Motivation for Canadian producers to break into global trade in liquefied natural gas (LNG) will stay strong for generations to come, according to new evidence presented to the National Energy Board (NEB).
The shale gale blew gas supplies up into an astronomical range where the life span of the surplus available -- over and above all conceivable Canadian needs -- for tanker shipments overseas is measured in centuries, according to the submission.
The conclusion that domestic supply protection is obsolete came in a resource review that LNG Canada Development Inc. commissioned from Navigant Consulting Inc. The report supports the first application for an extended, 40-year gas export license made possible by Canadian legislation that as of June 2015 abolished a longstanding 25-year limit.
In reply to an NEB question LNG Canada said the Navigant survey of North American market conditions resulting from the shale supply revolution showed "Canada has a natural gas resource endowment life of over 380 years at current demand levels."
LNG Canada added that the home country stockpile, "together with the highly integrated North American natural gas market, should ensure sufficient supplies to meet Canadian demand at competitive prices throughout the forecast period [to 2062]."
The export group, sponsoring one of 25 tanker terminal projects on Canada's Pacific and Atlantic coasts, said, "This is an important context in which to view potential risks to forecast demand or supply that are likely to be modest by comparison."
LNG Canada includes Shell Canada as the project's senior operating partner, supported by subsidiaries of Asian industrial conglomerates Mitsubishi Corp., Korea Gas Corp. and PetroChina. The long export license is sought to enhance regulatory and investment security.
The group plans to build a tanker terminal for up to 3.7 Bcf/d on the northern Pacific Coast of British Columbia at Kitimat. The supplies would largely be shale gas being developed by the members in northeastern BC, delivered on a jumbo pipeline proposed across the province by TransCanada Corp.
Current estimates of economically recoverable Canadian gas, applying established technology to known shale and tight geological formations and older conventional deposits, are outright "immense," said the LNG Canada group. Navigant's count puts the total at 1,444 Tcf.
"This Canadian resource base is sufficient to supply Canadian domestic demand at today's levels, plus today's net pipeline exports to the U.S., for 260 years, or just Canadian domestic demand for 380 years," said the Navigant supply review.
"Accounting for LNG Canada's requested export volumes as an additional use of Canadian natural gas...would only decrease those Canadian resource life estimates to about 205 and 275 years, respectively."
Not even success by all the proposed LNG terminal projects -- which nobody in Canada, including the NEB, expects -- would strain North American gas supplies, Navigant said.
"Even assuming additional exports of more than 21 Bcf/d to allow for all other approved Canadian long-term gas exports, those resource life estimates would still be more than 95 years and almost 110 years, respectively. The overall North American natural gas resource life, based on 2014 North American gas demand levels, comes to 148 years."
Navigant emphasized that its supply count errs on the conservative side of the outlook for a dynamic industry. "Not only are entirely new gas resource plays being discovered, and then brought into production, but as additional data from producing gas plays is gathered over time, the resource estimates of those active plays have generally been increased."
While LNG Canada awaits formal recognition of the supply outlook by NEB approval of the first 40-year gas export license, the new view of vast gas stockpiles available for development pervades emerging policies of the federal and Alberta governments.
A proposal to ban tankers from the northern Pacific coast of BC by the newly elected Liberal government in Ottawa exempts LNG vessels. The restriction, still in early discussion stages, would only affect the costliest, most contested and slowest moving one of two proposals for overseas export pipelines from the Alberta oilsands.
In Alberta a carbon emissions reduction policy announced Nov. 22 by the seven-month-old New Democratic Party (NDP) government recognizes the competitive force exerted by super-abundant natural gas as a rival to new-age green electricity.
In setting a goal for zero-emissions wind and solar power to fill 70% of the gap to be left by accelerated phase-out of coal-fired stations, the NDP agenda predicted the renewable energy sources will be challenged by low-cost gas and require government help to hit the target. Plans are being crafted to fit assistance into Alberta's open market for investor-owned generation without entirely reversing 1990s power deregulation.