The Northern Gateway Pipeline: A Possible Corridor to Seed Renewable Energy in BC, Canada

Posted on February 19th, 2018 by

Today, fossil fuels are necessary in order to maintain the current level of technological development. However, as fossil fuels become depleted over the next century, it is imperative that Canada and other countries examine ways to transition to other sources of energy, particularly renewable energy. Until renewable energy becomes affordable for all, countries with fossil fuel resources should adopt a double-track strategy of trading their conventional energy, while investing in renewable energy technologies.

In the case of Canada, this large country is blessed with abundant resources of fossil fuels and is also willing to trade its surplus energy with other nations around the world. It is important, however, that with this trade, Canada is brought closer to its objectives in the development of renewable energy resources.

Canada has a total of 3.4 million barrels per day (mbd) of production and 2.2 mbd of consumption, translating into 1.2 mbd of surplus for export. On top of this, the country has a surplus of 9 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas for export; Canada’s energy trade must be broadened beyond North America if it wants to be a global energy leader. The proposed Northern Gateway (NGW) pipeline could be a major step in this process, as it would expand Canada’s energy market to Asia and South America, while providing a corridor for seeding renewable energy projects.

The proposed NGW pipeline would link the northern Alberta oilfields to LNG/oil terminals on the Pacific Coast (a marine terminal in Kitimat, BC). The pipeline consists of an 1176 km twin pipeline system and would transport 525, 000 bpd of oil for export and import 193, 000 of condensate (a diluent which is needed to make oil more transportable). The proposed pipeline can create opportunities for economic growth across both northern BC and northern Alberta. The proposal should, however, be fully reviewed and approved at Federal and Provincial level.

The NGW pipeline can create a great opportunity for a double-track energy strategy for Canada, in which trading oil and gas can be integrated with development of renewable energy resources such as geothermal, wind and run-of-river. As significant electrical power would be needed to run the pump stations along the pipeline (107 MW of power for the portion in BC, 940 Gwh/y of energy), the grid extension through the entire length of the corridor would open a wide hallway to harvest alternative energy resources which are available within 100 km. Note that if a renewable power resource (e.g., geothermal or hydro) is greater than 100 MW, it can justify the cost of up to 100 km of power line to connect the resource to the grid. In BC, the NGW project will be responsible for supplying connection facilities to BC Hydro, however, so far, there is no clear evidence of BC Hydro’s ability to meet the electrical needs of the project. Alternatively, the necessary power could derive from BC hydro’s grid production, with the additional power supply coming from new renewable energy projects.

Run-of-river (small hydro) resources are present in both western and eastern sections of the corridor (with a potential of 800 MW), and wind resources, accessible through the western portion of the pipeline, are estimated at 300 MW. In terms of geothermal, high-grade resources exist in the western section of the corridor close to Kitmat, and are estimated at close to 1000 MW of energy. Altogether, renewable energy sources could supply close to 2000 MW of regional power supply.

The total GHG emission for the 525,000 bpd (of the NGW capacity) is equivalent to 14 million tonnes of CO2 per year. A mix of 1200 MW of geothermal, 800 MW of hydro and 300 MW of wind power can be commercially developed along the BC section of the pipeline to offset up to 75% of the emission related to the flowing oil.

Link to full article:

WMC-2013-accepted-Northen Gateway Pipeline

Ghomshei, Mory; Hassani, Ferri; Meech, John; Mousavi, Nima. 2013.