The LNG presentation to Council on March 9 was a greenwash, put forward by two proponents who claim to be objective but, in fact, are paid to say what they said. Gordon Wilson is paid a lot of money by the Province to travel to communities like ours and try to convince us that we should support the Woodfibre LNG project and others in BC. Captain Stephen Brown is the president of the BC Chamber of Shipping which exists to promote the interest of the shipping industry and would benefit from the provision of services to LNG carriers.
Stephen Brown spoke of the safety record of the LNG shipping industry. It is true that the shipping of LNG has never resulted in a large-scale disaster. The main reason for this is the extreme precautions taken in the liquefaction and shipping of LNG. The LNG industry has an international body called SIGTTO that sets standards for shipping operations and the sighting of LNG terminals. For example, the standards preclude sighting LNG terminals in channels where the trajectory of passing ships passes through the terminal facility.
That is a sensible precaution, because if a passing ship was to lose power or steering at a critical time, it could run into the side of an LNG tanker, and a collision with another ship, or a grounding, are the two scenarios LNG ship operators fear the most. These could lead to rupturing of the tanks and escape of the LNG. Such a scenario would most likely result in unimaginable explosions. We have to use our imagination, because no-one really knows what will happen in an LNG tanker disaster.
Unfortunately, the Woodfibre site is in line with the trajectory of passing ships en route to Squamish. One might think that this doesn’t really matter as Squamish is a small port and gets mainly fishing vessels and pleasure craft. But SIGTTO says that such vessels interfere with needed exclusion zones around LNG tankers, and are “highly problematical and, even with strenuous enforcement effort [keeping them out] may ultimately fail.”
Squamish does get large vessels. This week, there are six vessels larger than the BC Ferries’ largest ship visiting Squamish. A collision with a fishing vessel, let alone one of these ships, could very conceivably rupture one or more of the LNG tanks. The escaping liquid would almost certainly cause an explosion once the liquid had gasified and mixed with the air – set off by something as small as “static by any electrostatic discharge detectable by human contact”.
You can see what an explosion of an LNG truck carrying approximately 45m³ looks like (LNG truck explosion China). Woodfibre would be storing up to 250,000m³ of LNG at the wharf and one tanker would carry about 160,000m³. Gordon Wilson says that LNG does not burn. In fact, contact with LNG (which is necessarily colder than -160°C) results in freezing burns beyond anything you can imagine. Direct contact with LNG results in instant cryogenic freezing. It is also instructive to look at what happens to a tank of liquefied gas when surrounded by fire. It eventually explodes, again, google “BLEVE” or Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion.
You may also say that the odds of a collision are reduced by the fact that a tanker would only visit a few times per week. This may be increased six-fold and besides, there will be two LNG tankers permanently moored at the site to store the fuel.
SIGTTO takes terminal and tanker safety extremely seriously. You can read their report called LNG Operations in Port Areas, which sets out standards to be followed in loading and shipping of LNG. Unfortunately, BC will not be adopting the international standards set by SIGTTO. That is because if we did, we couldn’t have a facility in Howe Sound and many other sites in the province.
There are many, many reasons to oppose the Woodfibre terminal. Telling us that we are fearmongering (Gordon Wilson) or short-sighted (Jordan Sturdy MLA), is not going to solve the problem. The fact is that Howe Sound is the wrong place to put such a facility, and the BC govenrmnet needs to get that message. The one case where I do agree with Gordon Wilson is when he says that, when is comes to LNG, “a large proportion of the BC population really don’t know what is going on”.