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November 18 2011


ExxonMobil and Shell Eyeing North American LNG Export Deals

Yesterday, LNG World News reported that ExxonMobil Vice President Andrew Swiger announced, at a conference hosted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, that it was actively seeking LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminals throughout North America, including, but not limited to, in British Columbia and on the Gulf Coast.

In terms of exports from North America, whether it is the Gulf Coast or whether it is Western Canada, it’s something we’re actively looking at,” said Swiger.

So, where are these prospective export terminals located, what are the key pipelines carrying the unconventional gas produced from shale basins, and what are the key shale basins in the mix? Hold tight for an explanation.

Golden Pass LNG Terminal and Golden Pass Pipeline

The LNG World News article explains that ExxonMobil "has a stake in the Golden Pass LNG Terminal in Texas," but does not explain exactly what the "stake" is.

A bit of research shows that ExxonMobil is a 17.6% stakeholder in the Golden Pass LNG Terminal, according to a March 2011 article publshed by Platts. It is co-owned by ConocoPhillips and Qatar Petroleum, who own a 12.4% and 70% stake in Golden Pass LNG, respectively.

Golden Pass LNG is stationed in Sabine Pass, TX, located on the Gulf Coast on the Texas-Louisiana border, which is in close proximity to Cheniere's Sabine Pass LNG export terminal, a terminal which has been written about in-depth by DeSmogBlog.

As of now, Golden Pass is an import terminal, and "is among the largest LNG import facilities worldwide, with the capacity to import 15.6 million metric tons of LNG annually," explains LNG World News. But many import facilities have turned into export facilities, including the Jordan Cove LNG terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon, the Dominion Cove LNG terminal in Lusby, Maryland, and Kitimat LNG terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia. Gas corporations often execute the bait-and-switch, transforming what were originally import terminals into export terminals.

If history repeats itself, which is highly likely based on this latest report from LNG World News, then the Golden Pass LNG Terminal could soon be transformed into an export terminal, making it export terminal number two in Sabine Pass.

It appears for now that the gas would come from the shale basins surrounding Sabine Pass, meaning the Barnett Shale, the Eagle Ford Shale, the Haynesville Shale, and the Fayetteville Shale, and flow out these respective shale basins via an extensive pipeline system, to the key Golden Pass and Sabine Pass hubs. 

For example, Golden Pass also owns Golden Pass Pipeline, which runs from the Haynesville Shale down to the Golden Pass LNG terminal.

Horn River Basin Shale and Pacific Trail Pipelines

LNG World News' article also mentions that ExxonMobil "has 340,000 shale gas acres in Western Canada’s Horn River Basin." The Horn River Shale Basin is located in northeastern British Columbia and sits on 250 trillion cubic feet of unconventional gas, producred through the toxic hydraulic fracturing, or fracking process. 

Assuming ExxonMobil holds true to the pronouncement made by Swiger, much of the gas produced in the Horn River Basin will flow westward to Kitimat LNG export terminal, which ships gas to the Asian market. 

One of these facilities is co-owned by EOG Resources (EOG), EnCana Corporation (EnCana), and Apache Corporation (Apache). In October 2011, Canada’s National Energy Board, the Canadian equivalent to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, granted Kitimat LNG a 20-year Export Licence to serve international markets. The Pacific Trail Pipelines connect the Horn River Basin to the Kitimat LNG facility and are also co-owned by EOG, EnCana, and Apache. 

Another key LNG export terminal in the works will be co-owned by Shell, Korea Gas Corporation, China National Petroleum Corporation, and Mitsubishi Corporation.

The Globe and Mail explained the looming deal, writing

Shell is examining plans for a 3.6 billion cubic feet a day project, which would be among the largest under consideration in the world…Kitimat LNG intends to build a 700-million cubic foot facility first, at a cost greater than $5-billion, but has received an export licence that allows it to double that. The partnership intends to make a final investment decision early next year, but is already spending several hundred million dollars to terrace the sloped site of the intended terminal, the first step in construction.

A pipeline arrangement paralleling the EOG, EnCana, Apache agreement will likely follow the Shell export deal announcement, carrying gas fracked from the Horn River Shale Basin to Kitimat, in order to be exported, in the form of LNG, to the profitable Asian market. 

North American Export Market a Huge Racket

As is now perfectly clear and has been made clear by DeSmogBlog on multiple occasions, not only is the unconventional gas industry unconcerned with the "domestic consumption" of gas for "national security" purposes, but perhaps even more importantly, two of the largest fossil fuel corporations in the world, Shell and ExxonMobil, are now in the fray of the export game.

Deals of this nature will likely proliferate as time progresses, with what has been coined the "one-percent" by the Occupy Wall Street movement, standing with the most to gain from them.

January 17 2011


Why We Need to Stop Calling Tar Sands Oil "Ethical Oil"

There are few terms in the Canadian vernacular that irk me more than "ethical oil".  Since Ezra Levant's 2010 book "Ethical Oil" hit the scene, it's become the favourite language for government newspeak, and the media.  Worst of all, its given tar sands proponents and the Conservative Government fodder for their debunked argument that tarsands oil is good for us

Levant's book looks at the ethical cost of our addiction to oil, and argues that Alberta tar sands oil is more ethically responsible than oil imported from despotic regimes in the Sudan, Russia, and Mexico, where human rights issues are of concern. 

Though neither Harper nor our new Minister of Environmental Destruction have read the book, the term was exactly what the Conservatives needed to bolster the much-maligned tar sands.  Prior to the echochamber that ensued after the publication of Levant's book,  tar sands oil was often characterized as "dirty" and "controversial" - much to the ire of the government.

 Levant may well have learned the at of spin early in his career while spending the summer in an internship arranged by the libertarian and clean energy/climate change enemy Charles G. Koch Foundation, or through his work with the Fraser Institute.  Levant himself coined the term "ethical oil" in 2009 after being involved in a panel on tar sands oil.  The spin doctor finished the 90-minute debate having not managed to convince his audience of the merits of the toxic oil.  Without admitting defeat, Levant quickly realized that he was going to have to find a different way to sell the dirty oil apart from economic arguments which just weren't resonating with people. 


Levant calls his term a "debate changer". I would go further, and call it a debate stopper.  Deploying the terminology of ethics in this controversial environmental issue evokes an emotional response in people.  It makes people forget about the environmental impacts and devastation it has caused and makes people focus on despotic regimes in other countries.  Psychologically, people forget the environmental problem when this type of argument is used.  That is why it is so dangerous.

Sure, Canadians love to be considered ethical - historically we have been peacemakers, peacekeepers, and are generally well-perceived in the world.  The stain on our reputation recently has consistently been due to the controversy over Alberta's tar sands.  In reframing the debate in 'ethical' terms, Levant has enabled our government to shirk the environmental embarrassment at Copenhagen and Cancun, and enabled them to evade responsibility to take measures to halt climate change and invest in a clean energy future.  The term is certainly effective for that reason.  And that is exactly why we must stop calling tar sands oil "ethical oil". 

Tar sands oil is not ethical.  The acid content of tar sands oil is 15 to 20 times higher than typical oil products, and contains 5 to 10 times as much sulphur.  In Northern Communities and First Nations communities, residents have begun to see the health impacts of tar sands oil, and are witnessing that the tar sands are having an irreversible impact on indigenous culture

You can no more argue the tar sands are ethical to First Nations communities than you can to the people of Michigan, ravaged by the Michigan Kalamazoo spill.  The 400,000 watershed residents across 19 cities, 11 villages and 107 townships are still dealing with the after-effects of the spill. It's estimated that roughly 1 million litres of oil have yet to be cleaned up from the environment. 

Perhaps we "don't kill gays" or "stone women to death" as Levant emotionally argues.  So we're not buying (as much) oil from Saudi Arabia or Iraq where there are human rights abuses.  That's beside the point.  Gitz Crazyboy, a member of the Blackfoot/Dene First Nation vehemently disagrees that tar sands oil is ethical.  According to him, the environmental impacts of dirty oil are damaging his people's health, and are causing increased cancer incidences and even death. 

Calling the oil "ethical" is damaging to the debate because it shuts off debate.  It creates a space where those who argue against tar sands oil are unethical, or hate freedom and democracy.  Reframing the debate in this way fails to get at the true crux of the problem: we have a dirty oil addiction, and the oil industry is inadequately regulated to the detriment of people's health.  Alberta's "Ethical oil" fails to get us out of this paradigm.  It's still oil at the end of the day, and dirty oil at that. 

Ezra, I think it's time we dropped the "ethical oil" language. For everyone's sake.

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July 19 2010


Canadian journalism: sublime; ridiculous

The Post gets one right;

the Globe chooses cowardice over context

Two recent newspaper pieces throw a peculiarly Canadian slant on the scandalously unprofessional job that many in mainstream media have been doing in covering climate change.

The most shocking - and wonderful - contribution came last week from the National Post, the home of some of Canada's silliest and most beligerent climate change deniers, including Terence Corcoran, Peter Foster, Lawrence Solomon and Rex Murphy. In an excellent critique of blindly ideological climate change denial, Post Comment Pages Editor Jonathan Kay says flatly that, Global-warming deniers are a liability to the conservative cause. Kay then dismantles several laughable positions championed by journalists he does not name - but whom he will now have to avoid in the Post lunchroom.

The second article appeared last Saturday in the Globe, under the heading: The Endless Summer. Noting that it's "the hottest year in recorded history, the Globe offers 659 mostly well-researched words on the details of our planetary fever without once mentioning the phrases "climate change" or "global warming." At one point, the writers, Anna Mehler Paperny and Patrick White, say, "International climate experts are at a loss to explain why these local phenomena are happening all at once."

Really?<!--break--> Have the folks at Canada's leading national daily really not heard of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? Were they so badly served by the Globe's clearly inadequate coverage of the meeting in Copenhagen last December? Is no one on the Globe desk inclined to mention that the world's best climate researchers have been predicting this result for more than two decades - and clamouring for a public policy response that is commensurate with the potential for global crisis?

The Globe's real problem appears to be cowardice: they are perhaps afraid that if they mention climate change in a weather story, they will get shelled by the PR brigades that target any media outlet that makes the mistake of connecting weather events to a larger climate story - without providing some context. In this case, however, the story is about a pattern of global weather that perfectly reflects climatologists' predictions. Failing to connect the dots is a scandal in a newspaper that counts itself as a thoughtful national opinion leader.

As for the issues at the Post, Jonathan Kay tries to explaint the epidemic of bad reporting by quoting from a recent journal article by Yale law professor Dan Kahan, et al: "... generally speaking, persons who subscribe to individualistic values tend to dismiss claims of environmental risks, because acceptance of such claims implies the need to regulate markets, commerce and other outlets for individual strivings."

But Kay also warns that conservatives should resist that narrow-mindedness, saying, "Otherwise, the movement will come to be defined — and discredited — by its noisiest cranks and conspiracists."

Against that good advice, the Globe today serves up a noisy crank, former Canadian Libertarian Party leader and Monday columnist Neil Reynolds, who promises that, whatever damage we humans happen to be doing today, "the Earth will heal itself" without any effort on our part.

If anyone's around in 2,000 or two million years, I suspect they will find that Reynolds and his current favourite climate commentator, the Stanford physicist Robert Launghlin, are right. The Earth will still be here - robust as ever.

But if we humans keep taking policy guidance from the likes of Reynolds in the meantime, that healing process could be a little bruising for many species - perhaps especially those homo sapien free thinkers who are currently taking their own ticket on the good ship Earth a little too much for granted.

May 14 2010


If you think the BP spill is bad….

Category: fossil fuels Posted on: May 3, 2010 11:04 AM, by James Hrynyshyn The estimates of the just how much oil is spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig keep rising. The latest guess — and it is just a guess — is something like 210,000 gallons a day. It is almost certainly [...]

November 18 2009


Globe and Mail: Ad campaign takes aim at climate change

Spurred on by a speech that Jim Hoggan gave to the Canadian Empire Club in Toronto (talking about our new book, Climate Cover-up), Canada's national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, started asking questions today about who is paying for the big Friends of Science radio ad campaign that has been annoying Canadians from coast to coast for the last week or so.

The Globe's Martin Mittelstaedt had no success finding a live representative from the Friends of Science to deny their oily connections, but Marty Ball told Mittelstaedt this about her infamous husband, the truth-challenged Tim Ball: “He's not paid by the oil companies. He's never had anything from them and neither [have] the Friends of Science."

Alas for the Balls' self-delusion, Mittelstaedt's own paper has reported quite the opposite in the past, quoting a Friends official, Albert Jacobs, as saying that the oil and gas industry is exactly where they got their money.

<!--break-->Ball, of course, went on to work for the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, which was established and financed by the energy industry lobby firm, the High Park Group. At some point, Ball is going to have to admit all this to his wife - and to the credulous character in the mirror.

In the meantime, we all should be demanding that these kind of disingenuous and politically motivated radio ads come with disclaimers stating the identity and the self-interest of the people behind the message. There is, otherwise, a risk that someone might take them seriously.

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