Despite a lack of solid information a low-key debate continues over whether a proposed Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant proposed for the shores of Howe Sound is good for the area, or not.
People who live and recreate around the area have many questions. Most haven't been answered, however, because the company proposing to build the plant doesn't own the land yet, and therefore hasn't finalized its plan for the former pulp mill site.
Despite that, Pacific Energy Corp. has announced it plans to build a small-scale LNG plant on the east side of Howe Sound in full view of Highway 99 travellers.
Ratnesh Bedi, the president of the company based in Singapore, told Pique in March that his company will meet or exceed all environmental requirements and maintain the improvements to Howe Sound.
The improvements the Pacific Energy president referred to include the reduction of acid rock drainage entering the fjord from the former mine operations at Britannia Beach and the reduced amount of pollution entering the water since the Woodfibre pulp mill stopped operations while Howe Sound Pulp and Paper at Pender Harbour has reduced the amount of pollution it produces.
Environmentalists are concerned about pollution and safety risks while industry supporters want the high paying jobs and economic development major industry installations like this brings.
Zoher Meratla, an LNG expert who lives in Whistler and consults for the LNG industry has assessed the project based on the small amount of information shared so far. Meratla has 35 years of experience in the LNG industry and has worked on projects around the world, including the proposed Kitimat LNG plant. He has operated his LNG consulting business for the last 15 years from his home in Whistler offering design and engineering services along with safety auditing.
He said the Woodfibre proposal calls for a facility that will accept natural gas, purify the gas then cool it down until it becomes a liquid so it can be stored until a tanker ship arrives to move it.
Meralta has been to the site and checked it out. The principal with CDS Research Ltd. said he hasn't done any work on the Woodfibre proposal, but his company could potentially contribute to the project in the future.
"It definitely can happen there," he said from Vancouver Island in a telephone interview. "The site is a very good site because it's completely isolated from everything."
Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, doesn't believe there is much of a chance the plant will ever be completed.
"B.C. is way behind the game in terms of the global footrace to get gas to the Asian market," said Parfitt. "Australia is well ahead of B.C. in terms of LNG production and that country is already starting to scale back numerous proposals because it looks like the market is going to become over supplied."
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