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Coal phase-out opening new doors for natural gas

Posted on February 18, 2016 by Vauxhall Advance

J.W. Schnarr
Southern Alberta Newspapers – Lethbridge

Natural gas could have a significant role to play as as the province begins to transition away from heavy coal use, an industry representative says.

Jeff Gaulin, VP of Communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was in Lethbridge recently for an event held by the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce.

He said while there is potential for renewable energy, the quest for carbon reduction, there are also some issues which could provide a potentially lucrative opportunity for the natural gas industry.

“There’s tremendous hydro capacity in Alberta,” said Gaulin. “There’s tremendous wind capacity, among the best in North America,” he said. “So we can do that.”

Those concerns revolve mainly around the stability of energy production.

“The wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine,” Gaulin said. “So you need something to support that backbone.”

Gaulin said a natural gas backup in place would produce half the emissions of the current coal base for the same amount of power. Additionally, Alberta has large natural gas reserves available.

“We have more natural gas than we can use,” he said. “And we certainly can’t just rely on selling it to the Americans anymore.”

“So that’s a tremendous opportunity to develop a made-in-Alberta option that does two things: It it uses a resource that we have today, and it helps to support renewables in a lower carbon future.”

Governments would benefit from a higher royalty rate from coal than they do natural gas, according to Gaulin.

“If you actually moved all that coal power to natural gas, I think the government would generate about an extra $150 million per year in revenue,” he said.

According to the Alberta government, there is an estimated 32.4 trillion cubic feet of recoverable, conventional natural gas in Alberta.

There could also be 500 trillion cubic feet of coalbed methane, natural gas found in coal seams, which may or may not be economically viable to recover. Another source could be shale gas, which is natural gas stored in organic rich rocks like shale, mudstone, or laminated siltstone. Alberta accounts for 67 per cent of the natural gas produced in Canada.

All that adds up to a large potential, and one that would greatly benefit from more markets.

“We still have this huge glut in North America of natural gas,” he said. “That’s one of the exciting opportunities for Liquified Natural Gas. We could develop the gas, use much more of it here at home, but we could also sell it abroad.”

“I would say that’s a great opportunity for finding new markets for the resources we’ve got.”

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