In September 2013, we released The Cleanest LNG in the World? How to Slash Carbon Pollution From Wellhead to Waterline in British Columbia’s Proposed Liquefied Natural Gas Industry. The report aimed to would inform ongoing public and policy discussions such that any new LNG industry and associated infrastructure will present the smallest possible impact—not only to the climate, British Columbia’s water and world-class ecosystems, and the people who live in them but also to the province’s hard-fought international reputation for climate leadership.
British Columbia is at a crossroads. After gaining an early advantage on climate change leadership with a suite of policies including a revenue-neutral carbon tax and an aggressive greenhouse gas reduction target, the province has earned a reputation as a low carbon leader. Maintaining this leadership, while also delivering on a recent policy focus of extracting and exporting natural gas resources, will require significant commitments and actions by both government and the natural gas sector.
Over the past year and a half, the Government of British Columbia has signalled that it intends to keep its low carbon leadership position—and the reputational benefits it provides—by repeatedly stating that its proposed new liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry will produce “the cleanest LNG in the world.”
“Clean” is a subjective term that should properly capture a wide range of potential aquatic, marine, air, and biodiversity impacts across the fuel production cycle—such as the ecosystem risks associated with increased groundwater withdrawals and fracking activity to extract shale gas to the smog from the plants that compress the gas into LNG.
While these are important areas for further study, this paper limits its scope to carbon pollution, and specifically government assertions that British Columbia’s industry “will have lower life cycle greenhouse gas emissions than anywhere else.” Until this report, no independent definition has yet attempted to explain what “cleanest LNG in the world” actually means, and what it will take to deliver on it.
This report concludes that without policy leadership, LNG produced in British Columbia would emit more than three times the carbon pollution of that produced in current world-leading operations. The finding is based not only on the emissions of the proposed LNG plants, but on the carbon footprint of the commodity they would produce—from wellhead to waterline.
We conclude that this leadership gap can be closed if the government creates the policy environment that both directs and incentivizes the energy industry to employ a mix of strategies and technologies proven to drive carbon pollution down all the way across the lifecycle of LNG production.
By working with industry to specify a variety of these solutions and pushing the envelope of innovation, British Columbia can make good on its promises and deliver the cleanest LNG in the world. Doing so will reduce impacts on communities, other sectors, and ecosystems, provide a competitive advantage in a global energy marketplace increasingly focused on lower carbon energy, and help reduce the recent erosion of the province’s hard-earned reputation as a climate leader.