February 1, 2019

Vancouver Region’s Dirty Laundry Now A Bit Cleaner

Maybe this won’t become a thermal coal port

Port Metro Vancouver has cancelled the permit for a project that would have resulted in more thermal coal shipments, these from Fraser Surrey Docks.  The only reason currently available is that the permit’s 83 conditions have not been met — specifically one requiring substantial start of construction by November 30, 2018.

Rampant Speculation

The thinking in the Boardrooms is possibly that thermal coal will be the first fossil to keel over in the world of fossil fuels.  Despite all the frantic efforts to flog fossil fuels as quickly as possible before the world moves on (“pipelines, for the love of God, build pipelines for our diluted tar”), perhaps thermal coal is too far into terminal decline.

[Thanks to Nelson Bennett at Business In Vancouver]

Jeff Scott, CEO of Fraser Surrey Docks, said its not clear to him what the port authority’s reasons were from cancelling the permit, which was supposed to be valid until 2020 . . .

Fraser Surrey Docks did not have enough signed contracts with customers to sanction the terminal. “We were in the process of working with customers, and we were receiving a lot of interest, but we hadn’t had anything finalized to the point where we could finalize construction,” Scott said. “We were looking for customer commitments before we proceeded with construction.”

As Price Tags noted in THIS article in 2016, the term “sunset industry” seems appropriate here.  [With thanks to Pete McMartin in Postmedia’s Vancouver Sun]

Notice Harrison’s reference to Powder River Basin coal. It’s thermal coal burned to produce electricity. Environmentally, it’s filthy. Communities on the U.S. west coast wanted nothing to do with it, but Delta’s Westshore Terminals (largest shareholder, Jimmy Pattison) shipped it, and late last year, Port Metro Vancouver approved a $50-million project for Fraser Surrey Docks to ship four million tonnes of it annually. All of it will go to Asia.

The price of coal, however, has slumped by 25 per cent since last year, as Harrison foresaw. Faced with the price collapse, Westshore halted its shipment of Powder River Basin coal this year and Fraser Surrey Docks is re-evaluating the new project’s construction — which is to say, it’s waiting for the wind to change. It may not.

All of which brings us, circuitously, to a Province freedom-of-information request that showed that in 2012-2013, both Port Metro Vancouver and Fraser Surrey Docks lobbied the provincial government to do away with the George Massey tunnel. They wanted a bridge built so that larger, deep-draft ships could get upriver.

And behold, soon after, the provincial government announced a bridge would be built, a 10-lane, $3.5-billion behemoth that would replace the tunnel because, the government said, the tunnel had passed its due date.

The Project, and the Vancouver Region’s Dirty Secret

If completed, Fraser Surrey Docks would have handled regular trainloads of US producers’ thermal coal that no other port would even look at, and shipped it out via around 80 or so Panamax class ocean-going ships per year.  Total quantity was to reach around 4 M metric tons per year.  With a whopping 20-25 full-time jobs created. Oh yeah, and get rid of that stinkin’ Massey tunnel — we need a deeper channel.

For a little perspective, in 2011, Canada used around 47 M tons of coal, much of it thermal coal in central and eastern Canada for electricity generation.  Meanwhile, in 2013, Port Metro Vancouver shipped around 38 M metric tons of coal (26 M of metallurgical-grade and 12 M thermal).

So that’s nearly a country’s-worth of coal heading out from dear super-Greenie metro Vancouver.  Our dirty secret, indeed. The Vancouver region is North America’s largest coal shipper.

Read more HERE.


In a word —  jubilation among those who care about the planet, human civilization and the world their children will inherit [thanks to Larry Pynn in The Tyee]

“This was an extremely controversial project, facing opposition at every step of the way,” Ecojustice lawyer Fraser Thomson said. “This is really good news, definitely a win for the climate and for local communities who spent years tirelessly fighting against this project.” . . .

If built, the facility would have resulted in up to four million tonnes of thermal coal per year from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin coming through Metro Vancouver via open-car rail, Ecojustice warned. An estimated seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide — a leading greenhouse gas — would have gone into the atmosphere annually, it added.

“Burning coal for electricity really has no place in a world that is serious about fighting climate change,” Thomson said. “An end to this project is a step in that direction.”

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  1. My guess is that to the extent China still requires coal for future thermal power generation, its needs can be met by exports from Australia, currently China’s largest source of imported coal. I suspect the future need for imported coal is not a major part of China’s future either. Coal’s future is doomed everywhere despite the attempts of the current US government to revive it domestically.

    And yes, this may be good news for those that think the current tunnel beneath the Fraser River is a part of the solution to vehicular travel woes south of the Fraser.