If you build it, this will come...
New pipeline construction would create multiple impacts to the landscape, fragmenting habitat, affecting water quality, and creating a huge disturbance to the lives of people. Tree-clearing along any proposed pipeline route would be the largest forestry operation in BC at any given time, but most of the trees would be slashed and burned. Jobs? There will be a few short-term, pre-construction employment opportunities for locals. Local equipment operators would not be hired. Specialized tickets (welding, engineering, etc.) required by workers in the pipeline industry in western Canada are typically those issued in Alberta.
Six to eight compressor stations would be required on a pipeline of approximately 850 km length, such as those proposed by Spectra Energy and TransCanada Pipelines. A natural gas pipeline compressor station generally occupies about 15 hectares. If not on the BC Hydro grid, it would be powered by combustion of natural gas onsite, and would require permanent road access and industrial lighting.
None of the natural gas that would flow through any of the proposed pipelines would be "Energy for BC" – it would all be destined for export to Asia. The gas would be refrigerated to -163°C, enabling a 600-fold efficiency in loading of the product - liquefied natural gas (LNG) - into marine tankers. The refrigeration process would require an enormous amount of electricity. One LNG plant built on the north coast would consume electricity equivalent to about one-third of that presently used in homes in BC. Three such plants presently have approval.
Generating that electricity to refrigerate the natural gas would be accomplished by burning natural gas from the pipeline – 10 percent of the volume of gas in the pipeline would be required for the conversion. (Up to 9 percent of the gas in the ground would be lost at the well head during extraction; another three percent would be lost along the pipeline. So, up to 22 percent of the natural gas extracted would be lost to the atmosphere before a single frozen pound of LNG would be put in a tanker for export.) One self-powered LNG plant would produce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions equal to about half that of the residences in BC. Three LNG plants would produce air pollution equivalent to three cities the size of Vancouver. The local airsheds of Port Edward, Prince Rupert, and Kitimat would become toxic. Acid rain would fall over much of northern BC, devastating forests that are already stressed by a warming climate, and further polluting rivers and lakes.
Take a deep breath. Click here to read about Kitimat's present and future air quality.
With an export route established, pipeline companies would build local feeder pipelines to tie-in to the principal pipeline. The Kispiox Valley lies within the Bowser Basin, a geologic feature estimated to contain 189 billion cubic metres of natural gas. Fracking would come to the Kispiox Valley. Freshwater would be depleted and poisoned; salmon would be endangered; air quality would decline further.
The kicker? If the global market for LNG tanks, any natural gas pipeline in BC could be converted to transport oil. This would be a regulatory change only, probably not subject to a comprehensive environmental review. It would be like having the Enbridge Northern Gateway ushered in through the back door. Only worse - the crude oil segment of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline would be 36 inches in diameter; many of the proposed natural gas pipelines would be 48 inches in diameter (that's 1.78 times greater a potential volume). Sound far-fetched? Read here and here. This kind of conversion is about to happen elsewhere in Canada with the blessing of governments, and is being proposed by TransCanada Pipelines, one of the proponents seeking natural gas routes across northwestern BC.
Reality Check: The pipeline industry is not about caring for the land or keeping word or faith; it's solely about capitalizing on markets. What a pipeline company tells us today won't necessarily count for anything tomorrow. As they tell us at their open houses: "We are just the taxi for the product." It's foreign owned companies that hail the taxis.