Facts

Natural gas is the largest energy source used in Canadian homes. It is also used in manufacturing plants, to generate electricity, and as fuel in heavy-duty trucks.

B.C. has an enormous supply of natural gas – an estimated 2,933 trillion cubic feet. This could support domestic and export markets for the next 150 years. A significant amount of this natural gas is accessible through sophisticated drilling technology including hydraulic fracturing.

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Natural gas

There is a large supply of natural gas in northeastern B.C. – an estimated 2,933 trillion cubic feet – primarily in four key areas: the Horn River Basin, the Montney Basin, the Liard Basin and the Cordova Embayment. This could support domestic and export markets for the next 150 years. A significant amount of this natural gas is accessible through sophisticated drilling technology including hydraulic fracturing.

Pipelines

There are more than 40,000 kilometres of pipelines in British Columbia. Additional pipelines will be needed to transport natural gas to liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants. A few of the pipeline proposals under consideration include:

  • Pacific Trail Pipeline: approximately 480 kilometres from north of Prince George to Kitimat.
  • Coastal GasLink Pipeline: 650 kilometres from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat.
  • Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project: 900 kilometres from the Hudson’s Hope area to Port Edward.
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There is a belief that extracting natural gas by hydraulic fracturing poses a risk to B.C.’s water supply and is an environmental hazard. In fact:

  • The technology has proven to be safe and efficient. Hydraulic fracturing has existed in British Columbia since the 1960s, with no incidence of groundwater contamination.
  • Natural gas activities, including hydraulic fracturing, are subject to stringent regulations, as well as compliance and enforcement actions by the BC Oil and Gas Commission.
  • Natural gas is contained deep below the surface, 2-3 kilometres underground. This is where fracturing takes place, far below the groundwater supply. The water table is normally less than 300 metres below the surface. In British Columbia, there are two to three kilometres of rock and impermeable earth between natural gas and water.
  • Natural gas wells are double-lined with steel and concrete to protect the water supply. The lining extends far below the deepest part of the drinking water supply.

You may hear that hydraulic fracturing uses too much water. In fact:

  • It takes an average of 17 million litres of water to extract natural gas from a well. Metro Vancouver consumes one billion litres of water per day.
  • The natural gas industry uses less than half of 1% of the annual runoff (the rain, snow or ice water that drains into lakes and rivers over the year) in northeastern B.C. for hydraulic fracturing.
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Hydraulic fracturing fluid is approximately 99% water and sand, and 1% additives. In 2013, a total of 5.3 million cubic metres of water was used for hydraulic fracturing in British Columbia. This is a small amount of water when compared to other water uses such as agriculture, manufacturing and municipal water supply. For perspective, consider:

  • The natural gas industry uses less than half of 1% of the annual water runoff (the amount of water that flows into rivers and lakes yearly) in northeastern B.C. for hydraulic fracturing.
  • The hydraulic fracturing process lasts only a few weeks. It opens a well that will likely produce gas for 20 to 30 years.
  • Water used for hydraulic fracturing can be recaptured and reused in another natural gas well. This eliminates the need to use new, fresh water.

By 2019, drilling operations could peak in the province with 2,100 wells using 43 million cubic metres of water. Despite this increase, the amount of water required would still be less than 0.04% of today’s annual water runoff in northeastern B.C.

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There has never been a case of drinking water in British Columbia being contaminated by hydraulic fracturing.

Drinking water in northeastern B.C. is normally found less than 300 metres below the surface. Natural gas in the province is typically much deeper, at two to three kilometres underground, leaving a barrier of rock between the water and the natural gas.

Strict regulations in British Columbia protect drinking water from drilling activities.

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Pipeline infrastructure is well established in British Columbia. The first pipelines were built in the 1950s. Today in B.C., more than 40,000 kilometres of pipelines transport natural gas, oil, water and other fluids. Natural gas pipelines connect wells in the Northeast to markets across British Columbia. Additional pipelines will be needed to transport natural gas to liquefied natural gas plants. A few of the pipeline proposals under consideration include:

  • Pacific Trail Pipeline: approximately 480 kilometres from north of Prince George to Kitimat.
  • Coastal GasLink Pipeline: 650 kilometres from the Dawson Creek area to Kitimat.
  • Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Project: 900 kilometres from the Hudson’s Hope area to Port Edward.
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Natural gas is the cleanest, most efficient fossil fuel available, and it’s in high demand around the world. When chilled to -160°C, natural gas becomes a liquid, shrinking to 1/600th of its original volume. This makes it efficient and economical to send to overseas markets.

Shipping advantages

As of October 2014, there are 18 industry projects proposing to produce and export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from plants along B.C.’s coast. A key part of the B.C. government’s LNG strategy is to promote the advantages ports in Kitimat and Prince Rupert offer.

Prince Rupert is the shortest trade route between North America and export markets in Asia. It is sheltered and ice free year round, has one of the deepest natural harbours in the world, and has modern, state-of-the-art facilities. It has unobstructed entry to shipping lanes in the Pacific Ocean, and there are no significant hazards such as narrow channels to navigate.

Transportation of LNG within British Columbia waters will be tightly regulated. Tugboats will help LNG vessels safely navigate through inland waters.

LNG carriers are built to rigorous international standards. Construction is supervised by third-party inspectors, and all ships must have international certification to carry liquefied natural gas.

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Greenhouse gas

Natural gas is a fossil fuel. Like all fossil fuels, it generates carbon dioxide – also known as CO2, a type of greenhouse gas. Natural gas is the cleanest-burning of all fossil fuels and is a cleaner alternative to other energy sources like coal. Changing from coal to natural gas would cut China’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40%. Over a year, two trillion cubic feet of B.C.’s natural gas could replace:

  • more than 70 nuclear facilities, or
  • approximately 100 coal plants.

Alternative power sources and transitional fuel

Natural gas is widely accepted as a “transitional” fuel. It can help reduce carbon emissions now, while powering the shift to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and bioenergy. British Columbia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities will be the cleanest in the world. New measures will be in place before LNG export plants are built, and investments will continue to focus on using innovation and clean energy sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the natural gas industry.

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The federal and provincial governments have strong legislation and regulations to protect the environment in the production and transportation of natural gas. The provincial government’s regulator is the BC Oil and Gas Commission.

The Comission is responsible for overseeing all natural gas operations in British Columbia. This includes exploration and development, pipeline transportation, and well reclamation (returning an exploration site to its original state). The Commission can (and regularly does) toughen industry rules and guidelines to ensure natural gas activities are safe.

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Research shows that if five LNG plants were built in the province, British Columbians would receive the following benefits over a 30-year period:

  • a total investment of $175 billion.
  • $1 trillion to the province’s gross domestic product.
  • over $100 billion in provincial tax revenues.

This revenue could be used to help eliminate the provincial debt over time, reduce cost burdens for families and local communities, and support government services such as health care and education.

It would also create:

  • 58,700 direct and indirect construction jobs.
  • 23,800 permanent direct and indirect jobs for operations.
  • thousands more of induced jobs as a result of households having more income.

To date, over $7 billion in investments have been made by industry to acquire natural gas assets needed to support the LNG industry. It is estimated that another $2 billion have been spent preparing for the construction of LNG infrastructure.

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What is natural gas?

Natural gas is the largest energy source used in Canadian homes. It is also used in manufacturing plants to generate electricity, and as fuel in heavy-duty trucks.

Natural gas was formed millions of years ago as plants and animals died, decayed, and were covered by layer after layer of rock and soil. Over time, heat and pressure in the earth’s crust turned these plants and animals into hydrocarbons and the fossil fuels we rely on today: coal, oil and natural gas. Coal is the solid form of hydrocarbons and oil is a liquid.

Natural gas is made up of the lightest molecules. It is colourless, odourless and the cleanest burning fossil fuel, producing half the greenhouse gas emissions of coal, and two-thirds of oil.

B.C. has an enormous supply of natural gas – an estimated 2,933 trillion cubic feet – primarily in four key areas in northeastern B.C.: the Horn River Basin, the Montney Basin, the Liard Basin and the Cordova Embayment. This is enough natural gas to support import and export markets for the next 150 years. A significant amount of this natural gas is accessible through sophisticated drilling technology, including hydraulic fracturing.

Download PDF to read more...