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LNG: separate fact from opinion

Woodfibre LNG responds to previous letter, "LNG too risky for Howe Sound"

The letter entitled, “LNG too risky for Howe Sound,” which appeared in the August 26, 2015 edition of the Bowen Island Undercurrent, serves as a good reminder of the importance of separating fact from opinion.

The fact is that Howe Sound and the Woodfibre LNG site are well suited for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility. The Woodfibre site is seven kilometres from downtown Squamish, has a deepwater port, and is located on a well-established shipping lane to international waters that experienced mariners have been using for 100 years. 

Our proposed project would increase large vessel traffic in Howe Sound by less than one per cent, which is very manageable for recreational boaters.  Plus, Howe Sound is not considered a narrow waterway under national or international guidelines and is not home to “high density populations,” which is defined by the U.S. Coast Guard as areas with 9,000 persons per square mile or more (Guidance Related to Waterfront LNG Facilities, 2009).

We also know that the Woodfibre LNG site is a good fit for LNG by comparing it to the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO), LNG Ports - Risk Reduction Options (“Site Selection and Design for LNG Ports and Jetties,” Information Paper No.14, June 2004). The Woodfibre LNG Project incorporates all of SIGTTO’s risk reduction options – and your readers can see how for themselves by visiting our Q&A web site,

The letter writer is also misrepresenting the Sandia reports. The fact is that Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) conducted a series of large-scale LNG fire tests in highly controlled settings with no mitigation measures in place i.e. without tugboat escorts (at least three tugboats will escort LNG carriers to the Woodfibre terminal), LNG carriers travelling at low speeds (LNG carriers will travel between 8-10 knots in Howe Sound) or the fact that there are currently no vessels large enough in Howe Sound to cause a significant spill of LNG from an LNG carrier. While the Sandia reports provide very important information, the results of the studies are not prescriptive – that is, you can’t take the hazard zones described in the Sandia reports, plot them on a map and suggest that an LNG project wouldn’t be allowed to go ahead if people lived and or worked in any of those zones. Rather, the results of the Sandia reports help inform the quantitative risk assessments that are done by LNG proponents so that they can reduce or eliminate any hazards and risks to the public and infrastructure associated with their specific Projects.

As for Woodfibre LNG, a lot of work has already been done to ensure our project is safe, including a third-party independent review by one of the world’s most respected risk assessment companies. And we’re not done yet. We’ve also committed to implementing the recommendations of another review – this time by Transport Canada (TERMPOL) – to ensure safe operations in Howe Sound.

As for the incidents cited in the letter - there is no question that the Cleveland disaster in 1944 was a horrific tragedy. But what the letter writer is omitting is the fact that a shortage of stainless steel alloys during World War II led to compromises in the design of the LNG peak shaving storage tank that failed. The letter writer also omitted that a 2005 study by the US National Association of State Fire Marshals found, “Had the Cleveland tank been built to current codes, this accident would not have happened.”

Interested in getting more facts about Woodfibre LNG? Contact us at or visit our Q&A website,


John French

Community Relations Manager

Woodfibre LNG Ltd.