A liquefied natural gas venture near Squamish has applied to obtain an environmental assessment certificate, saying the project is slated for property that is already zoned for industrial use.
Building an LNG export terminal seven kilometres southwest of Squamish will also breathe new life into the region because the energy facility will create economic spinoffs, Woodfibre LNG said in an 82-page executive summary of its application to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office.
Industrial activity on the site began in the early 1900s with the opening of a small sawmill, the applicant said.
The export property is located on the site of the former Woodfibre pulp mill, closed by Western Forest Products Inc. nine years ago. "The project area has undergone more than a century of industrial use," Woodfibre LNG said in its report filed on Tuesday. "There has also been extensive logging in and adjacent to the project area."
Woodfibre LNG pointed out Squamish's roots as a pulp town dating back to 1912, noting that the mill closed in 2006.
There would be more than 650 jobs at the peak of construction, and nearly 100 plant workers are to be hired once the small-scale LNG operation opens. Industry observers say that Woodfibre LNG could start shipping energy supplies to Asia by the end of 2017, potentially making it the first project to export B.C. LNG to Asian buyers.
"The project will be powered by electricity provided by BC Hydro, thereby reducing air quality concerns and generating fewer greenhouse gas emissions," according to the executive summary.
Woodfibre LNG officials will be consulting with various aboriginal groups, including the Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
Of the 18 B.C. LNG projects on the drawing board so far, none of the proponents have made final investment decisions. Woodfibre LNG, privately owned by Singapore-based RGE Pte. Ltd. and controlled by Indonesian businessman Sukanto Tanoto, is seeking environmental approval before it decides whether to forge ahead.
The public comment period for Woodfibre LNG will run from Jan. 22 to March 9.
Some groups in Squamish have opposed the project because they argue that it will contribute to pollution and detract from a local economy that has prospered because of tourism and outdoor activities. Critics assert that the negatives, such as climate change, outweigh the positives of relatively modest, long-term job creation. Patricia Heintzman, who won election as Squamish Mayor last November, has complained that Woodfibre LNG doesn't have a social licence to proceed.
But Byng Giraud, Woodfibre LNG's vice-president of corporate affairs, said the project will strike the proper tone.
"Woodfibre LNG has worked to design a project that is right for Squamish and right for B.C., with good jobs, opportunities for local businesses and contractors, and that protects the environment, on land and water. The environmental assessment review is a critical part of that process," Mr. Giraud said in a statement Tuesday.
Project officials say Woodfibre LNG will contribute more than $2-million annually to the local tax base, with ripple effects to be felt across the region.
Preliminary estimates show that the construction phase will cost almost $620-million. The export terminal's capacity is pegged at 2.1 million tonnes a year of LNG.
"Woodfibre LNG has committed to undertaking a local hiring strategy and a local training strategy to enhance the likelihood that local assessment area residents are well-positioned to seek these opportunities," the executive summary said.