A dream Canadian pipeline? Canada, is this country’s LNG really helping Europe amid Russia’s war on Ukraine?
Canada’s offer to send natural gas to Europe to reduce dependence on Russian fuel is both technically unfeasible and inconsistent with commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, experts say. energy.
Despite the fact that Canada currently has no liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said last month that direct shipments could begin in as little as three years. .
In Germany for the G7 meeting this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added that these LNG exports could be made without affecting Canada’s climate commitments.
According to Jan Gorski, director of the oil and gas program at the Pembina Institute, a Calgary-based clean energy think tank, it will be difficult to get such a massive project up and running so quickly without squandering progress in energy. reduction of emissions.
“The crisis in Russia has created this demand for oil and gas in the short term. But the other side of that is that European countries are trying to figure out how to speed up their transition to cleaner fuels,” he said. « So there’s this tension between short-term demand and what’s going to happen in the medium term. »
Currently, Russia supplies Europe with 40% of its natural gas and 27% of its imported oil, and receives in return about $1 billion a day. Concerns over the money intended to fund the Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted the European Union to pledge to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds by the end of the year.
Although there has also been a push to accelerate the construction of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydrogen, the EU will still have to import natural gas from countries other than Russia. .
According to EU data, burning natural gas accounts for almost 300 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2020, or about 8% of total emissions.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters this week that any new natural gas supplies would be for emergency relief and would not derail climate plans.
« Gas will be temporarily needed and that’s why there can be investments that make sense, in this transition phase, » he said.
Canada is not well placed to embark on such a large project in such a short time, says Moshe Lander, an economist at Concordia University.
“Getting a pipeline that can ship it to the Atlantic coast, convert it to LNG, find enough ships – which is certainly not under the control of the Canadian government – ship it to LNG stations in Europe, the convert, ship it through European pipelines. By the time you’re done, it won’t be cheap,” he said.
« At what point do European consumers say, ‘I think we can get this from North Africa at a lower cost than we can get from Canada’? »
While details on exactly how Canada would supply LNG to Europe are scarce, Wilkinson said the government is in talks with Repsol, the owner of an LNG import facility in Saint John, New Brunswick, regarding the conversion of the terminal for export.
Repsol did not respond to a request for comment on the project.
J. David Hughes, a former federal government geologist and energy and sustainability consultant, said exporting LNG doesn’t make sense except for immediate relief from Russian supply pressures.
“Europe is in big trouble. There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “But you don’t do projects like this in the short term. silver.
Also, he said, converting the Saint John terminal to export would deprive the Maritimes of the natural gas they need.
« The Maritimes are almost entirely dependent on natural gas imported from the United States, as well as liquefied natural gas delivered to the LNG import terminal in Saint John, » Hughes said. “If Saint John’s LNG was shut down and converted for export, the only source of gas would be to increase imports from the United States to meet Maritime needs.
If somehow Canada was able to find enough gas to supply the Maritimes, the question would be where the gas would come from for export to the EU.
There is no pipeline between Western Canada and Saint John, which means any gas extracted on the Prairies would have to be exported to the United States and imported back into Canada, he said.
Current projections show very little growth in natural gas production in Canada, where most of the gas is already used domestically.
« Domestic needs keep increasing, » he said. « At some point you run into a lack of gas to meet household needs. »
Meanwhile, a new poll by the Sierra Club shows that a majority of Canadians want climate considered when approving new LNG export facilities – which Wilkinson’s office says. is already a priority.
“Canada will continue to assess what more it can do to assist our European partners in their energy crisis caused by Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. But we will do so in a way that accounts for and works to minimize national emissions – and will do so in a way that ensures all resulting emissions are part of Canada’s climate plan,” spokesman Anthony Ertl said.
The project would only move forward if it could demonstrate that the exports “will be used to replace either high-emitting energy sources like relentless coal and natural gas, or Russian oil and gas,” Ertl added. .
Chris Bataille, an energy economist and researcher at the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy, believes that Canada’s natural gas should only be used for heating and industry in Europe until it can be converted to renewable energy.
« Europe has a real energy security problem, » Bataille told the Star. “One of the main ways the world can alleviate this problem is to offer them backup gas. But that cannot be the main source of energy.
Bataille explained that it is possible for Canada to increase its LNG exports while meeting its climate goals, as long as any new infrastructure is highly regulated. These include ensuring that any gas extracted and delivered to the terminal contains less than 0.5% fugitive methane emissions and requiring new pipelines and liquefaction processes to be electrified.
Trudeau suggested this week that the life of the LNG terminal could be extended by converting it to hydrogen when natural gas subsidies demand – which Bataille said could work.
“It is not really possible to convert an LNG plant into a hydrogen plant. But what you can do is think of LNG as a hydrogen carrier. The liquefied gas is transferred across the ocean, where it is stripped of its hydrogen, then the carbon is carefully buried underground.
« What you’re building is system reliability, which is worth a lot in the long run because gas turbines that used to run on methane or natural gas can be converted (for hydrogen). »
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