A year ago, representatives from the TransCanada Coastal GasLink Pipeline project were in Burns Lake to inform residents, municipal and regional governments of their plans to connect Northeast B.C. natural gas fields to proposed Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) facilities in Kitimat.
The 650 km pipeline is one year closer to going in the ground, and TransCanada was back in town for an update. Presentations to the board of the Regional District of Bulkely Nechako (RDBN), the Village of Burns Lake, and a public open house in Burns Lake were held on Oct. 25, 2013.
At approximately $10 million per kilometre, TransCanada is optimistic that the $6.5 billion project is one of the many announced natural gas pipelines that will come to fruition.
“This is a very promising project,” said Joe Zhou, Coastal GasLink project manager. “The project has all the essential factors in place.”
The project has the backing of Shell Canada, who already has the source secured with licensing to extract natural gas in B.C.
Shell is also working with Japanese, Korean, and Chinese investors to secure the required long-term LNG contracts for a final investment decision to be made.
Zhou said that well over $100 million has already been invested into the pre-application work Coastal GasLink has been engaged in over the past year in preparation for its provincial application for an environmental assessment certificate.
Extensive field work along the proposed route will contribute to the 70,000 page document TransCanada expects to submit to the province’s environmental assessment office in the new year.
Through consultation with stakeholders in the Fraser Lake area and near Bald Hill, south of Burns Lake, TransCanada has revised its proposed pipeline route to avoid areas of concern. Two Bald Hill residents were happy to see that the company had made a significant change to the route that by-passes Bald Hill properties.
Zhou reported to the RDBN that a large portion of field work person hours have been dedicated to First Nations consultation.
“Forty per cent of field hours have been directed toward First Nation consultation,” Zhou said of the 120,000 field hours accumulated so far in preparing the environmental assessment document.
If the application is successful, Coastal GasLink could be under construction by 2015, and would generate over 2000 jobs for the three to five years it would take to build the pipeline.
While at the RDBN table, Zhou was asked about how the project will manage the wood fibre the pipeline right-of-way would remove from the land base.
“Does permitting require you to transport timber to mills or processing facilities,” asked Vanderhoof Mayor, Gerry Theissen. “Are you required to ensure that all fibre is processed?”
“We intend to harvest all the timber of value,” Zhou replied. “That’s a given.”
Details of the fibre harvest program have not been established yet, but Zhou said that TransCanada will work with local forestry companies to develop a plan to identify and then salvage merchantable timber.
A further concern for members of the RDBN is permanent loss of land base to multiple pipeline corridors.
A pipeline right-of-way will require approximately 30 to 50 metres of clear-cut the length of the pipeline route. Much of this could be through merchantable timber resources.
“We are concerned the [pipeline] corridor is lost forever,” Theissen added.
A common corridor for multiple pipelines may seem like a good idea, Zhou said, but it is a complicated proposal. Pipeline companies guard their proposed routes as commercially proprietary, and the natural competitiveness between companies doesn’t set the stage for a cooperative environment.
A second complication is different source and terminal destinations for different projects.
The final decision for a pipeline corridor may rest in the hands of the province, Zhou said.
“As a proponent,” he said, “We’ll follow the advice of the government.”
Coastal GasLink and Pacific Trails Pipeline would be side-by-side for large portions of their selected routes, although they would not have a common corridor. The two, 50 metre right-of-ways may overlaps slightly, sparing several metres of land base loss, but the pipelines would not share the same right-of-way.