During an eight-minute interview with Fox News' Mad Money host Jim Kramer last week, Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel made a revelation that was at once startling and hardly surprising - one with profound ramifications for several of the key environmental challenges facing British Columbia.
Here's what he said (approx. 6 min mark in the video):
We think we're in a very strong position with regard to exporting Canadian natural gas in particular. We're currently putting forward our credentials to the proponents - EOG, Apache, Shell and others - that are working on moving Western Canadian natural gas out to the West Coast; and we would hope to be able to see some synergies with the right-of-way that we're working on with our Gateway pipeline out to the West Coast. So, yes, we're very interested in doing that and we would hope to be the the pipeline provider for one or both of those alternatives. (emphasis added)
For the past several months, as I've been delving into the business of hydraulic fracturing in Northeast BC, a number things have become clear to me:
1. The proposed Pacific Trail Pipelines line from Summit Lake (just north of Prince George) to Kitimat, referred to as the KSL line, will connect natural gas from Northeast BC to a soon-to-be built Liquid Natural Gas processing facility in Kitimat. Both the pipeline and the plant are partnerships of some of the key players in BC's natural gas business - notably Apache, EOG and Encana.
2. The Kitimat plant (KLNG) will convert this resource into liquid form, which large tankers will then carry across the Pacific to the ravenous Asian market.
3. Because the Asian market is now paying approximately $10-$12 per 1000 cubic feet (the standard metric for gas sales), while we're paying in the region of $3.50-$4.00 in North America, you can see why these producers want to access this new market.
4. Transforming natural gas from a continental commodity into a global one will likely intensify pressure to extract increasing amounts of natural gas through unconventional methods like fracking and the equally precarious coal bed methane in BC.
A few more revelations have clicked into place recently, cemented by the above comments from Mr. Daniel. For one, the Kitimat-Summit Lake pipeline bears a very similar proposed right-of-way from Central BC to Kitimat as Enbridge's Northern Gateway Tar Sands bitumen pipeline plan. And while that project has faced intense opposition from First Nations, conservation groups and citizens across the province, its natural gas counterpart has slid through much of the regulatory review process to the point it's pretty well a fait accompli. The only remaining hurdle for the gas pipeline and LNG plant to clear is the upcoming National Energy Board hearing on June 7 in Kitimat on the 20-year export license required to sell this gas abroad.
This has got me to thinking of late that the KSL line could very well be used to blaze the trail for the Gateway pipeline. But now we have it straight from the horse's mouth, Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel - this is, indeed, precisely where things appear headed: "...we would hope to be the the pipeline provider for one or both of those alternatives" - that's both gas and bitumen. (What the safety logistics of running a potentially explosive gas pipeline in close proximity to a crude line are is an important question to consider).
There may not be much that can be done at this stage with regards to this movement of natural gas from BC to China. PetroChina recently invested $5.4 Billion in Encana, the biggest player in BC's gas patch (whose former CEO is a key advisor to BC Premier Christy Clark). But to those who oppose the Enbridge crude pipeline, let this be a warning of things to come. It will be critical to stay on top of Enbridge's movements and ensure that one pipeline doesn't beget the other.
For detailed information on the nuances of this unconventional natural gas development in BC and North America, check out the following reports:
- Follow the GA$: Kitimat LNG Export Terminal and Pacific Trails Pipeline Chronology (click the New Report link in the right-hand column)
- David Hughes' new report for the Post Carbon Institute: Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?