A Canadian pipeline dream? Canada LNG from this country really help Europe in the midst of Russia’s war against Ukraine?

Canada’s offer to send natural gas to Europe to reduce reliance on Russian fuel is technically unfeasible and incompatible with commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions, energy experts say.

Although Canada currently has no liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said last month that direct shipments could begin in as little as three years.

In Germany for the G7 meeting this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added that these LNG exports could be achieved without affecting Canada’s climate promises.

Getting such a massive project off the ground so quickly without squandering progress on emissions reductions will be a difficult balancing act, says Jan Gorski, director of the oil and gas program at the Pembina Institute, a clean energy think tank based in Washington. Calgary.

“The crisis in Russia has created this short-term demand for oil and gas. But the other side of that is that European countries are trying to figure out how to speed up their transition to cleaner fuels,” he said. “So there is this tension between demand in the short term and what will happen in the medium term.”

Russia currently supplies Europe with 40 percent of its natural gas and 27 percent of its imported oil, receiving an estimated $1 billion a day in return. Concerns that the money would go to finance Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted the European Union to commit to cutting Russian gas imports by two-thirds by the end of the year.

While there has also been a push to accelerate the construction of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydrogen, the EU will still need to import natural gas from places other than Russia.

According to EU data, the burning of natural gas accounts for almost 300 million tons of carbon emissions in 2020, about eight percent of total emissions.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters this week that any new supply of natural gas would be for emergency aid and would not derail climate plans.

“Gas will be needed temporarily and for this reason there may be investments that make sense, in this transition phase,” he said.

Canada is not well positioned to embark on such a large project in such a short time, says Moshe Lander, an economist at Concordia University.

“Getting a pipeline that can send it to the Atlantic coast, convert it to LNG, find enough ships, which is certainly not under the control of the Canadian government, send it to LNG stations in Europe, convert it, send it through European pipelines. By the time you’re done, it won’t be cheap,” he said.

“At what point do European consumers say, ‘I think we can get this from North Africa at a lower cost than we can get from Canada’?”

While details of exactly how Canada would supply LNG to Europe are scant, Wilkinson said the government was in talks with Repsol, the owner of an LNG import facility in Saint John, NB, about converting the terminal for export. .

Repsol did not respond to a request for comment on the project.

J. David Hughes, a former federal government geologist and energy and sustainability consultant, said exporting LNG doesn’t make sense if it’s just for immediate relief from Russian supply pressures.

“Europe is in big trouble. Of that there is no doubt,” she said. “But you don’t do projects like this in the short term. They are 40-year projects and require a lot of money.”

What’s more, he said, converting the Saint John terminal to export would deprive the Maritimes of the natural gas they need.

“The Maritimes relies almost entirely on natural gas imported from the US, as well as liquefied natural gas delivered to the LNG import terminal in Saint John,” Hughes said. “If Saint John’s LNG were to be shut down and converted for export, the only source of gas would be to increase US imports to meet the needs of the Maritimes.”

If somehow Canada could find enough gas to supply the Maritimes, the question would be where would the gas come from to export to the EU?

There is no pipeline from western Canada to Saint John, which means any gas extracted from the prairies would have to be exported to the US and re-imported into Canada, he said.

Current projections show very little growth in natural gas production in Canada, where most of the gas is already used domestically.

“The national requirements continue to increase,” he said. “At some point you find yourself not having enough gas to meet your household needs.”

Meanwhile, a new poll by the Sierra Club shows a majority of Canadians want the weather to be a consideration when approving new LNG export facilities, something Wilkinson’s office said is already a priority.

“Canada will continue to assess what else it can do to help our European partners in their energy crisis, caused by Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. But we will do it in a way that takes into account and works to minimize domestic emissions, and we will do it in a way that ensures the resulting emissions are in line with Canada’s climate plan,” spokesman Anthony Ertl said.

The project would only move forward if it could show that exports “will be used to displace higher-emitting energy sources like coal and constant natural gas, or Russian oil and gas,” Ertl added.

Chris Bataille, an energy economist and researcher at Columbia’s Center for Global Energy Policy, believes that natural gas from Canada should only be used for heating and industry in Europe until it can be converted to renewable energy.

“Europe has a real energy security problem,” Bataille told the Star. “One of the key ways the world can alleviate that problem is to offer them gas as backup. But it can’t be the primary energy source.”

Bataille explained that it is feasible for Canada to expand its LNG export while staying in line with its climate goals, as long as any new infrastructure is highly regulated. This includes ensuring that any gas extracted and moved to the terminal has less than 0.5 percent fugitive methane emissions, and requiring electrification of new pipelines and liquefaction processes.

Trudeau suggested this week that the life of the LNG terminal could be extended by converting it to hydrogen when natural gas demand subsidizes, something Bataille said could work.

“It is really not feasible to think about converting an LNG plant into a hydrogen plant. But what you can do is think of LNG as a carrier of hydrogen. The liquefied gas is transferred through the ocean, where the hydrogen is stripped from it, and then the carbon is carefully put underground.”

“What you are building is the reliability of the system, which is worth a lot in the long run, since gas turbines that were running on methane or natural gas can be converted (into hydrogen).”


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