customers is 4.4 cents per kilowatt hour. All power generated by Site C would be absorbed by one large scale LNG facility, such as the one proposed in Kitimat. BC Hydro will go broke pretty quickly if they don’t make up for the gap in those pries, and the only way to do that will be to increase electricity rates for residential and light industrial users.”
Despite all of this, the business aspect of the proposed project is not actually Finn’s main concern.
“The track record of the shipping industry is actually pretty good,” says Finn. “But I was not happy to learn about the collision of a container ship and an LNG tanker off the coast of Singapore just before Christmas. Luckily, both of these ships were going the same direction. If they hadn’t been, the crews of both ships would’ve ended up being fried.”
Finn says that liquid natural gas does not, in fact, turn evaporate if it leaks out of its containment tank.
“LNG is liquid methane and if it leaks, it creates a plume, like a fog that travels over the water. The amount of time it takes for that fog to disperse depends on the speed of the wind but according to research done for the United States government, a 10 kilometer per hour wind will carry the plume 3.5 kilometers. If the plume comes in contact with anything that creates a spark – an outboard motor, a barbeque or a cigarette – it will ignite. The kill-zone for that, is anywhere within 1.6 kilometers from the source. If you’re within 500 metres of the source, you’re toast.”
Finn says he started researching the project primarily because he wondered what its impact would be to Bowyer Island, where he lives.
“If there is an accident and the wind is blowing in my direction, me and most of the inhabitants of Lion’s Bay will end up getting fried.”
Finn told council that the provincial government is not listening to objections to this project, so he is hoping that statements of objection by municipal governments will deny the province social license to move the project forward.