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Posted: December 17, 2016

Do they really get it?

Letter to the Editor

The BC Liberals have recently launched a new campaign of animated ads promoting LNG exports and Climate Leadership. The LNG ad promotes the fact that LNG will help the “world” save 322 million tonnes of greenhouse gas every year. Another ad promotes “clean and affordable electricity” coming from the $9 billion Site C project. No mention in this ad about using the same “clean” natural gas (aka LNG) for our own purposes right here at home?

While the Liberals are boldly promoting the benefits of exporting B.C. gas, they had also quietly shut down and decommissioned a natural gas powered facility called the Burrard Thermal generating plant in Port Moody. You may be surprised or even shocked as to why this had happened. The Burrard Thermal facility has been unashamedly and consistently handling BC Hydro’s demand load requirements for decades. It was BC Hydro’s emergency standby plant. But, according to the BC government, Burrard was no longer up to snuff AND it used natural gas for fuel, therefore, it must go.

A bit of background: Burrard Thermal is a natural gas powered facility, and had been in operation since 1961. The first generating units were installed by BC Electric, the predecessor of BC Hydro. It has the potential to produce up to 900 megawatts of power, very similar to a Site C in output.

The plant has six generators which were on constant standby mode. Four of the units could also be used to regulate voltage when needed. It had always been used for peak periods of electricity demand. Prior to being shut down, the plant was upgraded over a period of 10 years to improve reliability and reduce emissions. The nitrogen oxide (NOx) reduction equipment reduced these emissions by 90%, unheard of for a standby plant in North America. That is how efficient the plant really was.

Martin Cavin, a former Burrard Thermal plant operations manager and power engineer has been an outspoken critic of both the BC Liberals and BC Hydro in their quest to shut down the facility.

Mr. Cavin makes a compelling argument for keeping Burrard. He points out that Burrard Thermal had been shut down earlier this year while the proposed Petronas export terminal in Prince Rupert will be permitted to use “simple-cycle gas turbines, which have the same efficiency as Burrard Thermal!

The Petronas facility will be exempt from the Clean Energy Act, compliments of Premier Clark’s Order in Council (2011). What Mr. Cavin points out is the double standard that exists between natural gas when used for the benefit of BC Hydro customers or for the benefit of large producers such as Petronas.

He gives the example of Burrard Thermal producing approximately 400 kilotonnes of CO2, in comparison to the Petronas facility, which will emit 5,280 kilotonnes of CO2 per year. So, the Petronas facility will emit over 13X MORE greenhouse gases than the BC Hydro Burrard Thermal plant without any penalty whatsoever under the Clean Energy Act. Funny, how the BC Liberals can promote the proposed Petronas LNG facility as “world class and clean” in their ads, yet somehow the Burrard Thermal was inefficient and dirty?

Back to the LNG issue: LNG or “liquefied natural gas” is a product that has been the subject of the Liberal’s “Climate Leadership” campaign. The product is no different than natural gas, except in a “liquefied” form. Same stuff. It also takes a great deal of energy to liquefy it in order to ship it overseas. It does not matter how this energy is produced, whether through natural gas, wind, solar or hydro. It is a requirement to refrigerate the gas to -160 degrees Celsius in order to liquefy. So, LNG is exactly the same stuff we use to heat our homes or cook our food, just in a different state of matter. Basic science.

On Wednesday, Sept 30 of 2014, the Energy Minister made the following shocking comments in light of both the Site C project and the closure of the Burrard Thermal. Here are his words from the floor of the Legislature: “I also heard here, this afternoon, my critic argue that we should keep Burrard Thermal. That is an unbelievable position for the NDP to take. It is a dirty plant that produces dirty electricity, when it produces anything.” (Hansard)

There you have it: Our Energy Minister Bill Bennett calling our northeast resource, natural gas “dirty” and the Burrard Thermal facility in Port Moody a “dirty plant”.

Yet, Premier Clark and Minister Bennett are promoting the “clean and green” benefits of burning LNG (elsewhere) through taxpayer funded Climate Leadership and LNG ads. A person has to wonder if either of them understand that LNG and natural gas are one and the same? Do they really get it?

So, when exactly is it proper for us in B.C. to use our natural gas? According to our Premier and Energy Minister: Never. But, if you happen to be in the business of producing LNG for export purposes, go right ahead and knock yourself out.

Rick Koechl and Mike Kroecher,

Charlie Lake

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