Research shows Woodfibre LNG represents a significant opportunity to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.
The new data comes from two separate reports. One was commissioned by us and looks specifically at our facility. The other is published research conducted by three teams at UBC, University of Calgary, and Stanford University, that assessed the entire lifecycle emissions of Canadian LNG and compared them with coal.
Both studies find that LNG will help us avoid greenhouse gas emissions globally. The report commissioned by Woodfibre found a 45% reduction compared with coal. The academic research found a range of between 34% – 62% reduction.
The findings are further supported by 2019 reporting from the International Energy Agency, which is the gold-standard in energy data modelling. The IEA concludes that natural gas will play a role in the clean energy mix needed to meet the most aggressive Paris Agreement/IPCC standards of limiting warming to well under 2 degrees Celsius.
Finally, we poked around on the B.C. GHG Emissions Inventory ourselves for context and to find out: where do B.C.’s emissions come from?
Interested? We’re providing as much information as we have: read on!
(All sources can be accessed through links on this page.)
What did these studies find out?
Canadian LNG, specifically Woodfibre LNG, represent an opportunity to offset emissions-intensive coal energy in Asia and help keep global warming to IPCC-recommended targets of well under 2 degrees Celsius.
Let’s break down the results by study, using quotes from the reports:
1. Woodfibre LNG Facility GHG Emissions Comparison, Mantle 314, 2020
- Annual GHG emissions from the Woodfibre LNG facility represent a small fraction of the emissions by large industrial emitters in B.C.
- The largest single facility industrial emitter in B.C. has emissions more than 15 times the annual amount of Woodfibre’s facility.
- Woodfibre LNG’s annual emissions would not even place it in the top 25 largest single facility emitters in the province.
- The emissions intensity at Woodfibre’s facility is substantially lower compared to other LNG facilities: just 16% of the global average.
- The replacement of coal-fired electricity with natural gas-fired electricity generation using Woodfibre LNG contributes to a substantial avoidance of GHG emissions.
- Using LNG from the Woodfibre facility for electricity generation would result in an estimated 45% GHG emissions reduction compared to an equivalent amount of coal-fired electricity generation.
- This is equivalent to the annual emissions from over 700,000 cars or 76 years of the annual emissions from Squamish itself.
- The Woodfibre facility’s emissions represent just 0.2% of B.C.’s entire annual emissions. The offset of emissions from the replacement of coal is equivalent to 5% of B.C.’s annual emissions.
2. Greenhouse-gas emissions of Canadian liquefied natural gas for use in China: Comparison and synthesis of three independent life cycle assessments, (University of British Columbia, University of Calgary, Stanford University), Journal of Cleaner Production, 2020
- Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a promising alternative to coal to mitigate the greenhouse gas (GHG) and particulate emissions from power, industry, and district heating in China.
- The GHG emissions of Canadian LNG to China for power and heat generation were found to be 427-556 g CO2-eq/kWh and 81-92 g CO2-eq/MJ. Compared with Chinese coal for power generation, 291- 687 g CO2-eq (34%-62%) reduction can be achieved per kWh of power generated.
- Global CO2 emissions increased 1.5% annually during the last decade. China is a major driver of this global trend with an annual increase of 3% on average, due primarily to coal consumption.
- The Chinese government has been promoting coal-to-gas switching because of the lower air pollution and GHG emissions associated with NG [natural gas].
- From 2000-2016 China has increased NG production… but domestic gas production failed to keep pace with increasing demand. To meet this gap, two potential options are coal-based synthetic natural gas and import natural gas.
- Imported natural gas is a better choice in terms of its energy return on investment (Kong et al.)
- The pre-combustion emissions estimated in this study are lower than the median of literature studies (14.7 vs 16.3 g CO2-eq/MJ) due to the characteristics of the gas, relatively new upstream facilities operating in a highly regulated jurisdiction and effective methane mitigation practices deployed by the operator.
Comparison breakdown* – power generation
Numbers in the table below are g CO2-eq/kWh, or grams of carbon dioxide equivalent for every kilowatt produced per hour.
|Total emissions avoidance|
|848 g |
|291 g – 687 g|
(34% – 62%)
|University of Calgary||428 g|
|Stanford University||427 g|
*Table assembled by Woodfibre LNG. The research teams estimated variances in project emissions based on factors that would be specific to individual operations, and provided low/base/high estimates.
3. Additional information
- In their 2019 Tracking Power report, the International Energy Agency concluded that natural gas plays a pivotal role as part of a clean energy mix, including within the most aggressive decarbonisation scenario, the “Sustainable Development Scenario” (SDS), in which global temperature rise is held to well under 2 degrees Celsius, as per Paris Agreement targets: “In the SDS, gas use as a flexible transition fuel increases until the late 2020s, displacing unabated coal.”
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came to the same conclusion earlier: “GHG emissions from energy supply can be reduced significantly by replacing current world average coal‐fired power plants with modern, highly efficient natural gas combined‐cycle power plants or combined heat and power plants, provided that natural gas is available and the fugitive emissions associated with extraction and supply are low or mitigated (robust evidence, high agreement).” IPCC Working Group 2014
- Based on data provided in the B.C. government’s GHG Emissions Inventory:
- In 2017, the terrible wildfire season was the highest source of emissions in the province
- The 2nd largest source was land-use, specifically the decomposition of harvested wood products.
- The 3rd largest source was transportation.
- 9 of the top 10 biggest industrial emitters are pulp and paper operations. Cement and metals operations are also high emitters.
- In terms of emissions that come from energy use:
- Road transportation is the biggest source, with 59% higher emissions than the next biggest sources: oil and gas extraction and manufacturing.
- B.C. requires facilities with emissions over 10,000 tonnes of GHG each year to report.
- Some sectors that consume significant fossil fuels are excluded from reporting, such as: international aviation, film production, cruise tourism and ski resorts.
What is the background for the academic study you are highlighting?
We discovered this recently released research as part of our due diligence on the Mantle 314 report, and found it helpful in better understanding our local and global emissions impact.
This research was released in February 2020. The purpose of it was to find out if there was much of a difference when three different Universities used three different methodologies to calculate the emissions of LNG vs. coal.
They used an existing upstream provider and factored in emissions that would come from increasing production for a hypothetical LNG export facility on B.C.’s north coast. This hypothetical facility is much larger than Woodfibre.
The teams found that even using different methodologies and assumptions, the overall conclusion was the same: LNG is a lower emissions alternative to coal on a life cycle basis.
Why did you commission the Mantle 314 report?
Earlier this year, we reached out to Mantle 314 to help us collect and verify emissions research for public education purposes. We wanted to ensure that the information we were presenting to the public was easy to understand and supported by publicly-available, credible, and independent sources.
What is Mantle 314 and are they qualified?
Mantle 314 is Canada’s largest consulting firm dedicated specifically to climate change. They have a multi-disciplinary team consisting of engineers, lawyers, accountants, and public policy professionals who work with private and public sector clients to identify and manage the risks and opportunities of climate change. Mantle’s consultants have experience working on greenhouse gas accounting, life cycle analysis, and climate risk reporting and disclosure projects for oil and gas, utility, financial services and real estate clients.
Their website is: https://mantle314.com/
If you hired them, how can we trust the results?
In their report, Mantle 314 shows all their data sources. Everything, from the figures of throughput and GHG emissions we provided (which were verified by engineering firms and the B.C. government), to the regional emissions estimates, are sourced through reliable, public data. Plus, Mantle has shared all of that with you, including links and methodology so you can check their work. The Mantle report is based on a previous, maximum emissions estimate for Woodfibre LNG of 142,000 tCO2e per year. The current average operating emissions for Woodfibre LNG are estimated to be 68,000 tCO2e per year.
Are you using the most up to date sources and data?
We are using the most up-to-date sources and data that are currently publicly available. This includes the 2017 B.C. government GHG Emissions Inventory. Local emissions data is older – from 2012. Unfortunately, this is the most up-to-date information available right now for the District of Squamish.
Cited academic research and data modelling done by the International Energy Agency are from 2020 and 2019, respectively.
What about upstream emissions?
Mantle 314’s research looked at our facility only. We agreed this was the best way to achieve an accurate, data-driven, ‘apples to apples’ comparison with other single source facilities (in B.C., and coal-fired electricity in Asia).
However, we realize there will be questions about how our upstream operations impact our GHG offsets. This is why we are also highlighting academic research that not only includes upstream, but the entire life cycle of LNG. While their research was based on a hypothetical LNG facility, their upstream data comes from a real company that sources gas from the Montney region (as does our primary provider).
The result of the life cycle study is consistent with our facility-only research, and estimates an emissions avoidance of between 34%-62% if Canadian LNG replaces coal.
What are your upstream provider’s emissions?
Our primary upstream provider, Pacific Canbriam Energy, reports their emissions publicly every year. The emissions quoted on the B.C. government GHG inventory are listed as 149,765 t CO2e for 2017.
What about the growth in production your upstream provider will need to undertake to provide enough feedgas to Woodfibre? Won’t that impact your emissions too?
Recent research done by academic teams at UBC, University of Calgary (UC), and Stanford University (SU) modeled a hypothetical scale-up in production from a real upstream provider in the Montney region to serve a B.C. LNG facility. Here is their finding, quoted from the report:
“For a consistent comparison of infrastructure and well construction emissions between three teams, different emission categories were aggregated for each team, i.e., for Stanford University (SU), drilling and development, land use and offsite emissions were combined to obtain 0.44 g CO2-eq/MJ, for UBC, pad and plant infrastructure and well construction emissions were combined to contribute 0.37 g CO2-eq/MJ, and for UC [University of Calgary], drilling, hydraulic fracturing and well completion emissions were combined to get 0.17 g CO2-eq/MJ. This indicates that life cycle emissions estimation for LNG are generally not sensitive to infrastructure and well construction emissions.”
In other words, while we do expect some emissions increases, activities associated with increasing production are not always significant sources of emissions. Pacific Canbriam Energy has found this to be true in assessing their own emissions on an annual basis. They have noted increases in production and decreases in emissions during the same time periods.
Why are your numbers different to the ones you used previously? How did your impact increase to the equivalent of taking 700,000 cars off the road, from the previously stated 400,000?
The conclusions we were stating previously were calculated using broad estimates and assumptions about upstream emissions compared with coal. These numbers were calculated to help provide a general idea of the overall impact of our project on GHG emissions. However, they were not independently verified.
In updating this number, we decided to limit the study to facility only so that the impact of the Woodfibre LNG project is made clear and the impact assessment is more precise. We also engaged an experienced, independent company to compile and verify the data using open-source data banks and calculators. This has resulted in a more accurate representation of our impact, because the figures are well-established, specific to this project, and the industrial comparisons are apples to apples.
How was the 700,000 cars equivalent calculated?
Here’s the calculation and methodology that was used by Mantle 314:
- Woodfibre LNG throughput: 2.1million tonnes per annum x 40 megajules per kilogram = 84 million gigajoules of energy per year = 79,615,200 MMBtu
- Used Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions inventory to find annual GHG emissions generated by using Coal, Propane and Natural gas to generate the same amount of energy
- Coal (electrical power sector): 7,664,699 tCO2e
- Propane gas: 4,895,567 tCO2e
- Natural gas (Woodfibre LNG): 4,228,745 tCO2e
- Emissions avoided by using Woodfibre’s LNG instead of Coal = 7,664,699 – 4,228,745 = 3,435,954 tCO2e
- Used EPA’s Greenhouse Gases Equivalencies Calculator to estimate the equivalent number of passenger vehicles driven in a year (using 3,435,954 tCO2e)
- The estimated “Passenger vehicles driven for one year” is found to be = 742,316
- (We chose to use a conservative number because of the assumptions related to type of passenger vehicles, and so rounded off to a lower number: 700,000 cars)
How does your facility work within the parameters of the Climate Action Plan from District of Squamish?
We commend the District of Squamish for their Climate Action Plan. We agree that climate change is an urgent, global issue and we must do everything we can to protect the environment.
Our facility will send LNG to Asia, which is currently dependent on coal for electricity and which emits twice the amount of GHGs when compared to Natural Gas.
As climate change is a global issue, it is important to remember that it needs a global response. Natural gas from Canada, and particularly from our facility, is the cleanest in the world, and will play a vital role in the reduction of global GHG emissions, as the world continues to ramp up renewable power production.
At a local level, we have already reduced our facility’s emissions by 85% by switching to hydro-electric power. However, we are always looking for additional ways we can reduce our environmental impact even further.
How do you know that LNG from your facility will directly offset coal for electricity production in Asia?
There is widely-accepted evidence to show that a switch from coal to natural gas is happening in jurisdictions that historically relied heavily on coal power, such as the U.S. and Europe. This has successfully reduced emissions in those jurisdictions.
The IEA described the U.S. activity in their CO2 Emissions 2019 Report:
“A 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation underpinned the decline in overall US emissions in 2019. Coal-fired power plants faced even stronger competition from natural gas-fired generation, with benchmark gas prices an average of 45% lower than 2018 levels. As a result, gas increased its share in electricity generation to a record high of 37%.”
China remains reliant on coal power, and are leading the world in emissions growth. To meet Paris Agreement targets and solve a human health problem, there is high motivation and pressure for the country to phase away from coal.
In the academic study, Greenhouse-gas emissions of Canadian liquefied natural gas for use in China: Comparison and synthesis of three independent life cycle assessments, the researchers cite additional published sources to describe current conditions for coal-to-natural gas-switching. Their highlighted reasoning includes:
- China has been pursuing coal-to-natural gas-switching policies
- Imported LNG is more economical and domestic natural gas supply cannot keep up with demand
- Demand projections show natural gas use rising and coal levelling off then falling
What are the sources for your research?
Here’s a list of the main sources:
BC government GHG Emissions Inventory:
Environmental Protection Agency Emissions Equivalency Calculator:
International Energy Agency:
Journal of Cleaner Production, Greenhouse-gas emissions of Canadian liquefied natural gas for use in China: Comparison and synthesis of three independent life cycle assessments
Additional sources are cited in the research.
Where do emissions come from in B.C.?
Provincially the biggest emitters come from land use. In 2017, B.C. experienced a terrible year for wildfires. The emissions from these fires were the largest source of emissions, and more than quadruple the next biggest source: decomposition from harvested wood.
The third biggest source in 2017 was road transportation. We took a look at the Sea to Sky highway specifically. Using the traffic data provided by the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and the EPA Emissions Equivalency Calculator, we determined that Sea to Sky traffic contributes about 166,000 tonnes of CO2e per year. For comparison, Woodfibre’s annual emissions will be 68,000 tCO2e per year.
The biggest single facility industrial emitters are pulp mills. If you also consider linear facilities (ie. Oil and gas extraction with multiple facilities along a pipeline), then the top 20 industrial emitters from 2017 were:
- Oil and gas extraction
- Pulp mill
- Pulp mill
- Pulp mill
- Pulp mill
- Pulp mill
- Pulp mill
- Pulp mill
- Pulp mill
- Pulp mill
- Power generation
- Oil and gas extraction
- Pulp mill
- Oil and gas extraction
- Pulp mill
- Oil and gas extraction
- Petroleum refinery
In a list like this, Woodfibre LNG would fit somewhere around 45th. B.C.’s largest single facility emitter (a pulp mill) has emissions 16 times greater than our facility.
Sea to Sky highway road traffic source: https://prdoas3.pub-apps.th.gov.bc.ca/tig-public/Report.do?pdbSiteId=23273
Is Woodfibre LNG willing to reduce emissions by 45% as requested by the District of Squamish in their submission to the BC EAO?
Woodfibre is always working to lessen our environmental impact. In fact, we were the first LNG project in B.C. to commit to using hydro-electricity for power, immediately reducing our emissions by 85%. We have responded to community feedback by making major design changes that helped to minimize our footprint, such as the switch from seawater cooling to air cooling, and the addition of a Floatel for worker housing. We are continuing to seek out new collaborations and initiatives that will help us make even further strides in environmental sustainability.
Keep in mind that Woodfibre LNG will be the cleanest LNG facility in the world, with emissions well under the provincial benchmark and just 16% of average LNG operations around the world.*
*(SOURCES: Global LNG Facility GHG Benchmarking Report, Delphi Group, 2019 and Woodfibre LNG Facility GHG Emissions Comparison, Mantle 314, 2020)
The report claims that switching from coal fired electricity to LNG is the equivalent to taking 700,000 cars off the road for a year. Is that every year?
The calculations are every year for the lifetime of operations, with current conditions unchanged.
What is the size of the companies you’re comparing with? Have they been scaled appropriately?
We are using data summarized in the provincial GHG inventory. While some of the larger emitters may be also larger producers, the province does not adjust for this possibility.