Hey Canada, Look to the U.S. On How to Speed Up LNG Development!

Hey Canada, Look to the U.S. On How to Speed Up LNG Development cover

Canada has a lot to learn from its “big brother” when it comes to developing domestic energy resources. For decades, our closest ally and trade partner – the U.S. – depended on the world for energy. Today, it has become the world’s top producer of both crude oil and natural gas.

Shipping its first batch of LNG to global buyers in 2016, this year our American friends have now also become the world’s top LNG exporter, outpacing both Qatar and Australia for the number one spot.

In light of the War in Ukraine and Europe’s newfound interest in weaning itself off of Russian energy, America’s well-developed LNG infrastructure is allowing the country to ramp up production and exports without building any new facilities.

US LNG Exports to Europe 2016-2021

Stockholm Environment Institute

Currently, the U.S. has seven operational facilities with another three under construction. In addition, another dozen LNG export terminals have been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) but sit idle.

Canada hasn’t been so lucky.

With just one of 18 proposed LNG projects making it past the starting line, the massive economic opportunity of being a top global LNG exporter should be sorely missed by Canadians.

Over the past few decades, Canada’s LNG industry has been bogged down by lengthy regulatory delays and costly logistical requirements that often scare operators away long before the construction phase.

Perhaps Canada could have also stepped in as a new stable and reliable source of natural gas for Europe this year if we hadn’t twiddled our thumbs for so long. Perhaps we, like the U.S., could have had enough LNG supply shipping to “flexible” destinations to help our European friends so desperately in need.

IEEFA US Third Party Contracts Shipping LNG

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis

Thankfully, Canada still has the opportunity to get into the global LNG game – and it should, for more reasons than one. A few of those include:

#1 - Among the world’s top energy producers and exporters, Canada ranks high – if not number one – on several Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) related indices.

#2 – Canadian LNG projects are expected to be some of the least carbon-intensive in the world since most will utilize renewably generated electricity for power. LNG Canada, for example, is projected to emit 50 per cent fewer GHG emissions than the average facility and 30 per cent fewer than the best-performing facility globally.

#3 – A study in the Journal Science found that using Canadian LNG in China for power generation instead of coal could reduce GHG emissions by anywhere from 34 to 62 per cent.

Most importantly, global LNG demand is projected to grow from roughly 380 million metric tonnes per annum (mmtpa) to more than 700 mmtpa by 2040 – an increase of ~90 per cent.

global oil and LNG demand by 2040

Just a few weeks before the 2022 war in Ukraine, the federal government quashed the Energie Saguenay LNG project in Quebec, citing environmental issues and Indigenous rights. The project was expected to have a GHG emissions profile that was 84 per cent lower than similar-sized facilities in Asia and the U.S. Today, Canada is in talks with industry players about speeding up proposed East Coast LNG export terminals.

Are energy security concerns in Europe and elsewhere around the globe enough for Canada to switch gears and jumpstart the development of its LNG sector?

If history is any indicator of what’s to come for Canada’s LNG industry, let’s hope that our government will stop dragging its feet on building new facilities and chase the opportunity to become a preferred global LNG supplier. Our low emission export facilities, world-class transparency and record on environmental protection should guarantee that - if we get projects built.

For example, Canada took more than three and a half years to give federal approval for the now-defunct Pacific NorthWest LNG project in B.C., which proponents eventually shelved in July 2017.

Comparatively, the U.S. took just over one year to approve the Sabine Pass LNG project in Louisiana. The facility now exports 30 mtpa of LNG and made its first shipment in 2016. A 2014 study on the economic benefits of Sabine Pass LNG gives us an idea of the substantial wealth and prosperity the project is likely creating for Americans today.

Canadians should be jumping at the opportunity to provide our sustainably produced natural gas to global markets other than the U.S. as the economic benefits of having a healthy LNG sector are too huge to ignore. We could also account for more global LNG market share and supplant other less stable producers with little to no protections for human rights and the environment.

That means getting rid of the unnecessary red tape that has bogged down Canada’s energy industry now for several years.

MYTH - Canadian LNG is Dirty

Anti-Canadian energy activists suggest that LNG facilities will increase domestic emissions and contribute to climate change. However, they conveniently leave out the fact that Canadian-made LNG can assist in coal-to-gas switching in China and elsewhere, a transition which the International Energy Agency (IEA) says has prevented 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from being released into the atmosphere since 2010.

These opponents also ignore the importance of energy security, a topic which is now front and centre in the minds of many European leaders.

The world is not made a better place when we cede energy market share to producers who don’t have the same level of care for the things we do such as democracy, human rights and freedom. The list goes on.

Canada needs to look to the flourishing U.S. LNG export sector as a shining example of how to speed up the development of its own industry. If we don’t act soon to expedite our LNG projects like the U.S. has, we may miss the boat entirely.

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