11 August 2005

Coal Gasification Acoming

Canada is rapidly consuming all of its conventional natural gas reserves. Consumption is profligate, especially South of the border. In the USA, supply has not kept pace with demand, due to underinvestment and rampant NIMBYS (Not In My BackYard Syndrome). As a result, the price of natural gas has skyrocketed to around $9.00 / Mbtu. Prices in other parts of the world, such as South America, are almost an order of magnitude less.

Canada is expected to exhaust its conventional natural gas deposits in about 3-4 years. New sources, such as coal-bed methane, will take over the slack, but there is serious danger of a supply disruption. That risk is forcing a lot of chemical industry corporations in Alberta to take a long look at coal gasification to insure they have a stable supply of natural gas. I feel there should be a nuclear steam plant supplying all the bitumen refineries in Fort McMurray, but I don't really have a lot of political influence with King Ralph.

Another possible fix is the construction of a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in Prince Rupert. The federal and provincial governments both recently promised money to expand the port, and it is the closest West Coast port to Edmonton (and Alberta's chemical industries). Excess capacity could be shipped down South. Shipping liquified natural gas from South America, to Prince Rupert, and then down back to the Northwest USA may seem absurd. That's generally where NIMBYS gets you, however.

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