UBC Undergraduate Research

The environmental impacts of British Columbia's transportation conversion to natural gas Collins, Madeline


I argue that only until there is more scientific evidence to support the claims of the British Columbia Natural Gas Strategy and the policy recommendations I propose are put into place should the government move forward with their plans of liquefied natural gas (LNG) development. Natural gas is widely considered to be a crucial “bridging fuel” in the transition to low carbon energy systems to mitigate climate change. Given that British Columbia is located on top of a surplus of natural gas reserves, the B.C. Liberal government sees the development of LNG for transportation as an incredible revenue opportunity that could potentially eliminate government debt, amass funds for government services, and increase the province’s sustainability. In this report I will show through analysis of life cycle assessments (LCA) comparing the greenhouse gas emissions of diesel to natural gas (NG) that there remains a great amount of uncertainty as to the levels of fugitive emissions released along the supply chain of LNG and produced through shale gas extraction. This lack of academic consensus inhibits a scientifically based estimate as to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions associated with LNG fuel use. The economic costs incurred by the public as a result of LNG production, as well as the environmental risks associated with shale gas extraction outweigh the projected revenues outlined in the British Columbia Natural Gas Strategy. Therefore, while natural gas is greener than conventional fuels (i.e. diesel), the framing of LNG in the B.C. Natural Gas Strategy misrepresents policy on gas production and ignores concern for the associated environmental costs of LNG production. If the B.C. government were to proceed with LNG development, I recommend to the Green Party of British Columbia that they: 1. Strengthen climate policies to lessen carbon pollution a. The application of B.C.’s carbon tax to all lifecycle emissions from gas development and the LNG sector will greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. b. British Columbia’s current Carbon Tax, established in 2008, only applies to around 78% of the carbon pollution that is produced along the entire production process. c. The formation of carbon dioxide that is vented during shale gas extraction, methane that is vented and leaks along the LNG supply chain are currently exempt. 2. Implement policy incentives to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions a. Implement more programs such as British Columbia’s Environmental Incentive Program that rewards LNG facilities for having a carbon intensity between 0.16 and 0.23 tonnes of CO₂ per ton of LNG. b. Offer express lane access for transportation. For example, priority access for ships coming into ports and trucks passing through refueling stations. 3. Adopt more efficient and sustainable practices at LNG plants a. The use of electric drive power compressors for liquefaction instead of direct drive plants, powered by gas, can have positive impacts on the environment. b. An electric drive can reduce carbon pollution from around 0.30 tonnes of CO₂ per tonne of LNG to 0.25 tonnes of CO₂ per tonne of LNG. c. Mandating the use of electric drives, while initially more expensive than direct drives, are more reliable, more efficient, and safer and would reduce GHG emissions in the long run. 4. Increasing the monitoring and regulation enforcement upstream at shale operations a. Implement a province-wide monitoring system that includes the use of helicopters, leak patrols, gas detectors and in line surveys that detect pipeline corrosion and leaks. b. Reducing flaring at wellheads and capturing carbon dioxide instead of venting it along the LNG supply chain will reduce the release of methane. 5. Conduct more research of LNG life cycle emissions a. I recommend conducting more research to fill in the gaps in quantifying the lifecycle emissions of LNG as well as the upstream emissions and fugitive emissions from shale gas production.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada