Woodfibre LNG – Wrong Location:

By Jef Keighley

Woodfibre LNG fails all of SIGTTO’s internationally accepted industry standards for the safe siting of LNG teminals

This paper advances the argument that the Woodfibre site on BC’s Howe Sounds is not now and can never be a safe location to construct an LNG export terminal despite what the proponent, Woodfibre LNG alleges.  Further, the potential disruption to other marine traffic, commercial and recreational, is too disruptive with too great an adverse economic impact on the communities within Howe Sound to permit.

Both the federal and provincial governments have invested considerable political capital responding to the industry push for substantial LNG exports from BC’s coast to offshore markets. The respective federal and provincial politicians are keen to be seen to deliver on their pronouncements as quickly as possible and their electoral imperatives run the risk of producing hasty and ill-conceived decisions.

Alongside this governmental/industry push there is a parallel, growing debate over the wisdom of ramping up fossil fuel consumption and exports, inclusive of LNG - Liquefied Natural Gas - as opposed to placing greater emphasis on the development of renewable energy technologies and how and to what extent fossil fuel consumption is contributing to climate change and its effects. 

Regardless of where one comes down on the issues of fossil fuel exports, climate change and related issues, when one examines the specific site of Woodfibre as a potential location for an LNG terminal, in the light of internationally accepted LNG industry standards for the safe siting of LNG terminals, one must come to the conclusion that Woodfibre is not a safe site to build such a terminal.

SIGTTO – the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators is the defacto global authority on the safe transport of LNG. SIGTTO is the industry association representing virtually all state owned and private sector LNG shippers around the world.  Their LNG terminal siting standards are founded on fifty years of relatively accident free LNG shipping.  Neither Canada nor British Columbia have detailed standards with respect to the safe siting of LNG terminals and would do well to heed the collective wisdom of SIGTTO with respect to terminal siting.

Building an LNG terminal at Woodfibre entails too much risk to human life and the immediate environment of and too disruptive to other marine traffic within Howe Sound due a number of key factors that run afoul of internationally accepted LNG industry siting standards:

  • LNG terminal and tanker safety standards demand 3,500 metre Hazard Zones within which other marine traffic and human habitation represent potentially catastrophic ignition sources in the event of a breach in the LNG containment vessels either at the terminal or enroute to and from the terminal.
  • Woodfibre is located up a long and relatively narrow busy shipping and recreational boating channel and crosses three BC Ferries routes out of Horseshoe Bay.  LNG tanker movements represent disruptions to other marine traffic and could restrict the long-term development of the Port of Squamish.
  • Woodfibre is located on the west shore and on an outside of the curve of the Howe Sound shipping channel around Watts Point on the opposite shore.  The outside curve location places the terminal and loading LNG tankers at the terminal at greater risk of being accidentally struck by a passing ship that could breach the LNG containment system sparking a catastrophic incident.  Placing an LNG terminal on the outside curve of a shipping channel violates one of the most critical SIGTTO safe siting standards.

These issues are discussed in greater detail here.