In-Depth

If Saskatchewan Can Build a Geothermal Power Plant, Why Can’t B.C.?

Geothermal Energy

While news of Saskatchewan’s plan for a small geothermal power plant was met with excitement by renewable energy advocates,  experts say British Columbia is far better situated to capitalize on the technology yet has failed to do so.

It should be a little bit of a shock that a less good resource is being developed in Saskatchewan over a world-class resource in B.C.,” said Alison Thompson, chair and co-founder of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA).

B.C. is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a geothermal hot zone. Maps produced by CanGEA found B.C. has enough geothermal potential to power the entire province.

There are geothermal projects all up the coast but they stop at the border. There’s nothing in B.C.,” Thompson said.

This is clearly not technical, not economic. This is policy driven.”

How the Death of B.C.’s LNG Dream Could Stoke a B.C. Natural Gas Boom

Compressor station

A race to expand B.C. natural gas pipelines and infrastructure is on, signalling two possible outcomes: the death of our homegrown liquefied natural gas (LNG) export dream, and the dawn of the most ironic resource boom in provincial history.

Consider that B.C. natural gas is finally going to be exported overseas by LNG tanker — not from Pacific tidewater, but through Cheniere's new Sabine River LNG export terminal on the Gulf coast near Louisiana. In February 2017, Bloomberg reported Cheniere had entered into a supply deal that would see gas from the Montney shale formation [which straddles B.C. and Alberta] shipped from the facility.

This is a great potential outlet [for Canada],” Madeline Jowdy, Pira Energy Group’s Senior Director of Global Gas and LNG, told Bloomberg of the Cheniere LNG deal. She added that B.C. LNG projects “look like they are going to be a long time coming, if ever, in my opinion.”

Kinder Morgan Warns Trans Mountain Investors Pipeline May Never Be Built

kinder morgan trans mountain pipeline on shaky ground

This article originally appeared on Dogwoodbc.ca. 

It’s a rare dose of honesty from a company with a history of bending the truth. Kinder Morgan filed a final prospectus last week with securities regulators, setting the stage for a last-ditch attempt to raise enough cash to build its Trans Mountain expansion project.

Now all the Texas pipeline barons can hope is that investors don’t read the fine print.

The company is essentially trying to crowdfund $1.75 billion through an initial public offering. Kinder Morgan executive Ian Anderson sounded confident in a press release announcing the IPO: “Our approvals are in hand and we are now ready to commence construction activities this fall,” he said.

But the approvals are not in hand, and a mandatory risk analysis accompanying the share offering makes clear how difficult it will be to start construction. Provincial politics, lawsuits, blockades by First Nations – any one of these could kill the Trans Mountain pipeline project, the company admits.

Famous Canadian Ice Road Melts for the Last Time

Northwest Territories Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Ice Road, Matt Jacques|DeSmog Canada

Each winter in Canada’s far north, a series of ice roads take form, providing people and supply trucks temporary access to the region’s otherwise isolated towns. But rapid changes to Canada’s north means this spring marks the final melt of one of the north’s famed ice highways, the ‘Road to the Top of the World,’ stretching across 187 kilometres of frozen Mackenzie Delta and Arctic Ocean in the Northwest Territories, linking Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk.

It’s taking longer for everything to freeze up, and the ice isn’t as thick,” Wally Schumann, the minister of infrastructure for the Northwest Territories, told the New York Times in April. The Northwest Territories is warming at four to five times the global rate.

Under construction right now is a new permanent $300-million all-weather road — but its long-term stability is also challenged by the unpredictable, warming landscape says Phil Marsh, professor and Canada Research Chair in Cold Regions Water Science at Wilfred Laurier University.

This area is continuous permafrost with massive amounts of ground ice,” Marsh explained.

In the spring, melting water can carve sizeable channels through the ground ice, “which can rapidly drain a lake in less than twenty four hours.”

Five Handy Facts About the Northern B.C. Oil Tanker Ban

Nathan E Stewart Heiltsuk Nation April Bencze

A bill to restrict the movement of oil off the north coast of British Columbia has been formally tabled by the federal government in the House of Commons, according to a statement released by Transport Canada Friday.

The proposed legislation, which would restrict tankers carrying more than 12,500 metric tons of crude oil from entering or exiting north coast ports, must now make its way through Parliament.

Today is a positive day for us,” Gavin Smith, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law, told DeSmog Canada.

We’re very happy to see the federal government follow through on its promise to introduce a tanker ban.”

Smith said the legislation will prevent megaprojects like the Northern Gateway pipeline from being built in northern B.C. but added he has yet to review the text of the bill in detail.

The Good, The Bad And the Ugly: Where Conservative Leadership Candidates Stand on the Environment

Kellie Leitch

The next leader of the Conservative Party will be chosen on May 27.

While only Conservative Party members are eligible to vote in the ranked ballot election, the outcome will determine who will likely run against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next election, so it’s worth paying attention.

Where do the 13 leadership hopefuls stand on energy and environment issues? Well, they’re a bit all over the map. Fear not, we’ve distilled the platforms down into this quick cheat sheet to help you get up to speed on what Canada could be in store for come May 27.

A Dam Big Problem: Fracking Companies Build Dozens of Unauthorized Dams in B.C.'s Northeast

A subsidiary of Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned petro giant courted by the B.C. government, has built at least 16 unauthorized dams in northern B.C. to trap hundreds of millions of gallons of water used in its controversial fracking operations.

The 16 dams are among “dozens” that have been built by Petronas and other companies without proper authorizations, a senior dam safety official with the provincial government told the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which began investigating the problem in late March after receiving a tip from someone with knowledge of how widespread the problem is.

Two of the dams built by Progress Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Petronas, are towering earthen structures that exceed the height of five-storey apartment buildings. Petronas has proposed building a massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Prince Rupert, which if built would result in dramatic increases in fracking and industrial water use throughout northeast B.C.

The two dams are so large that they should have been subject to review by B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO). Only if a review concluded that the projects could proceed would the EAO have issued a certificate, and only then could the company have moved on to get the necessary authorizations from other provincial agencies.

But nothing close to that happened because the company never submitted its plans to the EAO before the dams were built.

It’s Official: Coal Just Became Uneconomic in Canada

Coal power plant

Marijuana wasn’t the only green thing being celebrated on April 20.

In a somewhat unexpected move, the Calgary-based electricity company TransAlta announced it will accelerate the phase-out of eight coal-fired power units — representing almost 3,000 megawatts of generating capacity — with six of those to be converted to gas-fired generation between 2021 and 2023.

The remaining two will be closed on Jan. 1, 2018.

It makes complete economic sense that they did that,” says Binnu Jeyakumar, electricity program director at the Pembina Institute, pointing to expiring power purchase agreements (PPAs) and an increasing inability for coal to compete with natural gas and renewables.

While calculations vary, it’s estimated that the conversion of the six coal plants to simple cycle gas operations — a process that will cost around $300 million in total — will cut emissions by between 30 and 40 per cent per megawatt hour of electricity produced.

It’s Still Unclear How Alberta’s Tailings Will Be Cleaned Up Or Who Will Pay For It

Alberta oilsands tailings ponds, Alex MacLean

For years, Alberta’s government has reassured the public that it has a plan to ensure the oilsands’ 1.2 trillion litres of hazardous tailings are permanently dealt with after mines shut down.

That assertion is becoming less convincing by the day.

Industry still hasn’t decided on a viable long-term storage technology to begin testing. The fund to cover tailings liabilities in case of bankruptcy is arguably extremely underfunded. And there are concerns from the likes of the Pembina Institute that the future costs for tailings treatment will be far greater than anticipated.

Martin Olszynski, assistant professor in law at University of Calgary, told DeSmog Canada such questions simply can’t be left unanswered.

It would the height of unfairness if at the end of all this massive profit and wealth generation, Albertans were left on the hook for what will be landscape-sized disturbances that are potentially very harmful and hazardous to humans and wildlife,” he said.

What You Need to Know About Fracking In Canada

Fracking Fort St John Garth Lenz

Back in 2007, when Alberta landowner Jessica Ernst filed her lawsuit over water contamination from the hydraulic fracturing of shallow coal seams near her property, most Canadians had never even heard of “fracking.”

Ten years later, nearly everyone has at least heard of the controversial process of accessing oil and gas deposits.

To some, it’s an economic saviour. To others, it’s a threat to fresh water and yet another step toward climate change catastrophe. But many others don’t know what to think, especially when some provinces embrace fracking while others put a freeze on the practice.

To help you sort it out, we’ve put together this primer on what fracking really is, where it’s happening in Canada and what’s known (and not known) about the risks to the environment and human health.

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