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B.C. Hydro eyes massive transmission expansion in the northwest

Says large-scale customers would drive demand for construction
BC Hydro’s Skeena Substation south of Terrace would play a key role should B.C. Hydro’s plans for more transmission lines in the northwest come to pass. (File photo)

BC Hydro is drawing up plans to build more transmission lines in the northwest based on what it says is anticipated large-scale customer demand for power.

The crown corporation is already boosting its capacity to deliver power to the region through its existing 500-kilovolt line running from Prince George to the Skeena distribution substation just south of Terrace but now feels that alone won’t be sufficient.

“Industrial customers in Northwest B.C. are increasingly interested in electrifying their existing or planned operations to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions,” wrote BC Hydro official Debra Lamash in letters sent to northwestern local governments this fall.

“However, the transmission system that supplies electricity in the region is limited and system upgrades, including new transmission lines, are needed to meet current and future customer demand and reliability requirements,” she said.

One of the four lines being contemplated, the second line from the Skeena substation south to Kitimat, revives a project that was proposed in 2014 and then shelved in favour of refurbishing the existing line.

Putting that second line on hold cost BC Hydro $15 million in engineering and design fees.

“Additional demand in the Kitimat area may drive the need for additional transmission line(s) between Skeena substation and existing, or new, substations in Kitimat,” follow-up information from BC Hydro indicated.

One potential customer, Kitimat LNG, would have required substantial power to super-cool natural gas into liquid form for export overseas, but that project has now been cancelled.

BC Hydro now has another potential LNG customer, a proposed floating terminal off of the north coast, that would also require substantial power.

It is already in talks with Ksi Lisims LNG which would take power from the 287-kilovolt line that would be built from the Skeena substation to a hub in the Nass Valley.

The Nisga’a Nation is a partner in Ksi Lisims which is now going through an extensive environmental assessment. Provided it does receive environmental approvals, the complete project consisting of a terminal, power and a pipeline to deliver natural gas would cost approximately $55 billion.

The new Kitimat line, though, would be a later development.

The effort to meet customer demand would begin with a 500-kilovolt transmission line of approximately 170 kilometres in length between the Williston Substation in Prince George and the Glenannan substation west of Fraser Lake.

Another transmission line might then be needed from Glenannan to a substation between Telkwa and Houston and one more from that substation to the Skeena substation.

BC Hydro is further contemplating a second line from the Skeena substation south to Kitimat and a new 287-kilovolt transmission line running north of the Skeena substation paralleling its Northwest Transmission Line to a hub in the Nass Valley.

No cost projections have surfaced yet and BC Hydro is reluctant to speak about potential customers but the full extent of the work contemplated would rival its last multi-year expansion in the northwest, the 344-kilometre long, 287-kilovolt Northwest Transmission Line which runs north from Terrace.

Completed at a cost of $736 million in 2014, the line supplies power to the giant Red Chris copper and gold mine, takes in power from three run-of-river hydro projects on the Iskut River and supplies power to the tiny village of Iskut.

Should customer demand eventually put BC Hydro’s plans in motion, it says the additional power for the northwest would come from its provincial grid from many sources, including Site C in northeastern B.C. now well into construction.

About the Author: Rod Link

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