Natural gas advocate rejects consultant study

Ashley Fitzpatrick
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Cabot Martin says Ziff Energy Group not experts and had hands tied

Cabot Martin addresses members of the media in St. John's today. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Pointing to his decades of experience in the oil and gas industry and familiarity with the provincial offshore, businessman Cabot Martin has rejected the findings of a recent consultant’s report on the potential for natural gas to be the answer to the province’s energy needs.

He has accused the government of ignoring gas as viable alternative to the Muskrat Falls hydro development.

This morning in St. John’s, he offered reporters a written analysis of the Ziff Energy Group study from Oct. 30, 2012. That study was prepared for the provincial Department of Natural Resources and concluded the plan for a hydroelectric development at Muskrat Falls as a least-cost option for supplying power going forward to customers in Newfoundland and Labrador, when compared to using natural gas piped in from the offshore.

“The Ziff Report is, in short, far too restricted and too inaccurate to constitute a valuable addition to our Muskrat information base,” Martin said.

During the press conference, hosted by the 2041 group, Martin repeatedly challenged the expertise of Ziff, the consultant’s ability to reach such a conclusion, and asked: “Why should we be stuck with Ziff?”

He accused government of not allowing a full and free evaluation of the natural gas options for supplying power to the province, using gas from existing offshore finds. Instead, he said, government has pushed Muskrat Falls over all other options.

“In the old age, we would have called it a railroad job,” he said.

Challenged, Martin could not say what would motivate either Nalcor Energy or the provincial government to do such a “railroad job”

Martin’s analysis also included numbers from, “persons highly familiar with North Atlantic pipeline costs.” He would not name his experts, saying they were afraid to speak their objections about the Ziff study.

Names aside, Martin’s analysis relies on the provincial government’s putting the breaks on the Muskrat Falls plan, completing a second and engineering-intensive study of natural gas options and sending that plan to the Public Utilities Board (PUB).

The provincial government would have to enter into tough talk with Husky, he explained, seeking a deal for the natural gas at the White Rose oil field.

Martin said he believed a deal could be done, even though Husky representatives have previously said they are not interested in developing White Rose gas, at this point in time, in the style of Martin’s plan.

When asked what could be done to change the mind of the private company, Martin said he did not know.

He also said, while having sought expert input, he had not spoken with anyone at Husky about his idea.

His analysis of the potential in natural gas is, he said, above all else, food for thought when it comes to alternatives to Muskrat Falls and what the provincial government is promoted as the path forward.

Martin was asked why he insists on putting forward his idea for using natural gas as a provincial energy supply when that idea had — to date — not gained any traction with Nalcor, the Dunderdale government or industry.  

“I will never give up on my right to speak out and speak what I think is the truth,” he said.

Organizations: Ziff Energy Group, Department of Natural Resources, Public Utilities Board

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, White Rose

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • Tim Jamison
    November 24, 2012 - 10:16

    The guy that stands to gain financially from natural gas being used in Newfoundland is fighting for natural gas's cause? Really? You don't say? Can we have a story about the sky being blue next?

  • bernard
    November 24, 2012 - 09:59

    nobobdy thinking aboutour grandchildren onley muskrat fallsa and what danny williamsi is saying

  • madan rana
    November 24, 2012 - 07:33

    After 2041, there is no committment for upper Churchill Energy. By virtue of 2/3 ownership in Plant we will have 2/3 of the energy at our disposal. Considering this, on the Island we will need an additional sources for about 20 to 23 years based on MuskratFalls availble in 2018 as per NALCOR. UpperChurchill energy will be much cheaper than any other source. Natural gas may make sense to fill the gap until 2041 and must be looked seriously with Upper Churchill energy available in 2041. I agree without Upper Churchil, option may not be attractive. Thanksgas

  • Bob
    November 23, 2012 - 18:12

    So let me get this straight?? A natural gas pipeline stretching miles and miles under our waters from an offshore platform to the island to supply power, is a better choice then a clean natural renewable source?? B'ys there's nothing to argue here! Just build Muskrat Falls and get it over with! Find something else to bicker about....

  • elsh
    November 23, 2012 - 16:05

    The Romans used the very same tactics to defeat their enemies... Divide and Conquer ... and the parallels are too, too similar... Look what it's doing to every Newfoundlander and Labradorian ... pitting them against each other... Think we would have learned by now, wouldn't you... This is on a par with law firms suing the government on a class action basis and taking the very same money that we pay in taxes (less their commissions, of course)... Smarten up, People !!!

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 23, 2012 - 15:07

    Sorry to disappoint you John. I have no intention of leaving. I have an oil stove just waiting to be hooked up (my bridge to 2041). I expect if Muskrat Falls goes ahead, you and many others will be joining in.

  • George S.
    November 23, 2012 - 14:29

    After reading the comments I sadly reflected on how the population of Newfoundland still marvels at incidents of bullying. Clearly it is a learned behaviour. Perhaps we could pretend Mr. Martin is a tourist, put on the facade that we are the friendliest people on earth, and share a civilized exchange of opinions without destroying the professional resume of a person.

  • Cyril Rogers
    November 23, 2012 - 14:26

    The knives are out for Mr. Martin, by the usual suspects. He must have hit a sore point with somebody. I have no idea if natural gas is a viable option, or not, but if the government's "expert" was as restricted as the PUB's mandate, then their report on natural gas is highly suspect. Mr. Martin may have a vested interest, or not, but he is being attacked, with innuendo and smear tactics, by the proponents who frequent this forum with their anonymous comments. What annoys me is that any person who opposes any government initiative is considered a traitor or naysayer and often accused of self-interest. Debate is about attacking the argument and not the person. Fair-minded people need to stand up to this crap!

  • Calvin
    November 23, 2012 - 13:52

    Maurice, how do you not get that when we get the Upper Churchill back all we will be getting back is the revenue, not the energy. The energy is already spoken for, and we are not gonna just cut the cord feeding Quebec, we are gonna get rich off of it, haha. Muskrat Falls gives us a one time sharp jump on our power rates, then it will not increase for a long time. Leaving us dependant on oil and gas means our rates will continually rise. Rates have increased over 70% in the last 13 years. If the rates follow the same trend, it means by this 2041 you are obsessed with, our rates will have increased another 140%. Arguements can be made for and against this project, but most of the ones being made against it are as skewed as you insist the government is being. It is happening, get over it.

  • Cold Future
    November 23, 2012 - 13:38

    John Smith-you are becoming a whining naysayer. Up to now you have been a tireless (blinkers firmly in place) supporter of money losing giveaway energy projects like Muskrat which are being sold as least cost but are not by any reasonable measure and not by a long long shot.J. you are right about the cheap natural gas but there are proponents studying ( fully supported by our federal government) piping natural gas and petroleum all the way to Nova Scotia to reduce our dependence on imported foreign oil and mprove the fortunes of western canada.It is also expected that the gas will return to profitablility. The oil is a conundrum and a two edged sword. We make money from it, forecast high oil prices to justify high cost hydro projects but do not want to develop oil and gas to get in on the rising costs and profitability. We have never looked at providing an electrical cable only to import cheap electricity from mainland canada whether the energy is produced from oil and gas or hydro.

  • Tom L.
    November 23, 2012 - 13:17

    Now I thought Mr. Martin had vast experience in cod-fish farming? There's no question he has lots of gas.

  • Concerned
    November 23, 2012 - 12:54

    John Smith, John Smith the laught is going to be on you when this is all settled. This is not over until the fat lady has the last dance. By the way is your name Danny, you seem to be pushing this project awfull hard, or is it you have an awfull lot to lose. Remember you can't take a good man down.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 23, 2012 - 12:48

    J--- in about 25 years we have all the hydro power we need at market prices of around 5 cents [2/3rds of which we get back through our ownership of CF(L)Co]. With Muskrat Falls, when that time arrives, we will be billions in debt and locked in for 25 more years into very high cost (35 cent) Muskrat Falls power. Now tell me how that makes sense? We need an affordable 'bridge' to 2041 -- at most, not a yoke around our (and our children's) necks.

  • Calvin
    November 23, 2012 - 12:47

    Bravo J, bravo, well said.

  • Jay
    November 23, 2012 - 12:41

    Peckford's old cronies are at it again. It amazes me that the media falls all over people like Cabot Martin, Jigger Jim, Dave Vardy etc. They say very little, but they say it over and over again and the media jumps on it every time. Is it a slow news day again?

    • Eli
      November 23, 2012 - 14:55

      The truth hurts & you can't take it Jay.

  • J
    November 23, 2012 - 12:34

    I think this article must be not showing in its entirety. I believe you left out the part of Mr. Martin's credentials? Is he a Mechanical or Petroleum Engineer? Has an MBA perhaps? I would assume Ziff had qualified folks working on this. Note that I have NO affiliation with Ziff Energy, Nalcor or the Government. I've worked for several Operators looking at natural gas potential both east coast (NL and Lab) and Arctic. The depressed prices of natural gas driven in part by the US and Canada shale gas explosion has caused the economics to require all this stranded gas to remain stranded. Encana can hardly make a profit on gas and they are drilling it onshore. If Mr. Martin is so set on having natgas as a fuel then maybe he should raise several billion dollars, aquire some offshore acreages, find a few trillion cubic feet of natgas and then develop it himself at a loss. The Mackenzie Valley pipeline was never built as you recall. There are several TCF of natgas stranded in the Beaufort. Another thing to consider. A electrical transmission line doesn't "spill" anything if it 'ruptures' if an iceberg collides with it. Natgas if finite and hydro is renewable. While I can't comment on the specifics of Muskrat falls as I haven't read up on it, it's worth considering that the hydro will be there for our grandchildren while the natgas will not. We should not shortchange the future of our province because a bunch of lawyers decide to form a group to protest a major hydrodevelopment project.

    • Forward thinking
      November 23, 2012 - 14:22

      You bring up some valid points J, but you also ignore some. Natural gas isn't a one trick pony that hydro is. In addition to its use to generate electricity transmitted via fixed infrastructure, gas can also be used in transportation. Other parts of the world have recognized this and are using it as a diesel / gasoline substitute. Walmart is already in the process of converting it's fleet from diesel, and natural gas refueling stations are becoming more commonplace. NL has turned its back on gas, and with no supply, any gains made in replacing the oil used at Holyrood will be eclipsed by added transportation costs as traditional fuels rise in price. And no, electric vehicles are not going to be the way of the future. Battery costs (both fiscal and environmental) have made sure of that. I'd like to see a comprehensive study completed on what not having gas available in NL will be projected to be, and have those figures worked in the equation in determining if Muskrat Falls is truly the least cost option. Myopic thinking seems to rule the day however, and by all indications, that opportunity has been squandered.

  • Kent
    November 23, 2012 - 12:33

    The reason natural gas was not thoroughly investigated was political. The province has always wanted to flip the finger at Quebec on the issue of hydro-electricity. First, we tried with the Lower Churchill and now Muskrat Falls. The Churchill wound is so deep in the psyche here that it has caused politicians, and the public, to develop tunnel vision with regard to electricity resources. I think the Muskrat Falls alternative was more about “NFLD vs Quebec”, than anything else. Something often overlooked, is that it was our own premier, Smallwood, who signed the that agreement. Since then, Quebec has been demonized as the bad guy. The reality, is that had the shoe been on the other foot, we would have done exactly the same. Anytime you sign a bad deal, you have to live with the consequences, not whine about it for 50 years. Now, once again, that pride is leading us down he garden path. Some people never learn anything from history.

    November 23, 2012 - 12:21

    Thanks for that Cabot, I needed a good laugh.

  • Wm. Murphy
    November 23, 2012 - 12:20

    Secret "Experts".....Okay Mr. Cabot, you have said all there is to say on this matter.

  • John Smith
    November 23, 2012 - 12:17

    Wow...he will not name his experts, they are afraid to speak, and Ziff's report is no good...but he won't say why LOL. What about NOIA's report to the PUB(available on line), where they explained why offshore gas is not feasible or viable? I guess they are afraid or out to lunch too eh' Cabot? Everyone is on the take except those who are against the project eh' Cabot? It will take billions of dollars to construct the topsides facillities and pipeline alone, then we have to build a stoage facillity, a plant to burn the gas...and then we will be back to square one...burning a hydrocarbon that will eventually run out, and will most probably be subject to a carbon tax in the next 10-20 years. This man is has interests in a gas company...yet he wants us to trust him? Yet he will not produce any experts, sources, reviews, nothing...nada??? Are the people of NL that stupid to listen to this guy...if so we deserve what we get.

    • david
      November 23, 2012 - 13:24 have zero credibility, John. Please leave the trouncing of this bonehead's opinion to those who didn't already squander any ilusion of credibility they might have had.

    • John Smith
      November 23, 2012 - 14:44

      Well are right. I will not post my comments anymore, I guess we will have to leave it to the "credible" people like you to show us all how it's done. Thank you for showing me that my opinion doesn't count...and that we should all listen to the smart credible people like you... Ha ha ha give me a break you dupe...

    • Worth the look
      November 24, 2012 - 06:56

      John.. You forgot to mention that ziff did not indicate who they talked to at husky. No references.

  • Calvin
    November 23, 2012 - 12:14

    Why can't people see that Muskrat Falls is a renewable energy resource, whereas oil and gas are not? Ok, so maybe natural gas would be a bit cheaper. What happens when there is no more gas? Newfoundland & Labrador is left with a bunch of useless power generating facilities. What happens when water stops flowing for the hydro electric dam? THE WORLD WILL HAVE COME TO AN END!!

  • david
    November 23, 2012 - 12:09

    "Pointing to his decades of experience in the oil and gas industry..... " bwaaa ha ha ha ha ha ha !! Please, Mr. Martin...please elaborate on this intriguing claim of authority, experience and relevant knowledge.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 23, 2012 - 12:07

    It is easier and more productive to neuter the people's protector (the PUB), to direct its own agency (Nalcor) to do what it is told, to force (by way of a 50-year 'take or pay' contract) ratepayers to pay excessively high electricity rates (all through this Muskrat Falls project) than it is to require industry to develop our natural gas, to share the revenues of natural gas with industry, to work with industry on wind development, to work with industry on efficiency improvements, to share such collaborative benefits with ratepayers. .... All good reasons to 'railroad' Muskrat Falls through...... Muskrat Falls (combined with Bill 29) keeps everything within a closed shop shell game. It allows government, by stealth, to impose a hidden, escalating TAX on its captive citizens and to thereby rob low and middle income ratepayers blind. It's as simple as that.

    • John smith
      November 23, 2012 - 12:21

      Hey are not captive my friend...please feel free to leave as soon as possible... don't let the door hit you on the way out...