The British Columbia (BC) provincial government has stepped on the natural gas pedal to increase the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and renewable natural gas (RNG), or biomethane, in transportation, marine and other sectors.

The ultimate goal, not unlike the U.S. states along the West Coast, is ultimately to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

BC Deputy Premier and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman said the provincial program seeks to “create market opportunities for BC’s natural gas sector,” which is characterized as havinghuge potential.

“We’re working with utilities to stimulate the use of LNG as a marine fuel in large, oceangoing ships, and to increase the supply and use of RNG,” said BC’s Bill Bennett, energy and mines minister. Bennett said if the province is successful in boosting the market for its abundant gas supplies, the province has a chance to significantly cut its GHG emissions.

Converting a single oceangoing tanker, cruise ship or container ship to run on LNG in place of heavy fuel oil is said to reduce GHG emissions by about 93,500 tons/year, or the equivalent of taking nearly 20,000 gasoline-fueled cars off the road. BC officials want to encourage utility investment to help the province become a Canadian west coast marine bunkering center.

“[We] can provide LNG to an increasing number of vessels and that will lead to global reductions in GHG emissions,” said a province spokesperson.

Provincial leaders are amending the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Regulation (GGRR) stipulation under the provincial Clean Energy Act to better enable utilities to increase incentives provided to shipping companies for conversion of vessels to run on LNG, invest in LNG bunkering (marine fueling) infrastructure, and increase the supply and use of RNG.

BC’s largest utility, FortisBC, is providing financial incentives to reduce the cost of converting to natural gas vehicle (NGV), marine vessel and industrial applications.

“With the new amendments we now can expand our investments to realize the significant economic opportunities and environmental benefits presented by natural gas use in transportation,” said a Fortis utility spokesperson.

FortisBC currently has about $47 million in financial incentives available to help operators reduce the capital costs tied to converting to natural gas transportation use, and it has an incremental $70 million forthcoming to help incent more LNG use in marine vessels and locomotives to move goods to west coast ports.

FortisBC CEO Michael Mulcahy praised BC leaders for allowing the utility “to build upon existing programs supporting the natural gas for transportation and RNG sectors.” He stressed that the transportation sector accounts for the largest share of GHG emissions, making the conversion of fleets and individual vehicles essential to improved air quality.

BC’s GGRR was started five years ago and has allowed local utilities to provide incentives for both compressed natural gas and LNG in the transportation and marine sectors. BC officialsmadechanges to the GHG emissions reduction regulations to encourage increased use of NGVs and marine vessels.The recent amendments increase the allowed expenditure limits and expand coverage to include investment related to RNG, the provincial spokesperson said.