B.C.’s natural gas reserves dwarf earlier estimates

Map showing the location of the Liard Basin unconventional natural gas resource

Low global oil and gas prices, and uncertainty of liquefying facilities, challenge BC’s LNG aspirations

The Liard Basin in northeastern B.C. is one of the largest shale gas resources in the world, with enough reserves to fuel Canada’s current needs for 68 years, according to a new study.
Released on Wednesday by the National Energy Board, the assessment used new technology to reveal far more natural gas in the basin than previously thought. A release accompanying the report seems to depict the gas resources as there for the taking, pointing out that pipelines already serve existing conventional wells in the area. The Liard Basin is a 1,600-square-kilometre patch of land straddling the borders between British Columbia, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
But according to one energy analyst, B.C.’s competitive challenges in getting the gas to international markets have never been about quantity of the gas reserves. Rather, says Mary Hemmingsen, partner at KPMG, barriers to entering the world market exist due to low oil and gas prices which limit the cash flows of companies that may want to invest. The province would need to develop liquefaction facilities, port facilities and new pipelines to move the gas from the basin to the ocean. Already, other countries like the U.S. and Australia have leapfrogged ahead of Canada with their development of LNG production.
“Canada’s opportunity is really to position for the next wave of LNG need and interest,” Hemmingsen says, “and I think there’s widespread concensus that that’s in the mid-2020s. These projects take a number of years in predevelopment in terms of approval and five to six years in construction. So that puts us in that time frame. It’s not if, but when.”
Canada also has to mend its reputation as a jurisdiction with a complex regulatory process, high labour costs and productivity challenges. “Those are global concerns and so we have to rein in those costs and demonstrate that we can develop projects on budget and on schedule, in proving Canada’s reputation as an LNG developer.”

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