Friday, November 27, 2015

How many of the proposed pipelines in BC will actually be built?

Right now in BC we have a huge number of proposed new pipelines.   At the moment there are two oil pipelines and five natural gas pipelines proposed.

Oil
Northern Gateway
Kinder Morgan twining  

Natural Gas (and the associated LNG projects)
Coastal GasLink Pipeline (LNG Canada)
Pacific Northern Gas Transmission Pipeline Expansion
Pacific Trail Pipeline (Kitimat LNG)
Prince Rupert Gas Transmission (Pacific Northwest LNG)
Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission (Prince Rupert LNG)

These pipelines represent about $30 to $40 billion in capital investment but I do not think the economics of oil and gas will not be favourable enough to warrant them being constructed.   An average capital spending in BC of around $3 to $4 billion a year for the next ten years.

The price of oil was relatively high from the middle of 2005 through to the middle of 2014 but has seen a significant fall in price in the last year.  The ten year long high price has lead to a lot of new oil supply coming onto the market while at the same time the high price has pushed people to move away from using oil.   The combination of the two has created a fall in the price, one that I do not think is going to change because other forms of renewable energy are getting more and more competitive.

At the same time natural gas has seen a dramatic fall over the last eight years because global supply has risen much faster than demand.   Couple this with the expansion of LNG in the world and the price for natural gas is falling everywhere.  The current price ($7 USD/MMBtu) for LNG is the lowest we have seen for some time.   The cost to make LNG in will be about $10 CDN/MMBtu.   Right now if LNG were being exported from BC the exporter would be losing a lot of money on each Btu they exported.

Pipelines are a long term investment.  Before construction starts the company building the pipeline needs to know there will be a decades long demand for the pipeline.    Right now there is not quite enough pipeline capacity for the tar sands oil production.  When it comes to natural gas pipelines, none of them make any sense unless there is a certainty that someone is going to go ahead with an LNG plant on the north coast.   At this point I do not expect to see any LNG producer to make a firm decision on building a north coast plant in the next 18 months.
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