Kitimat vies with Prince Rupert as LNG port

The West Coast of British Columbia could be home to five export terminals

October 06, 2012

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As companies like Apache and Shell plan to send millions of tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asian markets from British Columbia’s shores, two West Coast ports are coming into focus.

The northern B.C. coastal communities of Kitimat and Prince Rupert could be bustling with oil and gas activity later this decade, as the sector eyes them as locations for multibillion-dollar export terminals that could turn Canada into an LNG exporter.

Here are some reasons why the two communities are appropriate ports of call for LNG tankers:

Prince Rupert

Kitimat

Prince Rupert is poised to be the home of a BG Group LNG export terminal, with BG Group and Spectra Energy announcing in September a 4.2 billion cubic feet per day pipeline will be built to serve the terminal. A second terminal, this one being led by Petronas, is also expected to be built near Prince Rupert. Kitimat will be the location of Shell Canada’s massive LNG export terminal, which would ship 12 million tonnes of the chilled fossil fuel annually. The Apache Canada-led Kitimat LNG project and the B.C. LNG Export Co-operative project will also reside in Kitimat – if they are sanctioned and built.
Location. Location. Location. Prince Rupert is between one and one-half day closer to LNG-hungry Asian markets than Vancouver, according to United States government data. It takes 9.8 days for a vessel departing from Prince Rupert to reach Yokohama, Japan, and 13.7 days to reach Hong Kong. A tanker laden with B.C. LNG from Kitimat would have a longer journey to Asian markets than one coming from Prince Rupert, but only slightly longer. It takes a vessel leaving Kitimat approximately 10 days to reach Yokohama, Japan, and 14 days to reach Hong Kong.
The channel depth in Prince Rupert is approximately 115 feet deep and the federally-run port is ice-free year round. Another advantage: there are no narrow channels to navigate to enter Pacific Ocean shipping lanes (Kitimat isn’t so lucky). The port has five marine terminals that handle cruise ships and a variety of cargo. The depth of Kitimat’s Douglas Channel is between 600 and 1,800 feet and the full length of the channel and harbor area is one to three nautical miles wide. The harbor is ice-free. This privately-run port currently has three deep-sea marine terminals for international imports and a base of operations for a tugboat operator.
As of July, the port had handled 12.8 million tonnes of cargo in 2012 – an increase of two million tonnes compared to the same period in 2011. There is a variety of cargo that is shipped into, and out of, Prince Rupert, including chemicals, coal, petroleum coke, wheat, barley and canola. Kitimat already serves several Asian markets – Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and other Southeast Asian countries. Its port also handles an array of cargo including aluminum, green and petroleum coke, condensate, and methanol. Could LNG be the next product leaving Kitimat waters bound for the Pacific Rim?
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