Robert Whitwham speaks to the crowd at the Chamber luncheon

Robert Whitwham speaks to the crowd at the Chamber luncheon

LNG luncheon draws a crowd

Interested citizens came out to hear Robert Whitwham from Spectra Energy speak about a proposed gas pipeline.

Members of the business community gathered last week to hear more about Spectra Energy’s proposed LNG pipeline.

Smithers District Chamber of Commerce hosted Robert Whitwham, Vice President, Canadian LNG for Spectra Energy for their monthly guest speaker luncheon on Thursday afternoon to speak about some of the issues and benefits surrounding the proposed LNG pipeline that would run from the eastern border of B.C. all the way to the west coast.

“This pipeline holds a lot of promise for B.C. and for communities along the way. It will grow B.C. jobs and it will allow us to sell our abundant natural resource to more markets,” Whitwham said.

The 850-kilometre pipeline is one of 10 new liquefied natural gas developments currently proposed in B.C. that would transport gas from fields near Hudson’s Hope in the east of the province to two LNG plants that would be built on Ridley Island, near Prince Rupert.

Unlike the Enbridge pipeline, Spectra’s would carry gas, so the environmental risk is lessened and along with it, the opposition, Whitwham said.

However, the pipeline is coming under some criticism from environmentalists in the northwest, who protest the pipeline’s proposed route through a grizzly bear sanctuary in Khutzeymateen Inlet.

In a statement released by the Valhalla Wilderness Society, grizzly bear biologist Wayne McCrory said the proposed pipeline, “will shatter the ecological integrity of the whole area, and is a threat to every grizzly bear for miles around.”

Spectra has countered the opposition by stating that it’s far too early in the process to look at a definitive route and the one currently proposed is not final.

The overriding theme of Whitwham’s presentation pointed out both the economic benefits to British Columbia, and the environmental benefits to choosing natural gas over other fuels.

Compared to coal, he said, natural gas produces 50-60 percent less emissions and 99 per cent less particulate matter.

Like most pipelines in the works right now, the purpose of the LNG pipeline is to expose B.C.’s abundant natural gas reserves to emerging Asian markets.

Due to recent technological improvements in extracting natural gas, both Canada and the United States now have record levels of reserves. This, in turn, has driven the price of natural gas down to $3 dollars per barrel at home. Asian markets are currently paying $16 dollars per barrel.

Spectra Energy estimates the pipeline will create 7,000 temporary jobs, 60 permanent positions and $23 million annually in tax revenue.

After the presentation an informed audience asked a few well thought out questions about the risks associated with building a billion dollar pipeline with a fluctuating global price for natural gas and new players, like Australia coming into the market.

Whitwham seemed confident that there would always be a demand for natural gas, citing countries like Japan, where the future of nuclear power is in doubt.