Political enthusiasm for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports reigns supreme in British Columbia (BC) as a result of the provincial election held last Tuesday.

The Liberal government won reelection to an increased majority of 50 of 84 legislature seats on a campaign platform that elevated LNG — and hydraulic fracturing — to the top of the province’s economic and financial agenda. Titled “Strong Economy Secure Tomorrow,” the platform pledged a “comprehensive strategy to seize British Columbia’s LNG opportunity.”

The commitments left no room for environmental quibbling over the supply source for an eight-entry lineup of industry proposals to build export terminals on the north Pacific coast at Kitimat and Prince Rupert: the unconventional drilling in some of the province’s big shale and tight gas areas, including the Horn River and Montney shales (see related story).

“Under our feet lies as much energy as Alberta has in its oilpatch,” said a Liberal campaign platform. “It is in the form of natural gas, a cleaner alternative to oil or coal, in the northeastern corner of British Columbia…Natural gas is extracted using environmentally safe methods.” Far from conceding any points to skeptics, the Liberal agenda pledged to “continue to innovate and support the use of world-leading hydraulic fracturing techniques to supply LNG projects with natural gas.”

In case any voters doubted that the Liberal regime’s enthusiasm was unqualified, the platform accused the opposition New Democratic Party of threatening to miss the LNG export moment by promising an inquiry into safety and environmental aspects of the shale production system.

The victorious Liberal government’s commitments include the creation of a provincial prosperity fund, akin to the oil-fed Alaska Permanent Fund, to house US$100 billion in forecast LNG royalty revenues; a specialized Ministry of Gas Development supported by an LNG Secretariat and leading an LNG committee of the provincial cabinet; cooperation with the federal government on fashioning an efficient project approval process; an annual international LNG industry conference; construction of power stations and transmission lines for LNG developments by the provincial government-owned electricity corporation, BC Hydro; and collaboration with aboriginal communities to create a pipeline corridor across northern BC for delivering gas to proposed export terminals.

The reelected BC government is clinging to hopes of striking it rich in Asia, which inspired the lineup of LNG export projects to start forming in 2008, when prices of the commodity were tightly tied to oil and before rival schemes in the United States, Australia and the Middle East fueled current development of a competitive overseas gas market.

“Tomorrow our goal is to have a liquefied natural gas industry…by shipping our gas to Asia where it currently sells for over five times the North American price,” the Liberal platform stated. The re-elected government has set a goal of having at least three LNG export terminals up and running by 2020.

To date, three BC tanker terminal projects have obtained licenses to export LNG for 20-to-25-year periods from the National Energy Board. Another five northern Pacific coast terminals are in various planning and regulatory application preparation stages, along with an array of pipeline projects. Construction has yet to begin on any of the proposals. Only one modest sales deal has been made, providing for a Japanese partner in one of the projects to take 10% of its output if it is built.

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