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The stalled venture in Bish Cove in Kitimat, B.C., seen here on Oct. 7, 2018, plans to use technology powered by electric motors to supercool natural gas into liquid form, relying on hydroelectricity from BC Hydro instead of using turbines driven by natural gas.Amber Bracken/The Globe and Mail

British Columbia’s environmental regulator has asked a liquefied natural gas venture led by Chevron Corp. to detail its planned B.C. terminal’s impact on climate change.

The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office said in a recent regulatory filing that Chevron-led Kitimat LNG plans to calculate its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from a regional and global perspective.

Kitimat LNG helped develop a 192-page draft document based on guidelines provided by the B.C. regulator, kicking off a public consultation process.

Environmental groups say it is crucial for British Columbia to reduce GHG emissions within the province’s boundaries. But the draft document released by the B.C. regulator, dated Oct. 7, opens the door for a discussion on taking a worldwide view on GHGs. “Spatial boundaries will not be defined, as GHG and climate change are, by nature, both regional and global,” according to the regulatory filing.

Supporters of B.C.'s fledgling LNG industry say exports of the fuel would displace coal at power plants in Asia and therefore help reduce air pollution overseas.

California-based Chevron co-owns Kitimat LNG with Australia’s Woodside Petroleum Ltd., with the two partners hoping to build their much-delayed LNG export project at Bish Cove, located in the Kitimat region in northwestern British Columbia.

The Chevron-led venture plans to use technology powered by electric motors to supercool natural gas into liquid form, relying on hydroelectricity from BC Hydro instead of using turbines driven by natural gas.

The provincial regulator, also known as the EAO, will be holding an open house in Kitimat on Wednesday to provide information to local residents, who have until Nov. 6 to submit comments on Kitimat LNG’s plans. Another open house will be held in nearby Terrace on Thursday.

Besides seeking information on anticipated GHG emissions, the EAO said it has also asked Kitimat LNG for details on a range of economic, social and health issues, as well as Indigenous consultation.

Following final amendments, the current process would then pave the way for Kitimat LNG to file a detailed project application to the EAO for review.

The emphasis on the effects of climate change underscores the changes to regulatory assessments since August, when the federal Impact Assessment Act came into force. The B.C. regulator is leading the review in collaboration with the federal Impact Assessment Agency, which until August had been named the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

The federal government said it revamped the review process in an effort to restore public trust in Ottawa’s approval of controversial resource projects. New reviews must place a greater emphasis than in the past on factors such as social impacts, Indigenous rights and whether a project is consistent with Canada’s commitments to battle climate change.

British Columbia is slated to toughen its provincial assessment rules, with Bill 51 expected to come into force by early 2020, environmental lawyers say.

LNG Canada, led by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, started construction of an $18-billion export terminal in October, 2018, on a Kitimat industrial site located on the Haisla Nation’s traditional territory.

By contrast, Kitimat LNG’s site is at Bish Cove, located on the Haisla’s reserve land near the community of Kitimat.

In July, Kitimat LNG said in a 186-page project description to B.C. and federal environmental regulators that its facility “will be one of the lowest GHG emitters of its type. An electric-drive concept also means that significant increases to liquefaction capacity can be achieved with a negligible increase in GHG emissions.”

Shell-led LNG Canada has vowed to operate at 0.15 carbon-dioxide equivalent tonnes for each tonne of LNG produced, a level below British Columbia’s limit of 0.16 for emissions intensity. LNG Canada will use natural gas in the liquefaction process in which high-efficiency turbines supercool gas into liquid form, while using hydroelectricity for a supporting role, including auxiliary power.

Kitimat LNG has not spelled out its precise target yet, but in its July project description, it included a chart that suggested it might be able to run at less than half of the 0.16 limit for emissions intensity.

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