By Alex Binkley
StoltLNGaz plans to start construction next year in Bécancour, Que. on a $600 million liquefied natural gas plant, which will be modeled after a successful facility the company built in Norway. The plant will be erected in the Bécancour Waterfront Industrial Park on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River about half way between Montreal and Quebec City, says Denis Larivée, Assistant Director of Business Development. “Our goal is to supply natural gas to companies in Quebec and eastern Canada that are outside the traditional gas pipeline network.” Western Canadian gas for transformation into LNG is available through a connection to the Trans Quebec and Maritimes pipeline, which runs through the industrial park.
Among the potential customers for SLNGaz are shipping lines, trucking companies, railways and the mining sector, he told the annual conference of the Canadian Shipowners Association and the Lake Carriers Association. Home heating and electricity generation are other potential uses.
What the company is waiting for are permits from the Quebec government and purchase commitments from customers in Quebec and eastern Canada, adds spokesman Richard Brosseau. The permits should be delivered by this summer and sufficient purchase commitments are expected to be lined up by the fall to justify the project’s launch. “We don’t need the full 500,000 tonnes but enough to convince us the project will succeed.”
Like in the movie Field of Dreams, the company is in a ‘If you build it, they will come’ scenario, Brosseau agreed. There is concern in the transportation sector about LNG availability, even though the fuel works well. Several attendees at the shipping conference said LNG has reached the stage where there is considerable industrial interest in using it as a fuel, but there is concern about whether it will be available in sufficient quantities to justify investing in LNG technology.
Ohio-based Interlake Shipping had planned to convert a freighter to LNG but had to drop the plan after Shell cancelled plans for an LNG plant in Sarnia that would have supplied it.
Louis-Marie Beaulieu, President and CEO of Groupe Desgagnés Inc., told the meeting that “It’s exciting to see the project, and the leadership of Stolt on this has been great.”
As built, the plant will be able to produce 500,000 tonnes of LNG annually, Larivée said. If the company’s efforts to drum up business in Quebec, the Atlantic provinces and the U.S. Northeast are successful, it could double the annual production with the installation of a second liquefaction unit, which is in the plans, after the facility begins production in 2017. “We are looking for purchase commitments,” he said. “We want to make sure there is a need for 500,000 tonnes. We have about a year to conclude these.”
Well aware of the public opposition generated by many energy projects, Stolt took a proactive approach to explaining its proposal to Bécancour officials and held public meetings to discuss its details with local residents, Larivée said. The company has several videos on its website (slngaz.com/en/home) that show the facility’s design and operation and how the Norwegian plant was constructed. The Norwegian facility, built in 2011, ships LNG to customers in Norway and the rest of Scandinavia
Overall, the public sessions went well compared to the reception other projects have received, Larivée said. The facility will be able to ship LNG by tanker, rail and road. At its destination, the cargo can be stored in its liquid state or re-gasified by a customer for immediate use. The company says this flexibility enables it to offer businesses customized solutions, as it currently provides for customers throughout Scandinavia.
Stolt brought the concept for the facility to Canada because, like Norway, many regions of Quebec and Eastern Canada don’t have access to natural gas by pipeline even though the country has considerable natural gas reserves, he said.
Stolt has been knocking on doors in ports along the Quebec North Shore and the Atlantic provinces looking for customers. “Sept-Iles is a port of special interest to us because it has rail connections to mines in the interior that could benefit from using LNG as a fuel source.” Port Cartier would be another possibility.
Larivée said Stolt is looking for partners in Great Lakes ports where LNG could be used as LNG or returned to its gas state and distributed to customers. He said Port of Hamilton is one possibility. It also sees potential business opportunities in Port of Montreal. It anticipates three tanker shipments a week from the plant.
The company would use Stolt tankers to distribute LNG from the plant throughout the region. Europe and the Caribbean are also potential markets for the output of the Bécancour plant.
The introduction of maritime emission control areas along the Atlantic Coast should boost shipping line interest in the fuel because it burns with 25 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions, he said. Stolt has been discussing a switch in fuel with shipping lines. The biggest obstacle is how to convert existing ships to carry an LNG storage tank because few have room on deck for one.
The two LNG fueled ferries under construction at Chantier Davie Canada Inc. for Société des traversiers du Québec will be closely watched once they are in service because they will demonstrate the potential of the fuel.
Stolt says increasing the use of natural gas fits with the Quebec government’s goal of reducing petroleum fuels. “On an environmental level, industries that replace fuel oil with natural gas will reduce their carbon footprint and will improve air quality by lowering emissions such as nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and various particulates.”
The facility will create more than 250 construction jobs. Once in operation the plant will have 30 employees; another 20 will be employed at the company’s head office in Montreal.
Stolt selected the Bécancour site because it offered a year round deep water port and other important industrial infrastructures that were already in place. As well, the company “will benefit from the expertise of the Industrial Park’s managers and the area’s highly-skilled workforce.”
In addition to the two liquefaction units, the plant will have a storage unit with capacity for 50,000 cubic metres of LNG and facilities to load the LNG onto ships.
The company notes that LNG has a good safety record. It can’t explode in liquid state and if it escapes from the container, it turns into its gaseous state and dissipates in the atmosphere.
The partners in the project are Stolt-Nielsen and Suntrust Investments.