City of Vancouver opposes expansion of Tilbury LNG plant on Fraser River

LNG expansion opposed

The City of Vancouver has passed a motion to oppose expansion of a major liquid natural gas plant on the Fraser River that would lead to a release of greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the city’s entire yearly output.

The non-binding motion, put forward by Coun. Christine Boyle, claims the Tilbury LNG proposal in Delta would undermine Vancouver's work in addressing climate change.

“I think we need to take a leadership role here and oppose this (greenhouse-gas) emitting, dangerous project,” Coun. Jean Swanson told council Wednesday.

The $3-billion Tilbury LNG Phase Two Expansion Project would lead to a 10-fold increase in its capacity to produce LNG.

FortisBC, which runs the Delta facility, says it needs to expand LNG capacity to feed an international market, supply gas to the shipping industry — including BC Ferries — and offer a backup to Metro Vancouver residents during cold snaps in the event of a gas line disruption as seen in 2019.

Detractors, meanwhile, say boosting Tilbury’s capacity threatens to throw more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, and poses a number of direct risks to human health, such as the potential for a catastrophic fire in a densely populated urban area.

For Tilbury, much of the natural gas supplying the expanded terminal would come from hydraulic fracking operations in northeastern B.C.

LNG is essentially super-cooled liquified methane. When that methane leaks into the atmosphere — during production, transportation or storage — it produces a warming effect roughly 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

That means that if the Tilbury expansion were to go forward, it would lead to between 1.98 and 2.67 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, claims Boyle’s motion. That’s roughly equivalent to the 2.5 megatonnes of annual emissions produced by the entire City of Vancouver.

The cities of Richmond and Port Moody voted to oppose the Tilbury expansion project in 2020, while Delta has yet to take a position on it.

LNG critic Eoin Finn, meanwhile, warned Vancouver council Wednesday that the expanded gas facility sits directly opposite a Richmond jet-fuel terminal and risks sparking a regional conflagration.

“This is just the wrong place,” Finn told council.

Doug Slater, FortisBC’s vice-president of external and Indigenous relations, told council the motion was “premature and should be either turned down or deferred” because it was full of inaccuracies and failed to outline the project’s benefits.

Those benefits include 6,000 full-time construction jobs and 110 full-time operations jobs to keep the plant running.

“The emissions numbers that were quoted were incorrect,” he told council.

But when pressed by Coun. Boyle, the FortisBC representative said the numbers submitted for environmental approval only counted direct emissions from the facility and did not include the release of methane from upstream fracking.

“There's absolutely no room to expand fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Boyle in her final pitch to council. “Twenty or 30 years ago, a case could have been made for natural gas and LNG as a bridge fuel in the transition before us. But the bridge was to now. We've reached the end of that bridge.”

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