Natural gas not a viable option for province’s energy needs: report

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Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy (left) and Nalcor Energy president and CEO Ed Martin address members of the media today in St. John's regarding a report on natural gas. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

The provincial government rolled out a detailed study of natural gas in the province, laying out why neither Grand Banks gas or liquefied natural gas (LNG) are viable options for Newfoundland and Labrador electricity.

Ziff Energy based out of Calgary was hired to look at natural gas.

Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy held a news conference this afternoon to explain it all to reporters.

Ziff concluded that natural gas isn't a viable way to generate electricity in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Ziff provided commentary on the availability and feasibility of natural gas as it relates to LNG and a pipeline from the Grand Banks as a source for power generation for the Island,” Kennedy said.

"Ziff concluded that, at this time, natural gas is not a cost-effective, economically viable option to replace the Holyrood facility and address our province’s energy needs.”

The report says that Grand Banks gas is not an option because it is “stranded.”

Oil companies with production licences offshore essentially own the resources under the ocean floor. Because of that, the government can't just take the natural gas that oil companies aren't currently using.

Another problem is that Newfoundland and Labrador is a small market, and so only a low volume of gas could be used. However, a pipeline from the Grand Banks would be expensive to build; it could be economically viable if there was a critical mass of consumers, but the province just isn't big enough to make it work.

LNG is a different ball of wax, but it won't work either, Ziff reported.

“Nalcor did an extensive review and screening of alternatives at Decision Gate 2 in November 2010 and natural gas, both offshore and LNG, were screened out at that time,” said Ed Martin, Nalcor CEO. “We were appreciative of Ziff's analysis and the results confirmed Nalcor's initial screening. We are focused on delivering the least cost alternative to consumers and that remains Muskrat Falls with a transmission link the Island.”

Because LNG is a world commodity, it tends to be tied to oil prices — generally 80-90 per cent of Brent Crude prices.

If the province was running on LNG it would cost essentially the same amount of money as burning oil at Holyrood.

Ziff reported that for practical purposes, the United States shale gas — which tends to be cheaper — doesn't really affect the world price of LNG.

All of this comes as part of a steady deluge of information from the provincial government explaining why the Muskrat Falls project is the cheapest source of electricity for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Earlier this week, the government released final cost estimates for the Muskrat Falls project, and Nalcor recommended that the provincial cabinet sanction the project.

This week the government has already released reports on wind power and Labrador mining electricity needs.

More coverage in Friday’s print edition.

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Calgary, United States

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Recent comments

  • Tim Jamison
    November 01, 2012 - 23:45

    NG power generation would require massive amounts of additional infrastructure that we can't afford. It's a non-option. Digging up every street in the province to place the delivery lines is a non-starter. This option is dead. Wind and solar? Mostly dead, as well. Sure, we can use it to power 10% of our grid or less, but we can't go higher than that or we will have regular brownouts. Those options are also massively expensive. Have a look at Ontario right now. Power plants and green power sources are one of the main factors that are destroying the Ontario Liberal Party right now. We also cannot continue to use Holyrood. Oil prices are only going to continue rising, as will your power bills should we refurbish this oil-burning, environmental disaster of a facility. Muskrat is the only option we have that makes any sense and that's why Nalcor is pushing it. It's their job to power Newfoundland in ways that are in our best interests. Muskrat is green, it's reliable, and we can combine it with the preexisting dam in 2041. And we can sell the power through the NL/NS line. Do you know what Maurice and Power 2041's (or whatever their name is) job is? Getting the Liberal Party back in power. They don't care about you. They care about their pals and their appointments and their MONEY and forcing you to live through brownouts and skyrocketing power bills are colateral damages to get to their end goals, nothing more. Liberals are scammers, Adscammers. This is what they do. Always remember this

  • David
    November 01, 2012 - 17:04

    Muskrat Falls may not do one positive thing for Newofundlanders....it may very well be our personal ruination....but it will ensure that when oil royalties run out, Confederation Building will still run amok with the oppulent, wasteful ifestyle of 21st century blue-eyed sheiks to which they've become accustomed. And that is MF's truest, greatest, and most compelling virtue.

  • Eli
    November 01, 2012 - 14:48

    The Great Train Robbery has nothing on Muskrat Falls. Can't understand Kennedy in this whole matter considering there's the ghost of Judge Hughes lurking over his shoulder. He has as much credibility as Mickey Mouse.

  • sillee newfeez
    November 01, 2012 - 14:42

    Why are people looking at things in a "energy for the island" perspective. What you all should be looking at is whether or not the energy resources are marketable, period. Nobody looked at Hibernia and asked if it would be viable to fill up the rusty cars and snowmobiles around here. Why are you looking at natural gas this way. In terms of government forcing companies to harvest it instead of either pumping it back it or just burning it off, they have plenty of leverage when they negotiate royalty agreements. Get it to shore, compress it and ship it to market.

    • John in Whitbourne
      November 01, 2012 - 15:51

      You are correct. Natural Gas is selling at a long-term low because of increased supply due to the application of 'fracking' to gas fields in the US (and elsewhere). The current market rules out development of NL offshore gas for the same reasons that Hibernia was non-viable when oil prices were very low. Interesting argument about long-term gas prices. It is reasonable to believe that gas prices will track oil prices over the long term. There is a long track record of both sets of prices. The data can verify or disprove the statement. Gas and oil are substitute goods, like butter and margerine. In the short term, gas prices will rise and oil prices will fall (all other things being constant) because industry will shift from oil as to gas as a fuel. This shifting takes longer than switching from butter to margerine because engines take some time to modify or replace. In the long term the two prices will be positively correlated.

  • Frank
    November 01, 2012 - 13:52

    Maybe not a viable electricity generation option but it is certainly neglegent to just discard the natural gas produced in the oil fields as unusable after all it is used as a home heating source more than it is used for electricity generation have they even looked into that option.

    • Brian
      November 01, 2012 - 14:27

      To all naysayers. The full report is available to read on line. Educate yourselves before spouting ignorant crap. Generate electricity offshore!? ... seriously. Use it for home heating!? .... too foolish to talk about!!!! The pipeline is hugely expensive and you'd have to dig up every road in the city to lay out piping to get it to the customers. For GAWDS sake ... use that thing perched on your head for more than a bloody hat rack!

    • John in Whitbourne
      November 01, 2012 - 15:55

      Would you pay double the price for natural gas just to say that you were burning Grand Banks gas in your furnace? Remember that the first day's heat will cost you several billion dollars.

    • Frank
      November 01, 2012 - 16:59

      Wow..Pot --- kettle. Educate yourself a little..Just about every metropolitan city in this country has Natural Gas as a home heating option (and it's one of the cleaner and cheaper ones too) without having torn the living cr@p out of their city, stop overreacting fool. There are existing infrastructures where piping could be run, ya got indoor water, sewage well then ya already got trenches under your damn roads. Ignorant fool with such a closed mind and a block head. What I am saying is it is way too easy to dismiss this opportunty, and face it buddy that's what it is, to invest some of that natural resource revenue back into the province and improve the sol. It's narrowmindedness like yours Brian that will sink NL back into the have nots. As for the "report" it's just someone else's opinion too pal.

  • John Smith
    November 01, 2012 - 13:14

    Why pipe it to land, set up GPS system, burn it offshore and transmit electricity ashore...

    • Shawn
      November 01, 2012 - 13:31

      Very interesting point. I'd like to hear their answer.

    • EuroGuy
      November 01, 2012 - 13:46

      My initial thought would be that operating a floating generating station, the size of the Holyrood plant, is probably going to be much more expensive than running it on land. Another issue would that currently when a storm approaches, the oil platforms essentially shuts down. So a generating station would probably need to do the same, so this scenario would essentially ensure several days of power outage for a large part of the island, several times per year.

  • John Smith
    November 01, 2012 - 13:10

    Maurice...it's not government, it's a company called Ziff energy...but hey keep the lunacy going...its fun....

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 01, 2012 - 13:00

    Of course our own natural gas or LNG cannot be found (by government/Nalcor) to be feasible ---- natural gas or LNG would not meet the needs of the mining companies of Labrador. ...........Muskrat Falls is their choice...... And why wouldn't it be?......... 37 cent power, obtained for 2-3 cents per KWh---- and paid for lock, stock and barrel by captive island ratepayers --- not until 2041, but until 2067 (25 years AFTER near-zero cost Upper Churchill power should have been available for our children and grandchildren............. Instead, WE will lock them in to unneeded, very high cost Muskrat Falls power for 50 years...... And for whose benefit? --- multi-million / multi-billion dollar mining companies of Labrador. Unbelievable. ........WE DO IT TO OURSELVES.

    • Robert
      November 01, 2012 - 15:20

      Ah yes but you fail to mention that Muskrat Falls is a renewable resource while the other options depend on fossil fuels that will run out. And basic economics say as supply dries up the cost goes up!

    • John in Whitbourne
      November 01, 2012 - 16:58

      What part of "it is extremely expensive to develop a whole new industry hundreds of kilometers out in the North Atlantic" do you not understand? Where have you been for the last twenty-five year?. Even a CFA like myself knew that Hibernia was a gamble in 1987. Oil prices were very low until quite recently. Thirty-seven cent power is utter crap. The capital portion of the cost of producing MF power is on the order of NINE cents a kWh. The 800MW dam producing base load power around the clock will produce about 600,000,000 kWh per month (800,000 kW x 24 x 30, screw February). The monthly payment, principal an interest on $7.4 Billion over 30 years at 8 percent is about $56 million. In round figures, (because a caribou might fart in Labrador and I am too old to study chaos theory) that is NINE(9) cents per kWh.