BC’s Energy Resource Development Challenges

BC Energy Resource Development Challenges – An Important Cause for the Early BC Election?

Presenter: Barrie Webster

November, 2020

There are three major resource developments in BC that soon could undergo substantial modification: the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX), the Site C Dam on the Peace river, and LNG development with its concomitant hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and pipeline construction through unceded First Nations territory.

The Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX)

TMX is now owned by the government of Canada through the crown corporation, Trans Mountain. The original Trans Mountain Pipeline was built in 1953 and it stretches 1150 km from Edmonton to Burrard Inlet. The expansion will increase its capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day. The expansion is projected to cost (2015 est) $12.6 billion on top of the purchase price of $4.5 billion for the original pipeline from its Texas-based owners.


The originally expected economic return from the development, assuming that market conditions remain constant, for the first 20 years following completion is $46.7 billion ($5.7 billion to BC, $19.4 billion to Alberta, and $21.6 billion to Canada).


It was believed that offshore markets would pay more for the dilbit (diluted bitumen) from the oil sands than US markets (the necessary refinery facilities don’t exist in Canada). But subsequent evaluations show that this has changed (news and opinion piece from SFU prof):




The Site C Dam (BC Hydro) on the Peace River at Fort St. John

Serious geotechnical problems have surfaced that have led to the call to pause or cancel the Site C Dam construction. The call is strengthened by the strain on BC finances from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Top BC civil servants and a senior bureaucrat who prepares material on Site C for cabinet knew of these problems in May 2019. BC Hydro has been unenthusiastic to agree, but agrees that “unknown cost overruns, schedule delays, and such profound geotechnical that its overall health is now classified as ‘red'” mean that the project is in “serious trouble”.


Site C was conceived at least partially to supply energy for LNG development and oil sands extraction.


LNG from Northeastern BC and the pipeline to Kitimat

We have already had a discussion about the Wet’suwet’en objections to the Coastal Gaslink pipeline and the environmental problems associated with LNG development (March 4, 2020). So we won’t go into that controversy further here.


1. Will the federal government decide to stop the expansion of the TMX?

2. Is Site C just too expensive to continue?

3. Are the anticipated overseas markets for LNG still present?

4. How can the provincial government justify proceeding with the Coastal Gaslink pipeline when it passes through unceded Indigenous territory without the consent of the hereditary leadership of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, and at the same time they are approving UNDRIP [United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] in BC?

5. Now that the provincial election is over and the NDP have four years until the next election, is it a good time to withdraw from these projects that work counter to the need for effective action against climate change?