Alberta and British Columbia have joined forces to try to gain a foothold for Canadian natural gas in the Asian market.
Officials from both provinces will head to Japan next week to make the case for Western Canadian natural gas at a business summit in Tokyo.
They’ll also tour a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import facility before Alberta’s associate minister of natural gas, Dale Nally, flies to South Korea for meetings with energy officials.
Alberta and B.C. aren’t always on the same page on the energy file. The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is a particularly sore point between the two provinces, prompting heated exchanges by political leaders, an Alberta bill aimed at turning off oil exports to B.C., court challenges and even trade snafus including a short-lived Alberta ban on B.C. wine imports.
But on natural gas, the two governments are in “absolute alignment," Mr. Nally said in an interview. “No hard sell was required, no arm-twisting was needed – we are aligned on this,” he said.
“When it comes to natural gas, it knows no boundaries. It’s not about selling Alberta gas or B.C. gas, it’s about selling gas from the Canadian Western Basin."
The B.C. government has not responded to requests for comment.
Jobs and economic growth are important drivers for the two provinces to work together, he said, but so is the fact that emissions are lower when you generate electricity using natural gas rather than coal.
In December, Canada announced final regulations to phase-out traditional coal plants by 2030. In Alberta, the mandated change has power producers stepping up plans to convert plants from coal to natural gas. Take TransAlta Corp., which in September unveiled its Pioneer Pipeline to supply natural gas to its generating units at Keephills and Sundance outside Edmonton as part of its pivot away from coal.
But accessing the Asian market comes with challenges, the most pressing of which is accessing coastal ports to ship the product across the Pacific Ocean.
The current B.C. Coastal GasLink project under way from Dawson Creek to the LNG Canada facility near Kitimat will certainly help, Mr. Nally said, as will the Jordan Cove project proposed by Calgary-based Pembina, which would see an LNG export terminal at Coos Bay, Oregon.
Shipping time to Asia from those ports will be between eight and 10 days shorter than going from Texas or Louisiana, giving Western Canadian LNG a leg-up over its rivals. It also helps that the basin houses an abundant supply of gas – about 300 years’ worth, based on current levels.
Mr. Nally’s key message to Asian investors is a simple one: “It’s clean, it’s a secure supply and it’s ethically sourced.”
The Alberta contingent will also use its Asia trip to try to lure investors to the province’s burgeoning petrochemicals market, riffing off the continuation of its $1.1-billion petrochemicals diversification plan.
The program supports privately funded large-scale projects by providing royalty credits to companies that build facilities to turn ethane, methane and propane feedstocks into products such as plastics, fabrics and fertilizers.
Mr. Nally said there has been significant interest in the second round of the program, announced last year by the former NDP government, and he’s hoping he can spark similar enthusiasm for the sector among Asian investors.
The trip will cost about $31,000 for the Alberta contingent, including economy class airfares, meals and ground transportation for Mr. Nally, his chief of staff and his associate deputy minister.
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