The world’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) conference kicked off on Monday in Vancouver, and with it comes uncertainty over the long-term viability of gas export projects in development in Canada.

The conference, which runs until Thursday, takes place as multiple LNG projects are in the early stages of development on the West Coast, including the First Nations-led Cedar LNG in Kitimat, B.C., that will export gas to Asian markets. The Haisla Nation is invested in the project.

The next two to three years will be critical in deciding the fate of Cedar LNG, Robert Johnston, executive director at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, said in an interview with Canada’s National Observer.

“That’s when you get financing,” he added.

A diagram from the First Nations Climate Initiative's Climate Action Plan. Screenshot

On Tuesday, it was announced in a press release that Johnston will also be the lead advising researcher for the First Nations Climate Initiative, a B.C.-based forum composed of Lax Kw’alaams, Metlakatla, Nisga’a and Haisla First Nations created to fight against poverty and climate change.

Johnston, alongside other researchers and industry CEOs, will advise the First Nations Climate Initiative’s international advisory committee, which will research and advise on LNG exports to Asia, including a demand-side outlook for the continent, decarbonization and the global competitive market that includes petro-state producers like Russia and Qatar.

Ultimately, it will be the decisions of investors, their gamble on whether there is long-term viability for gas exports to Asia and that continent’s energy transition, Johnston added.

LNG Canada, another LNG export facility in Kitimat, is currently 85 per cent completed. The project is a joint venture between Shell PLC, Petronas Nasional Berhad, PetroChina Co. Ltd., Mitsubishi Corp. and the Korea Gas Corp.

The next two to three years will be critical in deciding the fate of the First Nation-led Cedar LNG project, Robert Johnston, executive director at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, said.

It’s unclear if similar large Asian gas corporations will invest in Cedar LNG, too, but Johnston said gas import infrastructure already exists in gas- and coal-dependent countries like Japan, Taiwan, Korea and China.

It also remains to be seen whether other coal-dependent countries in Asia like India, Indonesia and Vietnam will invest in LNG infrastructure or instead hopscotch to clean energy like renewables. Currently, the most important consideration for those countries is price, and coal’s cost has remained low due to the war in Ukraine, Johnston said.

Many countries in Asia have built coal plants within the past decade or two, raising questions over the next steps in an energy transition that is demanding a steep drop in greenhouse gas emissions in the near future.

Meanwhile, some Asian countries face challenges in cleaning up their energy mix due to limited space for large wind and solar farms, Johnston said.

Nuclear development is also expanding in places like China, but it remains controversial in Korea and Japan after the Fukushima disaster, Johnston explained.

In Japan, for example, dependency on natural gas spiked following the nuclear disaster in 2011, which idled many of its nuclear plants, Reuters reports.

Members of Frack Free BC stage a die-in in front of the venue for the LNG conference. Photo courtesy of Frack Free BC

However, as Asian countries aim for net-zero emissions by 2050 — or 2060, for China — it’s not a given that natural gas will remain viable in those markets. Other energy sources could replace gas as nations work to fulfil their climate obligations. That’s why Johnston says long-term projections are uncertain, with different scenarios showing different outcomes.

But as of right now, there are still long-term gas contracts being signed, Johnston said.

“Will those be white elephants up to 20, 30, 40 years from now?” Johnston asks. “Possibly, but these contracts are designed to share that risk between buyer and seller.”

Fossil fuels like natural gas and coal are both significant propellants of climate change, which has seen global temperatures reach record highs over the past week.

On Tuesday, climate activists from Frack Free BC staged a die-in outside the LNG conference over the oil and gas industry’s role in worsening climate disasters like extreme heat waves, droughts and other weather phenomena taking place more often and more severely than in previous decades.

Frack Free BC also points to the fracking needed to extract much of Canadian LNG for export, arguing the method for extracting oil and gas is as bad for the climate as coal. The group also notes methane, the primary component in natural gas, is 84 to 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

Climate activists from Frack Free BC pose in front of the conference centre hosting the LNG conference in Vancouver this week. Photo courtesy of Frack Free BC

Countries like the United Kingdom, France and Australia have already banned fracking over earth tremors and environmental concerns, like the heavy energy output needed to extract products.

“Oil and gas companies have spent billions of dollars lobbying politicians and peddling lies about clean gas,” Alexandra Woodsworth, director of organizing at Dogwood, a B.C. environmental non-profit, said in a press release.

“The research is crystal clear: there’s no room for new LNG if the world [wants to meet] its climate commitments. Any politician who claims otherwise is just helping the industry greenwash its image.”

Matteo Cimellaro / Canada’s National Observer / Local Journalism Initiative

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As the last paragraph of this article says......."the research is crystal clear.'

Fracking is a form of unconventional fossil fuel production....the easy stuff being gone, we employ vast quantities of water...and fracture deep earth...over and over again. This violence is necessary and has to be repeated extract small pockets of trapped gas. The wells often don't last a year, before the carpet bombing of deep earth has to pulverize more sedimentary rock.

Anyone who thinks this is either sustainable....or some kind of transition miracle fuel.....should have had trouble achieving a university degree. That they often head up projects like this LNG to Asia boondoggle, says something pretty sad about our higher educational system. Of course Asia should skip the unconventional fracked gas revolution and move rapidly to renewables.

The sun is going to get hotter........we might as well use that energy for clean electricity....and put those panels everywhere. Centralized solar farms take too much room on agricultural land....they should be the back up for solar everywhere....wind everywhere...geothermal everywhere. Small is beautiful, but also, less vulnerable to extreme weather disasters.

And heat pumps. Now there is a smart technology....still under utilized in our 'natural' gas sleep walking into climate disaster. Time to wake up Canada.........and listen to those young people. Frack free Now!!

It is not explosives that are used for fracking, it is hundreds of thousands of litres of diesel fuel.

Fracking is carried out by using large banks of truck-mounted diesel powered high pressure pumps to inject fracking fluid into deep wells.
This is what a fracking operation looks like:

You can well imagine the noise level of those engines running all together flat-out. It is the energy produced by all these diesel pumps that fractures the rock deep underground and triggers earthquakes.

They are using up large volumes of one fossil fuel to extract another fossil fuel. It is part of the crazy economics of fracking that have put some U.S. fracking corporations into bankruptcy.

This is in addition to the millions of litres of water drawn some of the cleanest remaining sources that are mixed with multiple toxic fluids to produce the fracking fluid. The flowback from fracking is further contaminated from what it picks up in the fracking well, including with radioactive elements. This toxic byproduct is then beyond any practical reclamation for any other purpose and is injected back into deep wells. The water content is thus removed from the natural hydrological cycle for longer than the human race will survive.

The fracking and reinjection of fluid frequently will break through into fresh water aquifers, contaminating them and making them permanently unusable for human consumption in a world that is rapidly depleting its vital potable water sources.

"And heat pumps."
Which are driven by electricity. We live in a certified Passive House, i.e. it is better than 'Step 5' on the energy efficiency scale. Our heat pump provides all the heat we use. Our solar panels can only produce enough electricity for the heat pump in 7 months of the year. The remaining 5 months we draw from the grid. The question remains: Where and how do we generate sufficient grid electricity to keep us alive and warm during the coldest and least sunny 5 months of the year when several million more heat pumps are added to the grid demand? Practical solutions to this problem clearly won't include solar - distributed or otherwise.

And still you have not included electric vehicles which will just amplify the demand ( big batteries will use a lot of electricity as people want to keep their big SUVs and pickup trucks). It's the same problem with heat pumps; it's a great technology but, as cars, people want bigger homes that will need a lot of energy for heating and cooling. We have to change the way we consume (less consumption), the way we move around (less cars, more public transit), and reduce our impact on the land. Renewables might be able to respond to the demand but that demand has to be reduced dramatically.